New legislation announced by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) yesterday evening (28 March 2023) will introduce a range of new provisions, including bringing streamers under a new Ofcom code, making Public Service Broadcasters (PSBs) more visible online, and paving the way for Channel 4 to produce its own content, if it chooses to do so (among other measures – read more here).
While WGGB welcomes an enhanced role for Ofcom and agrees that SVOD providers should be held more accountable for their UK content, any regulation claiming to challenge “misinformation” or tackle “harmful content” will need careful wording and detailed scrutiny to reassure the creative industries and wider public that it won’t be misused.
Public Service Broadcasters are the jewel in the crown of our world-leading creative industries and so we welcome plans to make PSBs’ on-demand services such as BBC iPlayer, All 4 and S4C more easily discoverable on smart TVs, set-top boxes and streaming sticks, as well as the commitment to guarantee access to UK radio on smart speakers.
We are also pleased to see that streaming services will be required to make improvements on accessibility – including subtitles, audio-description and signing to support people with disabilities, though we are concerned that the targets may not be bold enough. We will also be seeking reassurances that the new provision for PSBs to satisfy their remits via online as well as via linear content won’t result in a loss of service for those without reliable broadband or a reduction of broadcast content for those communities who are already under-served.
WGGB and sister unions and organisations in the creative industries campaigned hard to protect Channel 4 from unnecessary privatisation and we will be equally vigilant in ensuring that any changes and additional requirements being introduced in this bill are not to the detriment of the Channel, its audiences and the creative industries as a whole.
We look forward to continuing our lobbying work on behalf of our members who power the UK’s thriving broadcast sector in the age of smart TV and audio.