At the end of March this year, the UK Government Department for Culture, Media & Sport published its Draft Media Bill, which updates the legal framework for the media industry. Reform has been discussed for some time, and it is a significant achievement to reach this stage. Part of the Media Bill was heard in the UK Parliament for the first time in July, with the remainder due later this year.
Digital transformation is seen as the principal driver for the Bill, as technology is moving at a fast pace and legislation must catch up with innovation. Media access and demand are greater than ever, and because the on-demand economy requires media content anywhere, anytime, we need both the right permissions and the right technology.
The Draft Media Bill is a lengthy document and the main areas are summarised below:
- Public Service Television
Introduce a new ‘public service’ remit for the UK’s public service broadcasters: the BBC, ITV, STV, Channel 4, S4C, and Channel 5. Traditional broadcasters such as these are struggling to maintain audience levels and it is hoped that a new remit will help them preserve viewing figures and, in some instances, increase them.
- Prominence on Television Selection Services
Reform the ‘prominence’ rules so that viewers can more easily locate public service channels on online TV platforms . Current prominence rules state that the public service broadcaster must be listed in the first five slots in electronic programme guides on TV sets. However, these rules do not extend to TV and other user interfaces within online TV platforms.
This focuses on Channel 4 and is intended to remove the restrictions that prevent the channel from producing content. Channel 4 will remain in public ownership with the aim of increasing its commercial flexibility and building a presence outside of London.
- On-Demand Programme Services
Ofcom currently has no power over video on-demand (VOD), so a code will be introduced to protect audiences from any harmful material and to introduce greater accountability. In addition, the aim is to help improve public accessibility to video on-demand (VOD) services.
- Regulation of Radio and Radio Selection Services
Encourage engagement with the radio industry to obtain a better understanding of the policies and practices of smart speaker platforms such as those offered by Amazon. Also, help maintain the number of listeners on radio stations, with access to be provided to all UK-licensed UK radio stations irrespective of size and to be free of charge.
The Media Bill is a significant reform that will shake-up the UK media industry and modernise it to protect some of the long-established core media services. It will also encourage the development and growth of new and existing media under a more flexible regulatory regime.
Media liability insurance is a specialist form of insurance providing coverage for areas such as defamation, privacy and breach of infringement. This is generally on a broad civil liability basis in the UK, and we would therefore expect policy coverage to respond to new media risks that may arise following the implementation of this Bill when it eventually becomes law. Having said that, insurers will no doubt maintain a watching brief to manage any new and emerging risks, factoring the risks into their rating assessment of the premium and terms and conditions under which policy coverage is granted.