This consultation is a call for views and evidence on potential changes to the regulation of Video-on-Demand services.

The rapidly changing viewing habits of UK audiences and the accelerated growth in Video-on-Demand services such as BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub and Disney+, particularly during this pandemic, have highlighted the disparity that exists between the traditional audience protection available on linear television – such as Freeview, satellite or cable – compared to newer Video-on-Demand services.

https://youtu.be/bxQHUukWCDc

Services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video provide huge value to UK audiences, and in many cases significant, and growing, contributions to the UK economy. However, these services are regulated far less robustly than traditional broadcast television, particularly about the regulation of content standards and audience protection.

Video-on-Demand services, except for BBC iPlayer, are not subject to Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code, which includes enhanced protections to audiences from harmful and offensive material.

Video-on-Demand services apply a range of audience protection tools, including password-protected accounts, pin codes, content warnings and age verification. However, approaches are not standardised across services and can lack familiar, trustworthy signposting and guidance, which may cause concern and confusion, as well as the potential for harm to users.

The government is minded to better align the rules between Video-on-Demand services that provide a TV-like experience and ‘traditional’ linear TV, ensuring UK audiences receive a similar level of protection no matter how they want to watch television.

Not all Video-on-Demand providers deliver a TV-like experience such as Netflix or other mainstream services where viewers watch programming interchangeably with traditional linear services, therefore any regulatory change will need to be proportionate, to ensure freedom of expression is not undermined.

This eight-week consultation examines the current levels of audience protection from harmful content, and what steps might be required to ensure appropriate protection levels for UK audiences going forward.

This consultation also considers whether non-UK based Video-on-Demand should be brought under UK jurisdiction to provide accountability to UK audiences who use their services, and how best to regulate them.

In summary, the government is consulting on whether:

  • UK audiences viewing TV-like Video-on-Demand programme content should receive the same or similar level of protection as if they were watching traditional television; and
  • Video-on-Demand services not currently regulated by Ofcom, and which target UK audiences should be brought within UK jurisdiction.

This consultation does not seek responses on wider broadcasting regulation, nor changes to how television or public service broadcasters such as the BBC or Channel 4 are funded or regulated.

This consultation will also not cover changes to advertising rules/restrictions and does not cover topics such as introducing levies/quotas on Video-on-Demand  services.

Responses to these issues will not be considered as part of this consultation.

Feedback from all individuals on the specific consultation questions and content of the consultation document are welcome.

This consultation closes on Tuesday 26 October 2021 at 11.45 pm.

For further information and to take part please visit the URL shown below.

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/audience-protection-standards-on-video-on-demand-services