The long-anticipated Media Bill received Royal Assent and is now law as the Media Act 2024. It was pushed through in the ‘wash-up’ of unfinished business before the government was dissolved following the announcement of a general election. Much of the legislation will only come into force on a date to be determined by the new Secretary of State, whoever that might be. It will fall to the regulator Ofcom to define many of the high-level principles it contains.

The Media Act is the most significant broadcasting legislation since the Communications of Act 2003. It follows the government white paper Up next — the government’s vision for the broadcasting sector, the publication of the Draft Media Bill, and over a year of progress through parliament, where it had broad cross-party support. Following the election announcement, it was hurried through while parliament was still in session.

Concerned that it might not make it through the parliamentary process, the heads of public service broadcasters agreed a joint statement saying: “As leading CEOs from the UK broadcasting industry, we call on politicians across Parliament not to let the opportunity to modernise the rules that govern our sector pass”.

They said: “The reforms proposed in the Bill will update key aspects of media legislation for the online TV era, to ensure audiences continue to benefit from the highest quality UK-originated content from the PSBs and help the UK’s content sector thrive for years to come”.

The legislation aims to update and simplify the requirements for how public service broadcasters fulfil their remit, although an eleventh-hour amendment will require them to maintain the so-called Reithian values to inform, educate and entertain the nation.

Coverage of listed events of national importance will be reserved for public service broadcasters.

Among the provisions are prominence for the programming of designated public service broadcasters, likely to include their online services, on smart televisions and other television devices, under a must-offer and must-carry regime.

Major international online video services, like Netflix, Amazon, and Disney+, will be subject to a new video-on-demand code, to be drawn up by Ofcom, to require similar standards to those for public service broadcasters.

Channel 4, which the government had threatened to privatise, will be required to ensure its future sustainability but will be able to produce its own programming for the first time.

While the Media Act provides enabling primary legislation, much of the implementation will come down to codification by the communications regulator, Ofcom. The debate will now be over the detail of how these measures will be regulated.