techUK response to parliamentary committee report into Media Bill
Following the publication of the final report of the parliamentary committee for Culture, Media & Sport's pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Media Bill, techUK thanks the CMS committee for considering our written and oral evidence as part of the pre-legislative scrutiny of the Media Bill. While we note some positive recommendations within the report, particularly with regard to legacy devices, we had hoped that the committee would seek to strike a better balance between the concerns identified by PSBs and platforms. This report, combined with the interim report into the Radio sections of the Bill which still have not been subject to proper impact assessment, does not in our view strike the right balance. We reiterate that our members contribute considerably to the British media sector by offering innovative devices that enhance consumer choice and help them to discover new content, and that it is not in the consumer interest to impose unnecessary UK-specific burdens on technology platforms.
Regarding prominence on TV selection services, we agreed with the committee’s view that “what matters is ensuring that public service content is always carried and easy to find” across a diversity of platforms. We have sought to engage the committee and DCMS to demonstrate how our members currently give considerable prominence to PSB platforms while also ensuring that consumers can easily access the content of their choosing. We do not believe that redrafting the wording of the Bill from ‘appropriate prominence’ to ‘significant prominence’ is necessary, and note that there was not consensus among PSBs that this redraft would be helpful. Whether the final wording uses ‘significant’ or ‘appropriate’, the proportionality of these new requirements will be determined by the detailed secondary legislation and/or business guidance developed by Ofcom to support platforms in demonstrating compliance. We look forward to working with Ofcom to ensure that these provisions are appropriate to the Bill’s objectives.
We are disappointed with the committee’s recommendations relating to regional prominence. In techUK’s written and oral evidence we raised technical reasons why it is impractical for platforms to be legally required to give regional prominence when they cannot necessarily know the precise geographic location of a consumer. The committee’s analysis does not engage substantively with these challenges, and focuses only on the financial cost of implementing the requirements, which was not the core reason for techUK raising these concerns.
While we are pleased to see the committee recognising concerns about ambiguous wording within the must-offer must-carry agreement objectives, we feel that the committee’s recommendations could have gone further to ensure that the final wording within the Bill ensures ‘fair and mutually beneficial’ arrangements between PSBs and platforms. While there are some successful existing deals between PSBs and platforms, we remain concerned about the potential for regulatory intervention into what were previously commercial negotiations could be exploited to make excessive commercial and technical demands on platforms in order to be able to access PSB content that is freely available via other means. This would make it considerably more costly for technology platforms to place products on the UK market, which would ultimately lead to worse outcomes for consumers. We look forward to continue working with the government to ensure that this section of the Bill is drafted to ensure genuinely fair and mutually beneficial arrangements between platforms and PSBs.
We welcome the report’s recommendation to allow Ofcom to exempt certain previously designated devices on legacy grounds. This addresses concerns from both PSBs and platforms about how the Media Bill’s requirements would relate to older products that are difficult to re-engineer.
techUK remains committed to working with members of the House to ensure that the objectives of the Media Bill are achieve in a proportionate and practical manner that delivers the best outcome for consumers. We also note DCMS’s recently-released consultation into the regulation of additional EPGs, and emphasise the need for any new measures to align with both the substance and the timing of the Media Bill, as a piecemeal approach will create further compliance challenges for manufacturers and confusion for consumers.
Please contact [email protected] to discuss any matters relating to the draft Bill.
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