Insights UK Media Bill update


As previously summarised and reported by Wiggin, the Media Bill is currently making its way through the legislative process. On 28 February 2023, the Bill had its second reading in the House of Lords where it was debated.

Further, on 26 February 2024, Ofcom, designated as the UK regulator for most aspects of Bill, published its high-level plan for implementing the Bill once it becomes law. This will involve the preparation of a wide number and range of new or updated reports, regulations, guidance, codes and Public Service Broadcaster licence conditions. Addressing each of the six parts of the Bill in turn, the paper sets out in detail the nature of the work required, when Ofcom aims to commence and complete each part of the work and when it will issue calls for evidence or consultations or hold roundtables with stakeholders in order to inform the work. These dates are critical for businesses to understand when the Bill’s obligations will come into effect.

To give a flavour of the task ahead, a good example is the plan Ofcom sets out for the new provisions in the Bill which make mainstream “TV-like” video-on-demand services (e.g. Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+) subject to editorial standards, similar to those which protect audiences from harmful material on broadcast TV, and accessibility requirements:

  • Roundtable discussions with key stakeholders about Ofcom’s plans and the new obligations once the Bill comes into effect.
  • A report on the state of the VoD market in the UK which the Secretary of State is required to take account of when determining which services will be designated as “Tier 1” services under the Bill (i.e. those subject to the new VoD Code and the new accessibility requirements), which the Government is expected to formally request shortly after Royal Assent. Ofcom will seek input from relevant providers and submit the report to the Secretary of State around the end of 2024.
  • Drafting the VoD Code and accompanying guidance, with the final documents to come into effect in 2025 following consultation. Tier 1 providers will then have a 12-month grace period from publication of the Code (or their designation as a Tier 1 service, whichever is later) before they are required to be in full compliance.
  • A review of the audience protection measures implemented by VoD providers to protect audiences from harm, to begin shortly after Royal Assent.
  • A new VoD Accessibility code to be the subject of an Ofcom consultation around the beginning of 2025. The first set of accessibility quotas (for subtitling, audio description and signing) set out in the Bill will come into effect 24 months after the final VoD Accessibility Code is published (i.e. likely around the middle of 2027), or 24 months after a provider is designated as Tier 1, whichever is later, although Ofcom expects to consult on interim access service quotas likely to apply from 2026, alongside requirements to report to Ofcom on accessibility and provision of information to disabled people.

The plan assumes the Bill will receive Royal Assent in the Summer, but Ofcom’s timetable obviously remains subject to change until Parliamentary scrutiny of the Bill is completed and the Bill is passed.

The Bill will now proceed to the Committee stage in the House of Lords, on a date still to be determined, when amendments can be proposed.

For more information, click here and here.