Ofcom outlines new rules to stop Netflix overrunning the Beeb and co.

UK communications regulator Ofcom says content from public service broadcasters like the BBC and Channel 4 must remain prominent and easy to find, as the threat from the US on-demand players grows.

Under new Ofcom rules, the traditional PSB channels and portals must be clearly visible in program guides and Smart TV interfaces on streaming sticks and set top boxes. This extends the current prominence rules, that continues to place the traditional legacy broadcasters at the top of the listings in your Sky guide for instance.

Given many viewers now go straight for the Netflix or Prime apps on their connected televisions, rather than the traditional programme guides, the visibility of the PSB content is potentially being undermined.

Ofcom says “public service broadcasting is now at a crucial juncture, as broadcasters face unprecedented competition from global on-demand and internet services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube.”

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The regulator is also embracing commitments from ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 to focus more on high-quality content for kids and teenagers. The new recommendations also suggest a national forum to debate the future of PSB broadcasting.

In a joint statement on Ofcom’s recommendations the BBC, ITV Channel 4, Channel 5, S4C and STV welcomed the new guidelines.

“As public service broadcasters we are committed to giving audiences the best British programmes and impartial and trusted news. Viewers say they value our content and want to be able to find it easily.

“These recommendations would ensure viewers can easily find public service broadcasting (PSB) content across a range of devices including smart TVs, set-top boxes and streaming sticks, and bring the rules up to date for the digital age.

“Rapid changes in technology and how we watch TV mean the flexible framework recommended – so the new rules can quickly be adapted to changes in technology and viewer behaviour – is also warmly welcomed.

“The proposals will require primary legislation so over the summer we will be working closely with Ofcom, DCMS and Parliamentarians on next steps. We hope this can happen quickly.”

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