Insights Government consults on better protections for UK audiences on video-on-demand (VOD) services


The government is considering how to better level the regulatory playing field between mainstream VOD services and traditional broadcasters.

At the moment, services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are regulated far less robustly than traditional broadcast television, particularly in relation to the regulation of content standards and audience protection. VOD services, except for BBC iPlayer, are not subject to Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code which includes enhanced protections to audiences from harmful and offensive material. While VOD services apply a range of audience protection tools, such as password-protected accounts, pin codes, content warnings and age verification, the approaches are not standardised across services.

The Government is minded to better align the rules between VOD services that provide a TV-like experience and traditional linear TV, ensuring UK audiences receive a similar level of protection no matter how they want to watch television. Not all VOD providers deliver a TV-like experience in the way that Netflix or other mainstream services do, where viewers watch programming interchangeably with traditional linear services, therefore any regulatory change will need to be proportionate, to ensure freedom of expression is not undermined.

The consultation asks for views on whether UK audiences who view TV-like VOD programmes should receive the same or similar level of protections as when they are watching traditional television. It asks which measures can and should be made consistent across VOD services.

It also considers whether mainstream VOD services not currently regulated in the UK by Ofcom should be brought within UK jurisdiction to provide accountability to UK audiences who use them.

The consultation does not seek responses on wider broadcasting regulation, nor changes to how television or public service broadcasters such as the BBC or Channel 4 are funded or regulated. It also does not cover changes to advertising rules/restrictions and topics such as introducing levies/quotas on VOD services.

The consultation closes on 26 October 2021. To access the consultation, click here. To read the Government’s press release, click here.