Today the Government is publishing a draft Media Bill. This will ensure we can deliver on key aspects of the Government’s vision for the broadcasting sector, set out last year in our landmark white paper, Up Next. The Media Bill will reform decades-old laws to turbocharge the growth potential of our world-leading public service broadcasters (PSBs) allowing them to better compete with global giants. It will give PSBs the tools to adapt to changing viewer habits as people now increasingly watch TV on-demand via Smart TVs and other connected devices instead of traditional ‘linear’ services like terrestrial TV.
The draft legislation will bring video-on-demand (VoD) services such as Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video under new Ofcom content rules, ensuring children and vulnerable viewers are better protected from harmful material and that these on-demand online-only streaming services platforms are properly accountable to the UK regulator. The draft Bill also has new rules to make streaming content more accessible to those with seeing and hearing impairments, bringing them in line with existing broadcasting standards.
The draft Bill reflects the Government’s decisions to proceed with a package of reforms to support Channel 4 to meet the sustainability challenges it faces. Channel 4 will have greater freedom to make and own its own content, should it choose to do so. A new legal duty will also be introduced on the Corporation to consider its long-term sustainability alongside the delivery of its public service remit. This will ensure this globally renowned broadcaster can continue to produce high impact, distinctive shows long into the future. The Government has already committed to raising the level of Channel 4’s independent production quota and will continue to work closely with industry to consider additional protections that will safeguard Channel 4’s important role supporting the production sector following these changes.
The Bill now also includes measures which are vital to the future of UK radio services. These long-called for reforms will help protect radio’s long-term position on connected audio devices (including ‘smart speakers’), and ensure the continuation of the huge public value which radio provides for listeners across the UK. It will also include legislation for radio deregulation which will reduce burdens and the costs on commercial radio.
The Media Bill will:
In recognition of the importance of getting these reforms right, and delivering the best outcome for audiences, the government is publishing the Bill in draft to facilitate a period of technical engagement with industry prior to introduction.
The Government is today publishing the draft Bill and associated documents on GOV.UK. I will deposit copies of the draft Bill and these documents in the libraries of both Houses.
Alongside publication of the draft Media Bill, I am also issuing my response to Ofcom’s report on the licensing of Channel 3 and Channel 5 submitted under section 229 of the Communications Act 2003. This response confirms I do not intend to block the renewal of these licences, acknowledging the valuable role ITV, STV and Channel 5 continue to play within the PSB system. A copy of my response will be available on GOV.UK.