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BBC Calls For Regulation Of Smart TVs To Stop ‘Unfair Competition’

The BBC wants a law to ensure that its services get a prominent and guaranteed position on TV … [+] streaming devices like Amazon’s Fire TV Stick and Apple TV.

Britain’s national public service broadcaster is calling on legislators to prevent the sale of devices like Amazon’s Fire TV Stick that enable tech giants like Apple and Amazon to deny access to broadcasters, according to a report by British news site iNews.

The BBC is currently funded by a compulsory TV license that requires anyone in the UK who watches live TV on a computer, mobile phone, tablet or TV to pay an annual fee of £159. Anyone discovered watching live TV or accessing the BBC’s iPlayer catch-up service without a license can be fined up to £1,000 and even be sent to jail for non-payment. Watching TV without a license also incurs a criminal record.

The reason the BBC wants devices like the Amazon Fire TV Stick and smart TVs to come under regulatory control is due to the corporation’s shrinking audience in a world of increasingly diverse media competition. The BBC is afraid its services could be blocked from streaming devices or smart TV and that the manufacturers of those devices could begin demanding a fee to give the broadcaster a platform or perhaps a less-prominent position in the electronic program guide of the device.

The BBC’s director of policy, Clare Sumner, has called for: “urgent legislation to update the 2003 Communications Act to modernize the regulatory framework to ensure public service broadcasters (PSBs) are prominent and available on all major TV platforms”.

The new law the BBC is proposing would prevent providers of TV user interfaces, such as smart TV manufacturers or global tech providers, from releasing products in the UK without complying with rules that would insist the BBC and other PSBs got top billing on the device and guaranteed access.

There could be financial sanctions for TV manufacturers that refuse to comply with the law. “This would ensure original British programming and trusted news is universal, available to all and easily accessible,” Sumner added.

Britain’s media regulator Ofcom (the equivalent of the USA’s FCC) supports a change in the law that would make it mandatory for services like the BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub to be guaranteed a prominent position on Smart TV interfaces. The Government is considering its response to the BBC’s submissions.

Smart TV manufacturer Samsung has already registered its opposition to the proposed law, saying: “it could stifle the ability of TV manufacturers to develop new models and introduce different types of technology to improve the viewer experience.”

In its response to Ofcom’s Public Service Broadcasting Review, the BBC said it was opposed to Ofcom’s suggestion that the TV License fee should be “top sliced” with a portion of the cash collected being given to new public service TV services. The BBC claims that the move would “diminish the BBC’s scale and scope” at a time when it’s already under considerable pressure competing with global media players such as Netflix, Amazon and Apple TV. Forbes

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