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Streaming giants will be subject to video-on-demand code

Streaming giants will be subject to a new video-on-demand code, which will be drafted and enforced by Ofcom, it has been announced.

The Government says the Media Bill, announced in the King’s Speech, will make long-term changes to better protect children by applying similar standards for TV to streaming services.

The UK media watchdog will be given the power to draft and enforce the new code to level the rules with traditional broadcasters.

Viewers will then be able to formally complain to Ofcom about content on streaming platforms.

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The code will be enforced by Ofcom (Yui Mok/PA)

Ofcom currently enforces rules set out in the Broadcasting Code, which apply to TV and radio and are designed to protect viewers and listeners from harm.

The code includes rules on the 9pm watershed, hate speech, offensive language and product placement.

Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, Paramount+, Discovery+, Hayu, ITV X and other streaming services are currently covered by statutory rules enforced by Ofcom.

However, Netflix, which has a European base in the Netherlands, is not regulated by Ofcom but instead by the Dutch media regulator, the Commissariaat voor de Media.

On-demand programme service (ODPS) rules are currently not as wide-ranging as the Broadcasting Code.

The Government says the new on-demand code will be “proportionate”.

The Media Bill also includes action to ensure viewers can more easily discover public service broadcast services such as BBC iPlayer and ITVX on smart TVs, set-top boxes and streaming sticks.

It also features plans to support Channel 4’s sustainability by allowing the broadcaster to make more of its own programmes.

Dame Caroline Dinenage MP, chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, said: “The Media Bill will be vital for ensuring our public service broadcasters can continue to thrive in an ever-changing media landscape and for enabling listeners to enjoy access to live radio on smart speakers.

“We welcome its inclusion and look forward to seeing how the Government has taken on board the Committee’s recommendations to make sure the legislation is in the very best interests of viewers and listeners.”

Dame Carolyn McCall, chief executive of ITV, said: “We are very pleased with the inclusion of the Media Bill in the King’s Speech.

“This is a critical step towards ensuring that public service broadcasters can continue to invest in the brilliant British content our audiences love because our shows will be available and easy for people to find on all major TV platforms and devices.”