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British broadcasting bosses speak out for media bill approval

The head honchos of all major British broadcasters have urged politicians to pass the Media Bill before a change of government.

“As leading CEOs from the UK broadcasting industry, we call on politicians across Parliament not to let the opportunity to modernise the rules that govern our sector pass,” said a joint statement from the heads of the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, Sky, ITN and regional networks.

The long-awaited Media Bill includes updates in areas such as streamer regulation, prominence and will give Channel 4 the opportunity to own the rights to its own shows for the first time in its history. It will bring the major streaming services under regulator Ofcom’s code in areas such as impartiality and age-appropriate content.

The bill is currently in its “third reading” stage in the House of Lords and is very nearly at point where it can pass, but the general election called yesterday by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak means parliament will be dissolved in just a few days time. The government will use the next few days to pass high-priority bills and the Media Bill could slip the net.

“There just isn’t enough time to get it through,” said one source who has been lobbying for the bill for years.

The joint broadcaster statement added: “The reforms proposed in the Bill will update key aspects of media legislation for the online TV era, to ensure audiences continue to benefit from the highest quality UK-originated content from the PSBs, and help the UK’s content sector thrive for years to come.”

Sunak called the election yesterday and it will take place on July 4. His Conservative Party is trailing behind the opposition Labour Party in the polls and the election had been expected to take place towards the end of this year.

Producers welcomed the election and said it brings an opportunity for change.

Ben Smith, Creative Director at Red Star, called on “funding for development of new content, so we can keep telling British stories suitable for audiences worldwide” from any new government, while Yeti Creative Director Sian Price urged tax credits to be “extended to include mid to lower tariff factual television.”

Derek Drennan, who runs Dating Naked UK producer Nest Productions, said “it’s high time the government started helping out TV and film freelancers who’ve been hit by the economic slowdown,” adding: “We need something like the COVID relief funds to give them some financial support – we could access that back then, why not now when conditions are just as bad, if not arguably worse?” Deadline

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