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Harry and Meghan row could put Netflix under Ofcom’s thumb much sooner

Streaming services like Netflix and Disney+ could soon come under Ofcom’s jurisdiction, meaning potential fines for breaches of broadcast code and the ability for viewers to register complaints about content.

The long-mooted change could be hastened by a row over Netflix’s controversial Harry & Meghan documentary, which, in case you hadn’t noticed, has upset some people of the Tory persuasion.

According to a Telegraph report, the prime minister is now planning to “give the broadcasting watchdog the power to take on Netflix” for the first time.

Right now Netflix is powerless to investigate streaming services that are based outside the UK, with the watchdog telling scores of upset royalists it was “sometimes contacted by people who’ve seen something they found harmful or offensive on a streaming service like Netflix”, but couldn’t do anything about it.

If proposed legislation is passed under the UK government’s proposed Media Bill, then Ofcom would have the same power to fine Netflix up to £250,000 for “breaches of code” as it does broadcasters like BBC, ITV and Channel 4.

In this case Ofcom’s rules state “factual programmes or items or portrayals of factual matters must not materially mislead the audience.” That, of course, would need to be proven before any fine could be levied against the US streaming giant. However, plenty of critics have accused the show’s trailer of being deliberately misleading.

The Telegraph report points out the furore over a scene that was supposed to show the ex-Royals being hounded by the media, that turned out to be of a Harry Potter premiere neither were present for. Another shot supposedly showing photographers trying to get a shot were actually chasing Katie Price.

The Media Bill could now be brought to the House of Commons by the Culture Secretary next year, according to the report, but considering the General Election is around a year away, the bill might not make it in time.

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