Change regulations to allow TV broadcasters to take on Netflix, BBC chairman urges

Sir David Clementi issues call for urgent action from government

Alex Green
Monday 18 March 2019 02:30
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The BBC wants to make its iPlayer more competitive
The BBC wants to make its iPlayer more competitive

Public service broadcasters are being prevented from competing with streaming giants such as Netflix, according to the chairman of the BBC.

Sir David Clementi is to call for a change in regulation to allow the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 to “adapt and innovate in the digital world”.

During a speech on Monday at the Oxford Media Convention at Worcester College, University of Oxford, he will say: “We must be able to make the changes our audiences demand, in real time.

“Not by revolution, every few years, but by rapid, ongoing evolution.”

Sir David will argue that while the BBC’s iPlayer must go through a public interest test which can take months, on-demand commercial services like Netflix can rapidly update their programmes and films.

He is to call on the government and regulators to act “with urgency” to change these rules, which he says public service broadcasters at a disadvantage.

“The current regulatory system has its origins in an era where the BBC was seen as the big beast in the jungle, the big beast against whom all others needed protection,” Sir David will add.

“But that view of the world has now passed. Increasingly, our major competitors are well funded, international giants – Netflix, Spotify, Facebook, YouTube – whose financial resources dwarf our own.”

Earlier this month Channel 4 chief executive Alex Mahon called for action to make public service broadcasters easy to find for viewers.

She said the rise of smart TV interfaces, streaming sticks and other ways of watching TV meant “we are sleepwalking into a position where public service content is no longer prominent”.

Netflix says it has 139 million paid memberships in over 190 countries but does not release viewing figures for its programs. The BBC says that 3.6 billion programmes were requested on iPlayer overall in 2018.

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