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Gov Consults on UK Regulation of Internet Video Streaming Services

Tuesday, August 31st, 2021 (2:18 pm) - Score 1,128
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At present traditional linear TV channels, such as BBC 1 and Sky, are regulated differently from on-demand broadband-based TV (IPTV) services like Netflix, Amazon and Apple TV. But the UK government has launched a consultation that seeks to “level the regulatory playing field,” which may force streaming services to adopt stricter rules.

Except for BBC’s iPlayer platform, the Government notes that streaming services are not subject to Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code which sets out appropriate standards for content including harmful or offensive material, accuracy, fairness and privacy. For example, there are some protections for under-18s but minimal rules exist to regulate content. “There are very few rules to protect audiences, for example, from misleading health advice or pseudoscience documentaries,” said the announcement.

Some service providers have taken welcome steps to introduce their own standards and procedures for audience protection – such as pin-codes and content warnings – but the extent of these measures varies across services. Age ratings are also inconsistent and sometimes non-existent.

One other reason for all this is that such streaming services aren’t always based in the UK. For example, Netflix UK is actually subject to Dutch regulation because it’s based in the Netherlands.

Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden MP, said:

“We want to give UK audiences peace of mind that however they watch TV in the digital age, the shows they enjoy are held to the same high standards that British broadcasting is world-renowned for.

It is right that now we have left the EU, we look at introducing proportionate new rules so that UK audiences are protected from harm.”

However, the Government does recognise that not all VoD providers deliver a TV-like experience, so any regulatory change will need to be proportionate, particularly for smaller or niche services, to ensure essential protections like freedom of speech are not affected.

The consultation itself is open for 8 weeks and closes on 26th October. It will be followed by a wide-ranging broadcasting White Paper into the future of broadcasting, which will be published this autumn.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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21 Responses
  1. Buggerlugz says:

    The guy’s completely out of his depth. Has anyone else noticed that everything that comes out of Oliver Dowden’s mouth is utter tosh?

    “We want to give UK audiences peace of mind…….we look at introducing proportionate new rules so that UK audiences are protected from harm.”

    Meh, harm? how exactly? What he really means is “We know the BBC Licence fee is doomed so the government see’s future IPTV as a potential nest egg in the coming years”

  2. Billy says:

    When did we get freedom of speech? I thought that was an american idea that our government wasn’t keen on.

    1. Mark says:

      Article 10 of the Human rights act, and of the ECHR from where the right derives.

    2. Ray Woodward says:

      I think you’ll find the UK Human Rights obligations disappeared with Brexit …

    3. MattP79 says:

      The good news Ray is the Council of Europe is wholly separate from the European Union.

      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Council_of_Europe

  3. Thomas says:

    Does this mean we get a break from conspiracy theory garbage like “climate change”? Would be nice.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      Assume that’s tongue in cheek.

    2. L.E. Vator says:

      Mother Nature doesn’t indulge in conspiracy theories and deception. But guess who does. The fossil fuel companies and other polluting businesses who encourage the garbage that’s in your brain, just so they can keep raking in the cash.

  4. Random Precision says:

    @Ray Woodward I think you’ll find that ECHR and ECtHR have absolutely nothing to do with brexit, ECHR is a convention that dates back to 1948 and still applies in the UK.

    1. L.E. Vator says:

      It doesn’t apply to the UK at all with this government in charge. They simply ignore rules and laws they don’t like.

  5. Random Precision says:

    @L.E.Vator, regardless, the government are signatories to the ECHR and as such have to abide by the convention, failure could lead to action in the European Court of Human Rights. The ECtHR should not be confused with the CJEU which is an EU institution and can only rule on breaches of EU laws.

    1. Andrew Jones says:

      Except of course that the plan is for us to withdraw from the ECHR and replace it with a British “bill of rights”.

  6. Tom says:

    Someone found clipart from Microsoft Publisher 95 for this article picture?

  7. Chris Sayers says:

    For crying out loud, they can’t regulate the BBC effectively,trying to regulate an overseas company how’s that going to work.

    My view, the government are going after overseas company’s as the BBC is becoming increasingly less relevant.

    When presenters become the story they have failed.

    https://www.theguardian.com/media/2019/sep/30/bbc-racism-row-naga-munchetty-complaint-was-also-about-dan-walker

    Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden MP, said:

    “We want to give UK audiences peace of mind that however they watch TV in the digital age, the shows they enjoy are held to the same high standards that British broadcasting is world-renowned for.

    It is right that now we have left the EU, we look at introducing proportionate new rules so that UK audiences are protected from harm.”

    Well clearly that went well for the BBC in this case, The Princess of Wales interview with Martin Bashir, mocked up Bank statements, Jimmy Savile, all well regulated indeed.

  8. Optimist says:

    Can’t we just use VPNs to circumvent censorship?

  9. Billy Nomates says:

    Looks at UK run time: 110 minutes
    Looks at US run time: 120 minutes

    VPN it is then.

    1. DaveG says:

      In the US they speed up old TV shows so they can squeeze in a few seconds advertising per hour

  10. CarlT says:

    Oh goodie. The ‘conservative’ nanny state to the rescue.

  11. shaun Hollingworth says:

    What does Netflix or Amazon Prime ever show which is so far below the standard of mainstream UK broadcast television? Something to do with “The Crown” – and Netflix refusing to state that it was a “work of fiction” perhaps?

    I think people who are sick of this should let their MP know ASAP.

    Yes the nanny state again.

    1. André says:

      If you disagree with the proposal, you’re free to answer the consultation. I just did.
      It’s fairly straightforward to do.

  12. Random Precision says:

    @Andrew Jones, planning and doing are vastly different things.

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