New media bill will dramatically tackle online challenges
The government claims the draft Media Bill will enable public service broadcasters to unleash their potential to grow, produce more top quality British content and invest in new technologies to keep viewers tuning in amid fierce competition from subscription-based online platforms. It marks the next step in the government’s plan to modernise decades-old broadcasting legislation. New reforms have been added to protect the position of UK radio on smart speakers as listeners increasingly move away from AM and FM stations in favour of internet-based services.
Smart speaker platforms – such as Google and Amazon – will be required by law to ensure access to all licenced UK radio stations, from major national stations to the smallest community stations. Platforms will be banned from charging stations for being hosted on their services or overlaying their own adverts over the top of those stations’ programmes.
The Bill will also reduce regulatory burdens on commercial radio stations, relaxing content and format requirements developed in the 1980s which tie them to commitments to broadcast particular genres of music or to particular age groups. The new regime will give stations more flexibility to update or adapt their services without needing consent from Ofcom. The reduced bureaucracy these changes will deliver could save the radio industry up to £1 billion (€1.1bn) per year.
Our Bill will give these brilliant broadcasters and our legendary radio industry the tools to keep doing what they do best – nurturing the creative talent and skills that fuel the UK’s booming production industry, whilst making outstanding shows that we can all enjoy, Lucy Frazer the Minister of Culture declared.
With more radio listening than ever now taking place online and on smart speakers, it’s only sensible that the Government introduces safeguards for the future that will guarantee consumer choice and support the public value provided by UK radio services, commented Matt Payton, CEO of Radiocentre. The commercial radio sector welcomes this important recognition of the vital role that it plays in the media landscape. We’re also pleased to see legislation that will finalise commercial radio deregulation, enabling stations to focus on producing great content that listeners want to hear.
The publication of the Bill in draft will allow for further engagement with the industry to ensure these major reforms deliver for broadcasters and viewers. The government remains fully committed to introducing the Bill as soon as Parliamentary time allows.