Revamp media regulation to help broadcasters take on Netflix, BBC chairman urges

James Warrington
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The BBC's proposed changes to its iPlayer platform have been thwarted by Ofcom (Source: Getty)

The UK’s media regulation must be overhauled to protect public service broadcasters from rivals such as Netflix, the BBC chairman said today.

Speaking at the Oxford Media Convention this morning, Sir David Clementi said existing regulation is not fit for the digital age and must be updated to ensure British broadcasters can take on global competitors.

Read more: BBC ‘risks irrelevance’ unless it can catch up to Netflix

The comments come after regulator Ofcom ruled the BBC’s proposals to make TV shows available on its iPlayer platform for longer must undergo a public interest test.

Clementi said the decision could set the broadcaster back even further as it struggles to adapt to the changing demands of viewers, many of whom have complained about the lack of ability to binge-watch BBC shows.

The TV executive contrasted the restrictions on iPlayer with Netflix, which he said updates its app more than 50 times a year without the need for regulatory approval.

“We need to look again at whether regulation, born in a UK-centric linear era, remains fit for the global, digital age,” he said.

Clementi said media regulation in the UK should promote public service broadcasters and ensure they are not disadvantaged against large US rivals.

“The current regulatory system has its origins in an era where the BBC was seen as the big beast in the jungle, the big beast against whom all others needed protection,” he said.

“But that view of the world has now passed. Increasingly, our major competitors are well-funded, international giants - Netflix, Spotify, Facebook, YouTube - whose financial resources dwarf our own.”

Netflix is thought to have spend as much as $13bn (£9.9bn) on original content last year, while the BBC’s annual programming budget is just £1.5bn.

Earlier this month BBC director general Tony Hall admitted the company had to adapt to changing viewer habits and ensure audiences are getting value for their licence fee, or risk becoming irrelevant.

Read more: ITV and BBC announce online streaming service to rival Netflix

The broadcaster has teamed up with commercial rival ITV to launch Britbox, a new on-demand streaming service offering a back catalogue of British shows as well as new commissions.

The government and Ofcom have been contacted for comment.