You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

British Pubcasters Demand Prominent Placement on U.K. Set Tops, Consoles, Smart TVs

Tensions between Britain’s pubcasters and digital and tech giants intensified Monday as the BBC and Channel 4 demanded that their content get better positioning on smart TVs and connected devices. Channel 4 chief Alex Mahon said that, together with the BBC, she would call on the British government to ensure that all relevant devices sold in the U.K. give the public-service broadcasters a prominent position on the first page of their user interface.

Mahon told Variety in May of her concern over the placement of public-service broadcasting, or PSB, content on new platforms and devices. On Monday, she spoke on the matter at an event in Parliament. BBC director general Tony Hall, who has been vocal in warning of the threat he feels that FAANGs pose to homegrown content, also spoke. He said the current rules are “from another age” and called for “protected PSB prominence on the first page for any significant device.”

Noting that a third of British households have an Amazon or Netflix subscription and over three-quarters have a smart TV, Mahon said viewer choice on digital platforms and devices is being driven by “commercial, paid-for relationships.”

“Many of the providers of these streaming sticks or set-top boxes also provide their own content offerings, which of course come front and center,” she said. “This is all unregulated with no proviso for PSB at all.”

The issue for Channel 4 and the BBC is that, while the manner in which content is presented on traditional electronic program guides is regulated, the same is not true for newer digital services.

Mahon told the parliamentary event that the problem is acute in terms of news, where content from untrustworthy sources can be prioritized above that from the likes of the BBC, Channel 4 or Sky. “That could have huge ramifications for our democracy if left unchecked,” she said. “We need to think through carefully who are approved and verified news providers in these environments, with PSB chief amongst them, given our duties for quality, research and impartiality.”

There is increasing friction between the traditional broadcasters and new entrants. The BBC, commercial broadcaster ITV, and satcaster Sky have all railed against the FAANGs, which are making bold plays in content and programming that are not subject to the same regulation. At the same time, however, the streamers are also proving valuable co-production partners for British broadcasters and keen buyers of programming from their sales arms.

The incumbents have put aside their usual battles with each other to fight the FAANGs, along the lines of the adage that “my enemy’s enemy is my friend.” The commercial arms of the BBC and ITV have already teamed up on the BritBox SVOD service, and there is talk of a U.K. streaming service from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, and NBCUniversal as the traditional players grapple with the new landscape.

The BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and network operator Arqiva also said Monday that they would sink another £125 million ($141 million) into the free-to-air digital platform Freeview. The investment will fund a new mobile app and voice search among other updates. Digital U.K. operates Freeview, and in the funding announcement made note of recent Ofcom findings that “highlighted challenges created by new players such as Netflix and Amazon, calling for more industry collaboration to maintain the prominence of PSB.”

More TV

  • James Holzhauer $2 million

    'Jeopardy!' Champion James Holzhauer Hits $2 Million Winnings Milestone

    This current “Jeopardy!” player has just won over $2 million on the popular game show. Who is James Holzhauer? The 34 year old professional sports gambler from Las Vegas has hit a “Jeopardy!” milestone by becoming only the second person in the show’s history to win over $2 million in regular season play. Holzhauer won [...]

  • Kanye West Shares a Memory of

    Kanye West Shares a Touching Memory of His Mother in Letterman Interview

    In a preview of David Letterman’s interview with Kanye West, which begins streaming next Friday, May 31, the musician’s wife Kim Kardashian West, tweeted a clip of him sharing a touching memory of his mother, Donda, who died in 2007 after a surgical procedure. While his wife looks on smiling, West answers Letterman’s question about [...]

  • CNN Lays Off Some Health Journalism

    CNN Lays Off Some Health Journalism Staffers

    CNN has laid off a handful of staffers from its health-journalism unit after deciding to place its health, climate and Southeastern newsgathering operations under a single aegis. ” As part of the normal course of business, our newsgathering team made a small restructure earlier this week that ultimately impacts 6-7 employees within CNN’s Health Unit,” [...]

  • Henry Ian Cusick

    'Lost' Star Henry Ian Cusick Signs With Buchwald (EXCLUSIVE)

    Henry Ian Cusick, best known for playing Desmond on the hit ABC series “Lost,” is signing with talent agency Buchwald for representation. Cusick also starred in the CW sci-fi/drama “The 100” and was most recently seen in the Fox series “The Passage.” His other notable television credits include “Scandal,” “24,” “Fringe,” “The Mentalist,” “Body of [...]

  • Bryan Cranston First Time in Variety

    Bryan Cranston on His Early Roles, Dealing With Rejection and His 'Erasable Mind'

    Following his 2014 Tony Award for best actor as President Lyndon B. Johnson in Robert Schenkkan’s play “All the Way,” Bryan Cranston is looking to add to his trophy collection this year with his performance as Howard Beale in “Network.” The deranged anchorman — who’s famously “mad as hell and not going to take this [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content