Press release: Media Bill to maximise potential of British TV and radio

Department For Culture Media Sport

November 21
00:01 2023

  • New measures added to ensure a wide range of TV genres continue to be shown by the UKs main broadcasters, and to protect free access to crown jewel sports events
  • Bill will help Britains public service broadcasters (PSBs) make more hit shows and ensure they are prominently shown on smart TVs and via streaming sticks
  • A new Ofcom-regulated Video-on-demand Code for major streamers such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ will better protect children and most vulnerable

TV and radio audiences could see more high quality British programmes hitting screens and speakers as new laws to maximise the potential of UK broadcasters are debated in Parliament today (Tues 21 Nov).

The Media Bill, which has its Second Reading in the House of Commons today, will update decades-old legislation to unleash the power of British broadcasters to attract bigger audiences in the UK and abroad, empowering them to invest in new talent and technology while supporting the governments ambition to grow the creative industries by 50 billion and one million jobs by 2030.

Among the Bills measures, the PSBs are set to gain more control over their TV schedules and on-demand offerings through more flexible rules on the types of programmes they are required to show, allowing each PSB to focus more on the content it is uniquely positioned to deliver.

Following feedback on the draft Bill, the laws will now require PSBs to ensure an appropriate range of programme genres are available on their services, protecting against a potential reduction in specialist genres of shows - such as religious, science and arts programming. A specific requirement for PSBs to continue to broadcast news and childrens programming is included.

The Bill will ensure British audiences continue to access free live coverage of our biggest sporting moments, like the Fifa World Cup and the Olympic and Paralympic Games. A loophole which could have seen unregulated streaming services bypass the regime that protects free access to these major sport events will be closed, after Ministers updated the Bill.

The new definition of relevant services ensures that TV-like services not currently captured by the listed events regime but providing live content to UK audiences via the internet, will now be captured. This will ensure the rights for listed events continue to be offered on fair and reasonable terms to PSBs as sport audience viewing habits evolve.

Opening the debate, Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer is expected to say:

We are in a golden age for the silver screen and our public service broadcasters are a major reason why. Whether its reality shows like the Great British Bake Off and Im A Celebrity, or dramas like Time, Happy Valley or Broadchurch - our public service broadcasters have proven they can go toe-to-toe with the streaming giants.

But success today is never a guarantee of success tomorrow. The rise of streaming giants and on-demand content, YouTube and smartphones, tablets and Tik Tok have combined to reshape our whole broadcasting landscape.

It is our job to enact reforms that keep our broadcasters at the top of their game in the years ahead. This Bill will do that by levelling the playing field, removing threats to their sustainability and opening up new opportunities to maximise growth and unlock potential.

This Bill has media freedom at its core. Section 40, and the possibility of publishers having to pay the legal costs of the people who sue them, even if they win, has hung over our media like a Sword of Damocles. This Bill removes the sword for good.

S4C Chief Operating Officer Elin Morris said:

The Media Bill will confirm S4Cs position as a multi-platform Welsh-language content provider across the UK and beyond.

The new framework will ensure that indigenous languages, including Welsh, are part of the new public service remit for television in the UK.

The Bill will extend legislation for online TV viewing and ensure that S4C Clic is available on connected TVs and prominent on TV sets in Wales.

This will allow us to further develop our services and place Welsh-language content on the main platforms across the UK.

Other measures in the Media Bill

The legislation will support our world-class public service broadcasters - the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, STV and S4C - through new requirements for their apps and content to be shown prominently on popular smart TVs and streaming sticks.

Audiences will benefit from stronger protections from harmful or age-inappropriate shows through a new Ofcom regulated Video-on-demand Code on the biggest streaming platforms and new requirements for subtitling, audio description and signing to cover mainstream on-demand services.

UK radio will receive new protections to ensure services are easily accessible on smart speakers - from major national stations to the smallest community stations - and obsolete red tape putting an unnecessary burden on commercial radio services will be removed.

Laws which threatened to force newspapers to pay both sides costs in any legal proceedings, even if they won, will be repealed via the Bill. The Bill will boost S4C, the Welsh language broadcaster, by allowing it to broaden its reach in the UK and beyond and offer its content on a range of new digital services.

As announced earlier this month, Channel 4 will get new freedoms to make and own its content to boost its long-term sustainability, while new safeguards for production companies would protect millions of pounds of investment in programmes made by independent TV producers across the UK.




The Bill will ensure PSB apps - such as BBC iPlayer, ITVX, Channel 4 and My5 - and programmes are easy to find on smart TVs and similar devices, for example when browsing the homepage and relevant recommendation lists. The changes will protect PSBs place at the heart of the UKs media landscape as people increasingly tune in via a growing variety of streaming platforms, expanding on existing protections under the Communications Act 2003 which ensure PSB TV channels always take the top position (channels 1 to 5) on electronic programme guides - or TV guides.

Video-on-demand code

Mainstream video-on-demand (VoD) service consumed in the UK - such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ - will be required to follow similar Ofcom content rules to those currently in place for traditional broadcasters, creating a more level playing field and ensuring that UK viewers - particularly children and parents - can be confident that protections from harmful material are in place, whether they tune in via traditional channels or an on-demand app.

According to Ofcom, younger adults watch almost seven times less broadcast TV than those aged 65 and over. Nine out of ten 18-24 year old adults bypass TV channels and head straight to streaming services.

Ofcom notes that one in five UK households, or 5.2 million homes, are signed up to all three of the most popular streaming platforms, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+. But video-on-demand services, except BBC iPlayer, are not covered by Ofcoms Broadcasting Code, which sets appropriate content standards for harmful, offensive and accurate material found on television. Some on-demand services are not regulated in the UK at all.

Following extensive consultation with the industry, the Bill has been changed to instruct Ofcom to consider the age of a programme when drawing up the VoD Code - following concerns that, without this change, requirements such as around due impartiality which currently apply for traditional broadcasters could provide an undue burden for streaming platforms if applied to its entire content library..

The Bill will also require Ofcom, when drawing up the VoD Code, to consider additional steps viewers might have taken to access content - such as paying for a specific film or TV show, given a viewer may have different expectations, and may be less likely to be harmed, than someone who ends up stumbling onto content by flicking between different channels.

Repealing Section 40

Laws which could risk preventing UK newspapers from pursuing valuable public interest stories will be removed from the statute books via the Bill. Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act, a law which is not in force, could have required news publishers to pay both sides costs in any legal proceedings if not a member of an approved regulator.

Section 40 was brought in as a result of the Leveson Inquiry as an incentive to encourage the press to join a recognised self-regulator. Since then, a stronger self-regulatory system for the press has been established and new challenges are threatening the sustainability of many print outlets - particularly local newspapers who stood to be hardest hit from the legislation.

A public consultation found a huge majority (79%) backed repealing Section 40, with many arguing it could have stopped publishers from undertaking valuable

Related Articles


  1. We don't have any comments for this article yet. Why not join in and start a discussion.

Write a Comment

Your name:
Your email:

Post my comment

Recent Comments

Follow Us on Twitter

Share This

Enjoyed this? Why not share it with others if you've found it useful by using one of the tools below: