The U.K. government, led by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, plans to present the much-debated Media Bill to the parliament in London in the new legislative period, including regulation of streaming services in line with TV networks, King Charles III said in his first King’s Speech on Tuesday.
The speech, drawn up by the government but read by the monarch, outlines the various laws that the government plans to pursue in the new parliamentary session.
The Media Bill would, among other things, force streaming services, from Netflix and Amazon Prime to the likes of Disney+, follow the code of conduct set out by media regulator Ofcom, whose rules around harmful material have applied to the national broadcasters for decades, or face fines of up to £250,000 ($308,000) or restrictions in the U.K., if they break them.
The conservative U.K. government had outlined some of these plans in a white paper unveiled by then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson in 2022. Details of the Media Bill regulations have since evolved.
The bill is designed to “better protect children by applying similar standards for TV to the streaming giants,” the government said. “The bill will ensure standards are upheld on video-on-demand services through a proportionate new Video-on-demand Code, to be drafted and enforced by Ofcom.”
Streamers have argued regulation would affect commissioning decisions and the slate of content available to consumers. Netflix, for example, warned in a submission earlier this year that it could decide to preemptively remove films and TV series from its U.K. service to avoid possibly contravening the regulation.
Stephen van Rooyen, CEO of Sky U.K. & Ireland, said: “We welcome the government’s plans to introduce the Media Bill in today’s King’s speech. It’s important any proposals continue to allow public service broadcasters and commercial broadcasters like Sky to strike the right deals to ensure viewers across the nation continue to benefit from the very best of British content. It’s imperative that this bill now comes forward speedily as these measures have been consulted on comprehensively.”
Caroline Dinenage, the chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee in the House of Commons, said: “The Media Bill will be vital for ensuring our public service broadcasters can continue to thrive in an ever-changing media landscape and for enabling listeners to enjoy access to live radio on smart speakers.”
The King’s Speech also mentioned plans to abolish a part of press regulation. The Guardian reported that it would roll back a law that made newspapers liable for the legal costs of both sides in libel cases, regardless of the result.