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Ofcom introduces ‘prominence’ rules to protect future of traditional broadcasters

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Ofcom has introduced new rules to increase the prominence of traditional public service broadcasters (PSB) like the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 on internet media platforms.

With broadcasters facing unprecedented competition from global on-demand and internet services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube, the Ofcom rules are designed to bolster traditional channels.

The regulator has made a series of recommendations that it wants the government to enforce such as ensuring PSB programmes and players are clearly visible on internet-connected devices, such as smart TVs, set-top boxes and streaming sticks.

It also wants the rules to be updated so that PSB media is “prominent and easy to find” within programme guides while also endorsing commitments by ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 to increase their focus on high-quality children’s programmes.

Kevin Bakhurst, Ofcom’s group director for content and media policy, said: “Our traditional broadcasters are among the finest in the world. But they’re facing unprecedented challenges from competition and new technology.”

He said “we are ensuring their channels remain easy to find on TV guides” and planning a national debate on the future of public service media.

Minimum levels of prominence will also be set for other BBC channels such as CBeebies and BBC News and local TV services.

A joint statement from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, S4C and STV welcomed the recommendations and urged Parliament to take action quickly.

“As public service broadcasters we are committed to giving audiences the best British programmes and impartial and trusted news. Viewers say they value our content and want to be able to find it easily,” they said.

“These recommendations would ensure viewers can easily find public service broadcasting content across a range of devices including smart TVs, set-top boxes and streaming sticks, and bring the rules up to date for the digital age...

“The proposals will require primary legislation so over the summer we will be working closely with Ofcom, DCMS and parliamentarians on next steps. We hope this can happen quickly.”

In March the BBC pulled its podcasts from Google platforms, citing discomfort with Google limiting listeners’ choices and lack of access to audience data.

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