Some U.K. officials plan to propose regulating streaming services as they do linear broadcasters.
An upcoming white paper on broadcasting, from culture secretary Oliver Dowden, is expected to lay out a proposal that reportedly calls for the Ofcom agency to expand its purview to include OTT services, allowing it to rule on matters including complaints of inaccuracy and bias.
“The rules governing the way broadcasters operate were written for an analog age,” a government source told The Times. “They are not fit for purpose in an era of smart TVs, streaming and on-demand programming. The culture secretary feels it is time to look at how we can level the playing field between broadcasters and video-on-demand services and make sure the U.K.’s broadcasting landscape is fit for the 21st century.”
Netflix and other big SVODs “have deep pockets and go largely unregulated, leaving them free to impose their interpretation of British life,” the source complained.
Calls for streaming service regulation were heard in December 2020, set off in part by the U.K. debut of the third season of Netflix’s “The Crown,” according to reports at the time.
Dowden said that the series, based on the history of the British royal family, should carry a disclaimer stating that some of it is fiction. “I fear a generation of viewers who did not live through these events may mistake fiction for fact,” he told The Mail On Sunday.
Netflix rejected the idea, saying it has “always presented ‘The Crown’ as a drama.”
Minister for Media and Data John Whittingdale, speaking to the Select Committee on Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, noted that U.K. broadcasters are “subject to quite stringent requirements,” while streaming services like Netflix “are subject to virtually no regulatory requirements at all,” reported Digital TV Europe.
The government “might well think about” adding “some kind of basic requirements” for SVODs, he added.
Last November, faced with increasing political pressure, Netflix International, which had been paying taxes in the U.K. based on its being headquartered in the low tax zone of The Netherlands, agreed to start paying U.K. taxes on all U.K.-derived subscription revenues as of 2021.