The Draft Media Bill was published on 29 March 2023 with the aim of reforming the regulation of public service broadcasting in the UK, particularly in the context of the growing popularity of digital streaming.
The House of Commons Culture, Media, and Sport Select Committee has been carrying out pre-legislative scrutiny and has now published its Final Report on the Bill. The Report considers the feedback provided by stakeholders and, whilst it generally supports the introduction of the Bill, it makes a number of recommendations to the Government, including:
- obligations on public service broadcasters to provide specific genres of content should be retained to prevent a decline in the broadcasting of genres which are not generally perceived as commercially successful (such as content relating to religion, arts, and education);
- the Secretary of State should be permitted to vary the 30-day minimum time period for which content must be made available on-demand (for particular types of content, such as news, sports, or music for which a shorter period of on-demand viewing may be more appropriate);
- the threshold at which Ofcom can intervene if it considers that a broadcaster is failing to meet its remit should be lowered, enabling it to step in before concerns have already become “serious”;
- the loophole allowing an unregulated streaming services to buy the rights for a listed event and put them behind a paywall should be closed;
- public service content should be given “significant” (rather than “appropriate”) prominence on user interfaces and guides; and
- the new Video-on-Demand Code should apply to all Video-on-Demand services, not just “the largest, most TV-like” (aka “Tier 1” services).
These recommendations demonstrate just how closely the Committee has listened to stakeholders in the industry and wishes to reflect their concerns – as well as its own – to the Government. The Report concludes with a final recommendation – that “the Government prioritise the Media Bill in the upcoming fourth session of this Parliament”. Indeed, the Government now has two months to respond to the Report and we look forward to seeing how the Committee’s recommendations are translated into further iterations of the Bill.
“We recommend that the Government prioritise the Media Bill in the upcoming fourth session of this Parliament”.