Manufacturers of smart TVs and streaming sticks will need to ensure that the public service broadcasters’ catch-up services are displayed prominently under new broadcasting rules unveiled by ministers today.
Currently PSBs such as the BBC, ITV, STV, Channel 4, and Channel 5 are guaranteed a top spot in any TV or set top box’s programme guide but manufacturers are free to place their catch-up apps wherever they wish. In addition, some platforms give prominence either onscreen or on the remote control to commercial apps in return for payment.
New rules will in future require all PSBs to offer their apps to device makers while also obliging manufacturers to carry them and give them prominence within the device’s user interface. Ofcom will be given new powers to intervene and resolve disputes where they arise.
The regulator will also gain greater powers to regulate the content on subscription streaming services.
Ministers will also consider changing the rules governing sporting ‘crown jewels’ events such as the Olympics, FA Cup Final, Grand National and Wimbledon finals. Currently the broadcast rights to these can be bought by any channel which is free to view and accessible to 95 per cent of the UK, but in future they could be restricted to the PSBs.
The review will also look at extending the protections to streaming rights to ensure “that the public can view these sporting events of national significance free on digital platforms.”
Such a move could potentially prevent Discovery from extending its deal to broadcast many Olympic events exclusively on its streaming service, a move which led to complaints about the decline in the number of hours the BBC was able to broadcast.
Ministers have also confirmed their intention to privatise Channel 4 “as soon as the parliamentary timetable allows.”
Unlike at present, post privatisation the channel would be able to keep the rights to shows it’s commissioned. However, the channel would still be required to commission a minimum volume of programming from independent producers “to protect its contribution to the sector.”
The government says the broadcaster’s existing obligations to commission shows outside of London and England will be maintained, as would its remit “to provide distinctive, educational, innovative and experimental programming that represents the breadth of society, and obligations to show ‘original’ programmes and provide high quality news and current affairs.”
The planned sell-off has been opposed by both Channel 4 management and many in the broadcasting sector.