British broadcasters want top billing on Netflix and ‘gatekeeping’ streaming services

Britain’s public service broadcasters are appealing to the government to enshrine their programming at the top of listings to protect against growing encroachment from tech giants like Netflix, Facebook and Amazon.

In an open letter published in the Guardian, the heads of BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and S4C argue streaming services are becoming gatekeepers to the content we enjoy, at the expense of homegrown content.

It wants PBS linear services and associated on-demand services to get top billing on streaming platforms, as they do in TV listings for Sky TV, Virgin, BT and other content providers. This will ensure it’s always easy for Brits to find content produced in the UK for UK viewers, the terrestrial TV providers argue.

The letter jabs the likes of Netflix and Facebook for having “little interest in supporting and reflecting UK culture” and says the government and Ofcom should act to ensure PSBs continued to play their “vital role in UK democracy, culture and creative economy.”

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The letter reads: “Global technology players have growing influence on what UK audiences discover when they turn on their screens.

“Increasingly they are becoming the gatekeepers to what we watch, but they have little interest in supporting and reflecting UK culture, in ensuring the news they supply is accurate and impartial or in distributing their operations across the UK. In fact, they have every incentive to promote their own programmes and those of their commercial partners with deals done globally and implemented in the same way country by country. And this promotion matters: more than 80% of the TV shows people watch on Netflix are reportedly discovered through its recommendation system. The Netflix button on the remote control is another reminder of how much the market has already changed – the company is able to use its deep pockets to effectively buy prominence.”

The letter signs off by saying Brits should be able to benefit from the “incredible innovation” the global tech companies have offered, while still keeping PSB content front and centre.

If the government and Ofcom agree, it could create a bit of a headache for tech companies who’d have to rejig their content in order to ensure their content puts Britain’s legacy providers front-and-centre.

Do you think Netflix, Facebook and the likes should prioritise access to PSB content? Let us know @TrustedReviews on Twitter.

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