Monday 14 June 2021 2:00 pm

UK to roll out new TV streaming rules in boost for broadcasters

The government is said to be preparing new rules that would force tech firms such as Amazon and Samsung to give greater prominence to public broadcasters.

Legislation being finalised by Whitehall officials will guarantee that public service broadcasters (PSB) such as the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 are easy to access on smart TVs, the Financial Times reported.

The shake-up will effectively ensure that smart TVs and streaming devices such as Amazon’s Fire Stick carry PSB apps and programmes in prime positions on their platforms.

The requirements, which will build on recommendations set to be published next month by media regulator Ofcom, are designed to strengthen broadcasters’ power in commercial negotiations.

The shake-up, which could be implemented as soon as next year, will come as a major boost to the BBC, and in particular commercial players such as ITV and Channel 4.

The broadcasters have long called for changes to prominence rules to reflect shifting viewers habits and increased competition.

Under the current framework, the main PSB channels must be at the top of TV programme guides. But the industry has warned that these rules have become irrelevant as more and more people tune in online and streaming rivals such as Netflix and Amazon gain ground.

ITV boss Carolyn McCall has said the changes are essential to ensure a “level playing field” and “safeguards in the digital world”.

The issue reflects concerns about the role of tech giants as so-called gatekeepers that control access to content made by broadcasters and publishers.

Whitehall figures and TV executives have drawn parallels between prominence rules and new legislation in Australia forcing tech platforms to pay publishers for their content.

The mooted changes could amid a separate review of public service broadcasting being conducted by the government, which could result in Channel 4 being privatised.

It is thought tough prominence rules could help to boost the commercial value of the channel.