October 13, 2023

Internet TV channels in the UK will be subject to regulation by Ofcom.

Trend Analysis
Szymon Karbowski
Internet TV channels in the UK will be subject to regulation by Ofcom.

As part of its latest plans, telecoms regulator Ofcom wants to impose regulations on online TV channels to protect young viewers from harmful content. A change in the law will protect children and vulnerable viewers and give them the opportunity to complain to Ofcom.

Ofcom is responsible for the regulation of television, radio and VOD services. In case of possible violations of the so-called Broadcasting Code, this body has the power to impose heavy fines and sanctions. The research shows that potentially harmful content that may now unfortunately reach children (including, for example, swearing or sexual content) could even be presented before 9 p.m.

According to Ofcom, up to 7 out of 10 households in the UK have a smart TV that is actively connected to the internet. Up to 900 unregulated TV channels are available to their users. Regulatory proposals are currently under government consultation. The planned new rules, announced by UK Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer at the Royal Television Society convention in Cambridge, will extend Ofcom's powers to the most accessible and popular unregulated channels. In her speech, Lucy Frazer stressed that the plan is to maximize the potential of the TV industry and the opportunities presented by infinite choice to ensure fair competition as the global battle for audiences continues.

The Broadcasting Code already covers many areas of content production, including ensuring impartiality in news reporting and protecting children from harmful material. Unregulated channels are watched in a similar way to traditional television (which uses an electronic programme guide EPG for viewing). Ofcom now regulates EPG listings, which include Sky, Virgin Media, Freeview, YouView and Freesat. The UK regulator currently has no control over services that are becoming increasingly popular in the UK, such as Samsung TV Plus, LG Channels, Amazon Freevee or Pluto TV. These platforms allow viewers to watch programmes based on specific themes and viewer interests (e.g. The Chat Show Channel or World War TV) or dedicated to a single programme (e.g. Masterchef).

Some channels voluntarily comply with the rules on inappropriate content, but unfortunately their viewers cannot complain to Ofcom if harmful material is broadcast. Ofcom also has no control over the content of these channels. In line with the Culture Secretary's remit to modernize broadcasting rules for the digital age and streaming services, work and consultation has begun on bringing unregulated channels under the Ofcom Broadcasting Code.

In the context of the recent events surrounding the huge Pandora Gate scandal that has rocked Polish YouTube and reverberated through the mainstream media, we are all well aware of the need to protect vulnerable and young viewers. The UK's plan to regulate channels and platforms that do not play by the rules or are not bound by top-down standards should quickly become a benchmark for others, inspiring them to implement ethical solutions at home to protect the youngest and most vulnerable from unwanted content and inappropriate behavior. It will give all of us as viewers a sense of balance and security to know that what we are watching, wherever we are watching it, is subject to similar regulations and ethical standards.

#SzymonKarbowski #StreamVX #Ofcom #ProtectingTheYoungest #UK

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