BBC and ITV welcome moves for public service prominence

They urged a quick update on legislation to include the rise of smart TV interfaces, streaming sticks and set-top boxes.

The BBC, ITV and Channel 4 have welcomed new measures to make public service broadcasters easy to find for viewers.

Current laws make it obligatory for on-screen, electronic guides to give “appropriate prominence” to those broadcasters.

But the legislation has not been updated to include the rise of smart TV interfaces, streaming sticks and set-top boxes.

ITV logo
(Ian West/PA)

Media regulator Ofcom said that “public service broadcasting is now at a crucial juncture, as broadcasters face unprecedented competition from global on-demand and internet services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube”.

Kevin Bakhurst, Ofcom’s group director for content and media policy, said: “Our traditional broadcasters are among the finest in the world. But they’re facing unprecedented challenges from competition and new technology.”

He said “we are ensuring their channels remain easy to find on TV guides” and planning a national debate on the future of public service media.

 Channel 4 headquarters in Horseferry Road
Channel 4 headquarters in Horseferry Road (Philip Toscano/PA)

The new rules will “safeguard” the positions of BBC One, BBC Two, ITV, STV, Channel 4, S4C and Channel 5 on on-screen programming guides. Ofcom has also proposed to grant public service broadcasters prominence on online platforms, which will need new legislation to go through Parliament.

Minimum levels of prominence will also be set for other BBC channels such as CBeebies and BBC News and local TV services.

A joint statement from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, S4C and STV welcomed the recommendations and urged Parliament to take action quickly.

Ofcom stock
Ofcom said it is ensuring the channels remain easy to find on TV guides (PA)

“As public service broadcasters we are committed to giving audiences the best British programmes and impartial and trusted news. Viewers say they value our content and want to be able to find it easily,” they said.

“These recommendations would ensure viewers can easily find public service broadcasting content across a range of devices including smart TVs, set-top boxes and streaming sticks, and bring the rules up to date for the digital age…

“The proposals will require primary legislation so over the summer we will be working closely with Ofcom, DCMS and parliamentarians on next steps. We hope this can happen quickly.”

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