UK public service broadcasters face an “existential threat” from commercial demands by US tech groups to broadcast their programs over the internet, a senior industry executive warned MPs on Tuesday.
British public broadcasters such as ITV are concerned that the British government’s draft media bill does not set out clear enough rules to enforce a fair trading relationship between them and online TV platforms owned by big US tech companies.
Part of the legislation now moving through parliament is to help public broadcasters better compete with leading streaming services such as Amazon Prime. For example, it aims to make it easy for viewers to discover PSB services such as BBC iPlayer and ITVX on smart TVs and ‘stand out’ on streaming platform systems.
But Magnus Brooke, ITV’s director of strategy, policy and regulation, warned before the House of Commons media committee that online TV platforms could use global rather than UK-specific trading terms.
He said such a move could prompt companies to demand more than 30 percent of their revenue from broadcasters, as well as control important customer data and relationships with advertisers.
“They require us to effectively enter their advertising system, so we won’t necessarily have a relationship with advertisers. We will not be able to innovate in our ad technology. We won’t necessarily have access to any data,” Brooke said.
“This is an existential threat to public radio. A third of our income is equivalent to what we spend outside of London in a single year,” he added.
Public service broadcasters have raised concerns about this in discussions with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and industry regulator Ofcom in recent months, according to people familiar with the negotiations.
Brooke said provisions in the Media Act to ensure broadcasters could cover their costs were not the right approach, as commercially funded networks needed to make money, adding that he could not stress enough how important it was to revise the purpose of the agreement. “.
The legislation, which was simplified by the government last year, gives Ofcom a dispute resolution function, allowing it to step in when public service broadcasters and streamers cannot reach mutually beneficial commercial deals. According to Brooke, the bill should “give the watchdog enough power and discretion. . . to get to the place of victory, as in a Virgo or a Sky.
Other leaders who appeared before the committee expressed concern about how listed events or featured sports broadcasts would be protected by the bill. Meanwhile, Khalid Hayat, Channel 4’s director of strategy and consumer insights, also criticized the government’s decision to base the proportion of TV shows made outside London on absolute spend rather than market conditions.