UK Government Launches Consultation on Regulating Streaming Platforms

By Lily Zhou
Lily Zhou
Lily Zhou
Lily Zhou is a freelance writer mostly covering UK news for The Epoch Times.
September 1, 2021 Updated: September 1, 2021

New rules may be introduced in the UK to regulate streaming platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Apple TV+ so their content will be more in line with those broadcast on TV.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) launched a new consultation on Tuesday, asking for public opinions on how to regulate video-on-demand (VoD) services.

The DCMS said it’s seeking to protect UK audiences from “harmful material”  and to level the regulatory playing field between streaming platforms and traditional UK linear television channels.

The department said some streaming platforms have taken “welcome” steps to introduce their own standards and procedures “but the extent of these measures varies across services.”

“Age ratings are also inconsistent and sometimes non-existent,” the statement added.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said that the government wants to “give UK audiences peace of mind that however they watch TV in the digital age, the shows they enjoy are held to the same high standards that British broadcasting is world-renowned for.”

“It is right that now we have left the EU, we look at introducing proportionate new rules so that UK audiences are protected from harm,” he added.

The consultation document said that current regulation doesn’t “protect audiences from misleading health advice or pseudoscience documentaries on climate change,” and that these are “matters of serious concern which could be tempered with better guidance to warn audiences as to the nature and type of content available.”

It also said that new rules would need to be proportionate to ensure freedom of speech is not stifled.

The eight-week consultation will result in a number of measures to regulate VoD services as part of a wide-ranging broadcasting white paper that’s due to be published this autumn.

VoD isn’t the only content platform the UK government is seeking to regulate while trying to balance between protecting people from content deemed harmful and protecting freedom of speech.

The government published in May the draft (pdf) of an ambitious Online Safety Bill, which was promoted as a “world-leading approach” to regulate the online space.

The bill introduces a “duty of care,” requiring social media sites, websites, apps, and other services hosting user-generated content or allowing people to talk to others online to “remove and limit the spread of illegal and harmful content such as child sexual abuse, terrorist material, and suicide content,” or face huge fines.

It also seeks to tackle “racist abuse,” scams, and “disinformation.”

While the government said the bill also aims to uphold democratic debate online by requiring companies to protect content defined as “democratically important,” safeguarding users’ access to journalistic content shared on their platforms, and forbidding them from discriminating against particular political viewpoints, the bill has been lambasted by the civil liberty group Index on Censorship, which said it’s “catastrophic for freedom of speech.”

PA contributed to this report.

Lily Zhou
Lily Zhou is a freelance writer mostly covering UK news for The Epoch Times.