It was only a matter of time before Ofcom decided to weigh in on streaming services, and very soon standardized rules for Netflix, Disney Plus and Amazon Prime Video will be proposed by the UK government.
But what does this mean for streaming companies and the content they create for global audiences? So far, the intricacies of the regulations are mostly secret – but there are a few things we do know.
The government believes there is a disconnect between broadcast television and streaming platforms, which “have deep pockets and are largely unregulated, freeing them to impose their own interpretation of British life.”
All the details are expected to be presented in a white paper from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to be released in the coming months.
It seems that the trigger to pursue it came when Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden complained that the monarchical drama The Crown should have an early notice to clarify that the show is fictional and does not reflect real events. of the royal family.
Netflix has issued an official statement on the matter, which was first reported in the Mail Online: “We have always portrayed The Crown as a drama – and we believe our members understand that this is historical events.” It is based on a work of fiction.
But what would Ofcom do if it had rights in streaming services, and more importantly, is it even possible that this turmoil in broadcast law could happen in its entirety?
Ofcom controls daily communications in the UK including television, internet, telephone lines and radio. In the context of streaming services, it is an independent body that ensures “viewers and listeners are protected from harmful or objectionable content on television, radio and on-demand”, according to the official site.
Viewers can file a complaint with Ofcom, which could face penalties including fines, non-re-airing of content, warnings added to shows, and even the organization’s power to cancel or shorten them. is.
For example, more than 6,000 complaints were recently sent to the BBC after heartbreaking images of Danish football player Christian Eriksson received CPR during a Euro 2020 match.
In response, the BBC did not repost the footage – originally syndicated from a UEFA broadcast – or share the footage on its social channels. However, a prospective investigation is ongoing.
Considering streaming services’ audience share relative to broadcast television, it’s no surprise that there are arguments for putting them on an even playing field. The FT reports that a study by Ofcom showed that in 2020, subscriptions to the streaming platform increased by 12 million and viewing times doubled.
In comparison, TV broadcasts declined sharply – especially when COVID restrictions were first eased in June 2020. Of course, the lack of live sports and other popular reality shows like Love Island Y may have played a part – it will be interesting to see how the 2021 report shapes up.
Gone are the days, however, when the biggest rivals of ITV and the BBC were at odds with each other. Netflix, Disney and Amazon are all major threats to UK broadcasters.
The request is also linked to another government request: that large VOD companies share viewership figures for shows coming from British television, such as Fleabag or The Great British Bake Off (via the deadline).
If UK television is a major part of the content of streaming services, the argument is that all programming should be put under the same microscope. These rules will help standardize the content across the country. At least in theory.
Currently, not all streaming services work as per the Ofcom guidelines. Netflix has its European headquarters in the Netherlands, so it currently only respects Dutch regulators – the Commissariat Voor de Media. While Ofcom should also have a say in the content produced, there can be conflicts between various international bodies.
Head office people in the UK are covered under different laws, but these are not the same standards as the BBC and ITV. The Radio Times reported that although Jeremy Clarkson learned he had received complaints for The Grand Tour, he was never notified by Amazon and only found out through tabloids.
The problem is that most streaming services serve a global audience. So, if Ofcom were to regulate programming on these platforms, the changes could mean that UK audiences have different experiences than other countries.
Possible scenarios include show disclaimers, age groups decided by Ofcom, delays in posting content to UK versions of the streaming platform when changes need to be made and, in the most extreme case, broadcasts left entirely to the British public.
City AM reports that Ofcom’s rules on accuracy and fairness may conflict with even sensational Netflix documentaries like Cspiracy.
While the OFCOM law applies primarily to news and current affairs, allegations of reference and misleading quotes about global issues such as the environment may fall under its purview – and as such, measures may be taken against such programs. .
Netflix has removed content in the past (via iNews), with other international organizations complaining that some shows contain the promotion of conspiracy theories and false medical claims.
However, there are factors that may prevent this regulation from having a significant effect. On the one hand, streaming content isn’t broadcast live, so there’s already a lot of control over how content is organized for in-home viewers. It also means that Ofcom’s “no repeat” approval doesn’t really apply.
Stephen Armstrong of The Telegraph says Ofcom’s monitoring of streaming companies is a futile exercise. He argues that the penalty is negligible compared to budgets such as Netflix and will not have much weight or impact on creative decisions made for shows on those platforms.
Armstrong also argues that the plans could be a way to force more UK studios and broadcasters to strike deals with streaming services. If a program has already been made for UK television, Netflix will not need to worry about modifying it for UK audiences.
It remains to be seen how the UK government plans to enforce restrictions on streaming platforms and whether these proposed plans will be implemented. If they do, it could be a major catastrophe for Britain.
Of course, if some programs are removed in the harshest scenario, there are still VPNs.
what am i watching this week
I’ve been a little late on the sitcom Mike Schur hype train, but found my new comic craze with Parks and Recreation – all seasons are currently on the Netflix and NBC streaming service in the UK. Peacock in the United States.
Amy Poehler plays Leslie Knope, an employee of the Parks Department in Pawnee, Indiana. He has big dreams of helping him transform and improve his hometown – but he must first, with the help of his misfit allies, overcome all the government’s red tape and curious citizens.