UK broadcasters to stay prominent on smart TVs and speakers

FILE PHOTO: British Secretary of State for Culture, Media, and Sport Lucy Frazer walks on Downing Street in London, Britain March 15, 2023. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

LONDON (Reuters) - On-demand services from Britain's BBC, ITV and other public service broadcasters must remain easy to find on smart TVs and set-top boxes, the government said as it announced a plan to update media rules for the streaming age.

The proposed new law will also put Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ under regulator Ofcom's remit to help protect audiences from harmful material such as misleading health claims, it said on Wednesday.

Britain's public service broadcasters have protected positions in electronic programme guides, ensuring viewers can easily find the content they are required to produce, for example in news.

But with more people choosing to watch on-demand television through apps on their smart TVs or other platforms, the broadcasters have raised concerns that their on-demand services could become less visible to viewers.

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said changes to viewing habits had put traditional broadcasters under unprecedented pressure.

"These new laws will level the playing field with global streaming giants, ensuring they meet the same high standards we expect from public service broadcasters and that services like iPlayer and ITVX are easy to find however you watch TV," she said in a statement.

The draft legislation will also help British radio stations compete against global rivals as listening moves from AM and FM stations to internet-based services.

Smart speaker platforms - such as Google and Amazon - will be required to ensure access to all licenced UK radio stations, from major national stations to the smallest community stations, the government said.

Platforms will also be banned from charging stations for being hosted on their services or overlaying their own adverts over the top of programmes, it added.

The government said it was publishing the bill in draft form because it was continuing to consult with the industry on the reforms.

(Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by Alison Williams)

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