John Whittingdale called on bosses at the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 to create “distinctly British” content to help them compete with US streaming giants. He said shows such as Doctor Who, Downton Abbey, The Great British Bake Off, Top Gear, Bodyguard and Planet Earth were international hits that also reflect British values. Mr Whittingdale told the Royal Television Society’s Cambridge Convention the move would ensure the UK stays a creative powerhouse.
He said: “I want [public service broadcasters] to continue producing shows that allow people in every corner of the UK to see their lives reflected on screen, and that showcase the things we are most proud of.”
Requirements for British content on screen will be set out in a White Paper.
Current rules state public channels must be listed in the first five slots in electronic programme guides on TV sets. These rules do not extend to guides and other user interfaces within online TV platforms.
Ministers will update the rules so Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) content has to be carried across popular online TV platforms, including Smart TVs, pay TV services, streaming sticks and set-top boxes.
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The PSB on-demand services – BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4 and My5 and regional services such as S4C’s Clic and STV Player – will also need to be found easily on platform user interfaces such as homepages. This will boost the sustainability of such broadcasting, so UK viewers can still access content they value.
Mr Whittingdale said: “I want to ensure British broadcasters get the exposure they deserve – no matter how their content is consumed.
“Public service broadcasters have been part of our national life for almost a century and are uniquely placed to reflect our values. It’s incredibly important that they keep their place at the heart of television.
“We plan to legislate as soon as possible and make it a legal requirement that major online platforms must carry PSB content, and that they must ensure it’s easy to find.”
Dame Carolyn McCall, ITV chief executive, said: “Increasingly, as people watch TV online it’s going to be more and more critical that they can easily find content from PSB providers on the online platforms they use, and that commercial PSBs like ITV and Channel 4 are able to make a fair return. We welcome the Government’s decision to update the rules.”
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