The UK government has published a white paper detailing its plans for the future of the TV industry, including the privatisation of Channel 4 and regulation for the global streaming services.
The white paper sets out the government’s plans to remove the current set of purposes and objectives set which were established for public service broadcasters in 2003. Instead, their remit will be “overhauled and simplified” said the government, with a new definition of what it means to be a PSB and a focus on creating distinctive shows “which reflect British culture, support domestic film and TV production, and provide impartial and accurate news”.
A consultation will be launched on new rules to make sure PSBs continue to commission what the government describes as “distinctively British” programming.
The government added that it plans legislation to make sure PSB content is always carried and easy to find for UK audiences on connected devices and major online platforms, including smart TVs, set-top boxes and streaming sticks.
ITV released a statement saying it welcomed the government’s recognition of the huge value the PSBs deliver to the UK. “We will engage carefully with the substance of the White Paper, but many of its proposals – notably reform to prominence and inclusion rules, a more flexible approach to remits, and changes to the listed events regime – look very sensible.”
A BBC spokesperson added: “We welcome the steps to secure the ongoing success of public service broadcasters, including the increased and improved prominence of our services on TVs and platforms.
“We also look forward to engaging with the government on both the forthcoming mid-term review and then the national debate on the next Charter.
“The white paper recognises the BBC’s critical role in supporting the UK creative sector and we remain focused on delivering great value for all licence fee payers and representing the UK to audiences around the world.”
The document also confirms the government’s plans for Channel 4, stating it will be “moved out of public ownership” to become a privately-owned public service broadcaster like ITV and Channel 5.
“This will allow it to access greater investment to grow and create more great programming made by people who live and work in the UK without losing what makes it distinctive,” it added.
A new Video-on-Demand code is to be established to regulate the global streaming services, which will be regulated by Ofcom.
It will ensure “VoD services, which target and profit from UK audiences,” are “subject to stricter rules protecting UK audiences from harmful material,” said the white paper.
The maximum fine for regulated VoD services will be £250,000 or an amount up to five per cent of an organisation’s revenue, whichever is higher.
The white paper will be presented to parliament next month and is expected to come into force by 2024.
More details about the white paper are available here.