Please wait...
Please wait...

Hall repeats calls for streamer regulation

BBC director-general Tony Hall has called for streamers and broadcasters to face the same regulation and highlighted what he says is the greater reach of the pubcaster compared with online rivals like Netflix.

Tony Hall

Hall, speaking at the Deloitte/Enders Media & Telecoms 2019 & Beyond conference yesterday in London, said the BBC must adapt to on-demand viewing habits, highlighting its plans to allow programming to be available via OTT service iPlayer for 12 months rather than 30 days at present.

He also defended the role of public broadcasters, saying: “The goals and values that define public service media have become more relevant, more important, not less.”

Hall also claimed regulation must be updated to reflect the growth of streamers and OTT viewing, adding that UK regulator Ofcom itself has “pointed out” discrepancies as “the same programme can be regulated in half a dozen different ways in the UK, depending on who’s hosting it.”

He added that while the TV landscape “has changed beyond all recognition over the past decade,” regulation “has stayed largely the same.”

The BBC chief, who has become a regular critic of US-based streamers over the past 18 months, also questioned whether Netflix or Amazon would commit to UK programming in the same way the BBC does.

The pubcaster spends around £1.5bn (US$1.96m) on TV content annually, compared with a reported US$13bn by Netflix and US$5bn by Amazon.

He also highlighted the greater reach of the BBC compared with the world’s biggest streamer, which doesn’t reveal viewing figures.

Using pubcaster research, Hall suggested that Netflix’s big-budget drama The Crown managed seven million viewers in the UK in 17 months against the finale of The Bodyguard, which reached 17 million in a month for the BBC.

Speaking at the same event, UK culture secretary Jeremy Wright said the government’s forthcoming white paper on ‘online harms’ would set out expectations for digital companies operating in the UK. He also said the government’s policies, when it came to broadcasting, had to reflect the growing impact of digital.

“It’s not mutually exclusive to have a thriving PSB system and a thriving SVoD world. But as the SVoD landscape develops, we do need to understand what this means for UK broadcasters and UK audiences,” Wright said.

“Our regulation of broadcasters is widely appreciated – including by audiences – for its robustness and effectiveness. It provides crucial consumer protections, especially with regard to harmful and inaccurate content, which plays an important role in ensuring trust in our broadcasters. But for relatively new on-demand platforms, rules are in many areas not as robust.

“On-demand platforms undoubtedly have global appeal. But it is worth thinking about how we can encourage them to develop in a way that means the content produced here truly reflects UK audiences. Otherwise there are risks that audiences become more reliant on content that feels, as Sir Peter Bazalgette said recently, ‘curiously stateless.’ These changes are something we will consider carefully as the sector changes rapidly.”

At the same event, Channel 4 boss Alex Mahon confirmed that the broadcaster was in talks to join the BBC and ITV’s forthcoming SVoD service Britbox.

The two organisations have been discussing a joint service for several years but last month confirmed they are in the “concluding phase of talks” to establish the “transformational” streamer, which will launch in the second half of the year.

It will offer the “biggest collection” of British content available on any streaming service, ITV and the BBC said, adding that originals specifically for BritBox would also be ordered from UK production companies.


Please wait...