BBC chairman Sir David Clementi has called for a system of media regulation that “promotes and protects” public service broadcasting.
In a speech at the IPPR Oxford Media Convention today, Sir David said the UK needed to “look again” at whether regulation “born in a UK-centric linear era, remains fit for the global digital age”.
Sir David pointed to Netflix and Amazon Prime as a new threat to public service broadcasting, with Apple, Disney and Comcast set to join the fray.
He said Netflix and Amazon’s ‘ joint market share of the video-on-demand market had grown to about 55 per cent in the last four years while BBC iPlayer had fallen from more than 40 per cent to about 18 per cent.
But, while the streaming giants were able to make rapid changes to their product, the BBC had been slowed by regulatory hold-ups, he said.
“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.
“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.
“Of course we recognise that, given our unique funding model, there must be constraints on how the BBC operates.
“But we need to find a way forward that does not just play into the hands of global competitors at the expense in particular of UK PSBs.”
He went on: “I believe we need a system of regulation that promotes and protects public service broadcasting.
“That means that, whilst genuinely promoting competition, we ensure that the UK PSBs are not disadvantaged against large global competitors…
“If we value public service broadcasting, and the BBC in particular, we need a regulatory system which encourages PSBs to adapt and prosper.
“I strongly support our campaign, working closely with the other UK PSBs, to ensure that, in the area of prominence, all our services should be as easy for people to find in the digital world as they have always been in the analogue world.
“I urge the Government to take legislative action, and to take action to strengthen the PSBs as and when they get the chance.”
The BBC Board replaced the BBC Trust in early 2017, putting regulation of the BBC into Ofcom’s hands where before it was handled in-house. Sir David was named chairman after having suggested the changes.
Sir David said that the BBC “can be pleased” with its relationship with broadcast regulator Ofcom, but said it was “vital” to have regulation that “is fit for purpose” and creates a “level-playing field” for the industry.
He said: “I want to argue that effective regulation for the digital age is just as important for the future of the broadcast sector as it is for the social media sector. Not least because of the developing overlap between the two.”