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British government plans to bring streaming sites under UK broadcasting regulation

The proposal is expected to be set out in a broadcasting white paper.

Image: PA

THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT plans to regulate streaming giants such as Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime in the same way as traditional broadcasters such as the BBC and ITV.

Under plans to be published next week, media watchdog Ofcom would extend the same control over on-demand services, meaning it could rule on complaints relating to issues including bias and inaccuracy.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden is expected to set out the proposal in a broadcasting white paper.

Public service broadcasters (PSBs) face increasing pressure from streaming services with large budgets for original productions and increasing numbers of young subscribers.

Dowden has previously said it is time to “ask really profound questions” about PSBs and the role they play in the new media landscape.

Under current rules, Netflix does not fall within Ofcom’s jurisdiction because it is based in the Netherlands.

Instead, it is subject to Dutch regulation even on its English language programmes tailored to the UK version of its site.

The company’s lavish royal drama The Crown sparked calls by Dowden to add a disclaimer saying it is a work of fiction, while Amazon Prime was criticised for hosting anti-vaccination documentaries in the US that it later removed.

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A government source said: “UK broadcasters are having to compete with these giants with one hand tied behind their backs. The companies have deep pockets and go largely unregulated, leaving them free to impose their interpretation of British life.

“The rules governing the way broadcasters operate were written for an analogue age. They are not fit for purpose in an era of smart TVs, streaming and on-demand programming.

“With the pace of change and the increase in global competition, the Culture Secretary feels it is time to look at how we can level the playing field between broadcasters and video-on-demand services and make sure the UK’s broadcasting landscape is fit for the 21st century.”

Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+ have been contacted for comment.

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