Netflix and Disney+ Could Face Major Changes Due to New Legislation

Major changes could be coming to U.S. streaming services after the U.K. government announced plans [...]

Major changes could be coming to U.S. streaming services after the U.K. government announced plans to possibly subject the streamers to British broadcasting laws. The proposals, currently being considered and drawn up by Boris Johnson's government, would see streamers like Netflix, Amazon, and Disney+ becoming part of the same regulatory regime as their British television counterparts, including the BBC, ITV and Channel 4, meaning they could be regulated for the first time in the U.K.

According to Deadline, ministers at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport announced this week that they will consult on plans to subject the streaming giants to British broadcasting laws after the review was first floated over the weekend. Ofcom, the U.K. media regulator, currently holds British broadcasters to certain standards, but several popular streaming services do not fall under its remit. The streamer regulation review, which the government said would target the likes of Netflix, Disney+, and Amazon Prime Video, could pave the way "for the biggest shakeup in broadcasting laws in 18 years."

During the review, the government will consider whether or not to strengthen rules to ensure streaming services have appropriate content age ratings in place and whether they should be subject to standards on impartiality and accuracy for documentaries and news programming. Netflix's The Crown, for example, has come under scrutiny for its historical inaccuracies, through the streamer has refrained by placing a fiction disclaimer on the series. Currently, under Ofcom, British broadcasters are held certain standards on impartiality, fairness and harm and offense, meaning the streamers could be held to these same standards. Ministers said they will also consider measures to "level the playing field so public service broadcasters can compete with international rivals." The review will inform a white paper, which could lead to the major broadcasting law shakeup, something Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said is needed.

"Technology has transformed broadcasting but the rules protecting viewers and helping our traditional channels compete are from an analogue age," Dowden said. "The time has come to look at how we can unleash the potential of our public service broadcasters while also making sure viewers and listeners consuming content on new formats are served by a fair and well-functioning system."

Plans for the streamer review are being launched in tandem with plans to assess whether Channel 4, the broadcaster for titles like The Great British Bake Off, should be privatized. They also come after the U.K. government just last week requested that streaming services share viewing date with Ofcom for those titles originated by British public service broadcasters. While Netflix, Amazon and Disney declined to comment on the proposed review, sources claimed that Netflix "is supportive of the government's intentions to bring the rules and regulations into the digital age and welcomes the broad direction of travel."