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New UK Media Bill May Lead Netflix to Purge Content

Netflix is considering the removal of certain movies and series from its platform in response to new set of regulations proposed by the British government. The legislation aims to subject streaming services to oversight by media monitor Ofcom, similar to the regulations imposed on traditional broadcast television. Netflix expressed concerns about the new UK media bill, stating that the restrictions are vague and burdensome. Under the new rules, any streaming service found to feature “harmful” content could be fined 250,000 to 310,000 USD.

What is the New UK Media Bill All About?

The bill aims to update the existing Communications Act of 2003, which is considered outdated. Under the new law, Ofcom will have the authority to investigate and enforce standards, ensuring that streaming services provide safe and appropriate content for audiences.

The UK media bill also emphasizes the importance of public service broadcasters (PSBs) in the digital age. It requires PSB on-demand services, such as iPlayer and ITVX, to be easily accessible on smart TVs and streaming devices. It also allows PSBs to fulfill their obligations of providing quality content through online platforms, not just traditional television. Additionally, the media bill opens the possibility for Channel 4 to produce and own its own content, if it chooses to do so. The government aims to ensure the sustainability of Channel 4 by allowing it to have ownership over intellectual property.

The bill is expected to be introduced in Parliament when there is available time. The culture secretary, Lucy Frazer, acknowledges the challenges faced by broadcasters in the rapidly evolving digital landscape. The bill aims to level the playing field for streaming services, ensuring that they meet the same high standards as traditional broadcasters.

The measures introduced by the bill have been welcomed by ITV and Channel 5. The CEO of ITV, Dame Carolyn McCall, sees the bill as an important step towards a modern and flexible regulatory framework for TV and media in the UK. She urges the government to enact the bill into law promptly, considering the significant changes happening in the global media landscape. The legislation is seen as a means to maintain and strengthen the UK’s position as a global leader in the creative industries.

Netflix Raises Concerns

Netflix has highlighted the potential risks and challenges it would face in complying with the proposed regulations. The streaming giant emphasized the wide range and variety of content it offers to British viewers, which is considered a strength of its platform. However, this diversity of content could also become a compliance issue if it falls within Ofcom’s jurisdiction. Netflix stated that without greater clarity on the scope and application of the provisions, it would be more feasible to proactively remove content from its UK catalog than to face the burdensome compliance requirements and potential liabilities.

To meet Ofcom’s requirements, Netflix claimed that it would need to regularly purge its titles, which would be a costly and difficult task to manage and regulate. The streamer expressed concerns about the potential impact on its content catalog and the inconvenience it would cause to its subscribers.

Disney Joins the Streaming Giant

Netflix is not alone in expressing concerns about the new UK Media Bill. Disney has also voiced its worries, highlighting the inherent differences between traditional broadcasting and video-on-demand (VoD) services like its own streaming platform, Disney+. The studio argued that applying uniform rules to all VoD services, including strict content regulations or mandated ratings, would be inappropriate. The company emphasized the robust audience protection measures already in place for most VoD services and the varying consumer propositions and brand promises made by different platforms.

The potential enforcement of a content purge poses additional challenges for Netflix, especially as the company is simultaneously cracking down on password sharing. This move, which restricts service availability to a single household, has faced significant backlash from users. Many have criticized the decision leading up to a strained relationship between the streaming giant and its users.

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