Streaming giants to be regulated in same way as traditional broadcasters under new government plans

Sunday, 20th June 2021, 3:31 pm
Ofcom will be able to rule on complaints over bias or inaccuracy. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime are to be regulated in the same way as traditional broadcasters like the BBC under government plans to be published next week.

The plans will see media watchdog Ofcom extend the same control over streaming giants as it has over traditional broadcasters, meaning it could rule on complaints over issues like inaccuracy and bias.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden is expected to set out the proposal in a broadcasting white paper.

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Public service broadcasters (PSBs) have faced tough competition from streaming services with large budgets in recent years, with young subscribers increasingly using services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+.

Dowden has previously said it is time to “ask really profound questions” about PSBs and the role they play in the new media landscape.

Under current rules, Netflix does not fall within Ofcom’s jurisdiction because it is based in the Netherlands.

Instead, it is subject to Dutch regulation even on its English language programmes tailored to the UK version of its site.

Netflix recently came under fire for inaccuracy after releasing another series of royal drama the Crown, with calls for Dowden to enforce addition of a disclaimer that the show is a work of fiction.

Amazon Prime, meanwhile, has been criticised for hosting anti-vaccination documentaries available to viewers in the US.

A Government source said: “UK broadcasters are having to compete with these giants with one hand tied behind their backs. The companies have deep pockets and go largely unregulated, leaving them free to impose their interpretation of British life.

“The rules governing the way broadcasters operate were written for an analogue age. They are not fit for purpose in an era of smart TVs, streaming and on-demand programming.

“With the pace of change and the increase in global competition, the Culture Secretary feels it is time to look at how we can level the playing field between broadcasters and video-on-demand services and make sure the UK’s broadcasting landscape is fit for the 21st century.”

Additional reporting by PA.