The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)

King’s Speech – Nov 7th 2023

On November 7th the King announced the Parliamentary timetable for the next session and the Media Bill is part of that programme.

The government hopes that, having removed its proposal to privatise Channel 4, passage of the Bill will be relatively uncontroversial. However, a coalition of audience-focused bodies which includes the Children's Media Foundation, has concerns about the extent to which the Bill diminishes public service media in this country. Some of those worries have already been addressed by the Culture, Media and Sport Parliamentary Select Committee which recommended changes.

Children's content, like news, is highlighted as an essential part of public service. This is on one level encouraging. But, as ever, the devil is in the detail. CMF is concerned that the Bill is insufficiently future focused (and in the case of kids, that future is already upon us).

We have identified some issues which should be addressed. In particular the Bill fails to reflect the success of the Young Audiences Content Fund in developing and creating public service alternatives to the BBC. While the bill does not contain any finance elements, we nevertheless believe that it should make reference to the potential for changing the way public service media beyond the BBC is funded in the future.

Second – the issue of finding content. The Bill refers to prominence for the public service media providers, such as the BBC , ITV C4 and Channel Five on streaming devices and smart TVs. But it only deals with the question of prominence for the Public Service Broadcasters' on demand Services - ie the iPlayer, ITVX and so on. This would not, for example, affect Netflix, which does not carry those services. And it would certainly let YouTube, TikTok and others off the hook as far as prominence for public service content is concerned.

In fact there is no attempt in the Bill to consider prominence for public service content as opposed to "services". We think this is a serious omission and fails to recognise the massive migration of young audiences to on demand platforms and makes the bill out of date before it even becomes law.  The concept of regulating for public service content is much more complicated than simply insisting on prominence for the iPlayer etc.  There are difficulties of definition, provenance and ownership involved. But we feel the Bill should at least address the issue - if only to set Ofcom on a track to investigate how it might be possible at some future point.

CMF will be working to alert politicians to these deficits as the Bill makes its way through Parliament.

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The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)