UK introduces TV reforms to regulate Netflix and sell Channel 4

Bloomberg — The UK will force video-on-demand services like Netflix Inc. (NFLX) to curb material it deems harmful, such as “irrefutable health claims,” ​​or risk a fine of up to 5% of its annual sales under a package of proposed television law reforms.

On Thursday, the Ministry of Culture, Media and Sport presented a bill that gives media regulator Ofcom new powers in a so-called white paper.

The bill would allow citizens to complain about content that currently escapes regulation. For example, the head of the UK’s National Health Service attacked “Goop Lab” from Netflix, about health brand Gwyneth Paltrow, for spreading “misinformation”.

New regulations could allow Ofcom to investigate these types of complaints, which could result in warnings and fines. At the time, Netflix responded by saying that the series was “designed to entertain, not to provide medical advice.”

Updating a decades-old law, the UK will include the Internet in so-called public service broadcasting obligations, channels that are given an extra edge in exchange for additional responsibilities such as regional programming and news coverage. PSB are British Broadcasting Corp., ITV Plc (ITV), Channel 4, Paramount Global Channel 5, STV Group Plc (STVG) and S4C.

The new law will also force tech companies to prioritize RSP across pay TV, digital platforms and devices such as smart TVs and streaming sticks in the UK, amid concerns they could be downgraded to irrelevant as traditional television use plummets and foreign companies grow. increase. able to retain content.

Companies like Comcast Corp. (CMCSA) and Liberty Global Plc (LBTYAN) have launched devices to compete with Apple Inc. (AAPL) and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd. (005930) in the battle to control access to programming.

Ministers will also consult on the possibility of TV broadcasters commissioning “typically British” programs so that they do not remove local idioms and expressions to appeal to a global audience and become “indistinguishable” from international programmes.

Media attorney John Enser, partner at CMS, said the video-on-demand proposal gave Britain’s Culture Minister Nadine Dorries the final say on whether or not individual services like Netflix would be regulated.

“This is about the massive reinsertion of political control in media regulation, which is not allowed in the EU, where media regulators have to be independent,” Enser said by email.

The official referred to article 30 of the bloc’s Audiovisual Media Services Directive, which stipulates that member states’ regulators must be legally distinct and functionally independent from their respective governments. A DCMS representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment on this item.

Dorries will also push for sales of state-owned Channel Four Television Corp, which faces opposition from all of Britain’s main political parties.

Channel 4 will be able to produce and sell its own content, but will retain obligations to commission programming from independent producers, production outside London, and a mandate to broadcast original and “innovative” news and programming.

An ITV spokesperson said it would look into the proposals, but they “seem very reasonable” at first glance.

Stuart Martin

"Internet trailblazer. Troublemaker. Passionate alcohol lover. Beer advocate. Zombie ninja."

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