September 25, 2018
November 4, 2018

In the on-going battle against media tech giants such as Netflix and Amazon, UK public service broadcasters have joined forces. The BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, STV and S4C have co-signed a letter calling for new regulations to keep their programmes in a prominent position on people’s EPG.
They write that the government ‘should help guarantee prominence for PSB linear services and associated on-demand services, such as the BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, STV Player, All 4, My5, and S4C Clic, to ensure they are fit for purpose as viewing habits change. Regardless of where you’re watching, which device you’re watching on, or who provides your television service, you should always be able to easily find PSB services and programmes in the UK.’

With the change in viewing habits and the decline of linear viewing, Ofcom has recently closed the consultation period on its Review of prominence of public service broadcasters and local TV. Each of the broadcasters has put forward their own case for maintaining prominence on the EPG (electronic programme guide). However, with the introduction of a ‘branded’ button on some new remote controls, many people bypass the EPG. With nearly 10 million UK subscribers, Netflix is a massive influencer on what people choose to watch, but it is the threat to UK content that is driving this collaborative effort between the UK PBS channels. The new SOD (streaming on demand) services have little interest in providing programmes which reflect UK culture or investing in the UK TV domestic market. However, for our domestic PBS channels to remain prominent would mean a change in legislation as Ofcom commented, “To ensure public service channels are easy to find on TV delivered through the internet, parliament would need to introduce new legislation. We would support that, and we recently set out some ideas and sought views on how it might be achieved.’

In a further warning about the threat of these new services, the newly installed Chief Executive of ITV, Carolyn McCall, has said that this is the last chance for UK Broadcasters to collaborate and build a British Netflix as a rival to SODs. To try and achieve this she has indicated that future ITV content would not be licensed to these services. There is currently a joint venture streaming service between the BBC and ITV called BritBox, but it is only available in the US. A decade ago, ITV and Channel 4 attempted to launch a joint video service called Kangaroo, but it was stopped by the competition regulator. Since then, times have changed and it is to be hoped that efforts to collaborate and create our own combined PBS channels domestic SOD will be achieved sooner rather than later.

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