Insights UK Government Department of Culture, Media and Sport launches consultation on extending Electronic Programme Guides (“EPGs”) regulation to additional services


EPGs are TV guides which provide listings of and access to programmes. In the UK, certain EPG providers are regulated (currently, Freeview, Freesat, Sky, Virgin Media and YouView). Regulated EPGs must comply with the Code on EPGs drawn up by Ofcom.  The Code requires them to give prominence in their EPG to the UK’s five Public Service Broadcasting (“PSB”) channels (BB1, BBC2, Channel 3 services, Channel 4 and Channel 5) and to make their EPG accessible to people with disabilities. The Code also contains several provisions to prevent EPG providers entering into arrangements or carrying out practices that would be prejudicial to fair and effective competition in the provision of licensed TV and radio services. Further, in general, channels that appear on these EPGs are subject Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code which contains rules designed to protect audiences from harmful content (e.g. the 9pm watershed rule for programmes that may not be suitable for children), which allow viewers to complain to Ofcom and for Ofcom to impose fines.

Many UK households now have smart TVs through which audiences can access a growing number of unregulated and mostly internet-based TV channels. The Government is concerned that unregulated services create the potential for consumer harm and an unfair competitive environment between regulated and unregulated services. Ofcom and the Government have for some time been considering how to update the prominence rules to make PSB channels easily discoverable on the user interfaces of internet-delivered TV services.

The government is now consulting on whether and how to use existing powers that allow it to update which EPGs are regulated in the UK. The consultation suggests that the government would regulate additional EPGs based on a description of their services rather than designating individual providers (as is currently the case) and seeks views on the criteria to be used to determine which services should be brought in scope e.g. audience reach thresholds. EPG providers designated under any amended legislation would then need to obtain a licence from Ofcom and comply with the EPG Code. In addition, it is likely that any channels on that EPG would need to be licensed by Ofcom and comply with Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code.

The Government clarifies that this consultation focuses on content viewed on a TV set and is separate to the proposed Media Bill which seeks to create new rules for the user-interfaces on TV sets and in respect of on-demand content.

For more information, click here.  To respond to the consultation, which closes on 15 November 2023, click here.