Monday 22 April 2019

BBC chairman to urge regulation shake-up to keep iPlayer competitive

Sir David Clementi will argue current regulation stops the service from competing with Netflix.

BBC chairman David Clementi will call for a change in regulation (Jeff Overs/BBC/PA)
BBC chairman David Clementi will call for a change in regulation (Jeff Overs/BBC/PA)

By Alex Green, Press Association Entertainment Reporter

The BBC chairman will say current regulation is stopping public service broadcasters from competing with streaming giants such as Netflix.

Sir David Clementi will on Monday question whether current regulation is fit for purpose during an appearance at a media convention in Oxford.

Sir David – a former deputy governor of the Bank of England – will say a rethink is necessary if the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 are to compete.

Increasingly, our major competitors are well funded, international giants – Netflix, Spotify, Facebook, YouTube – whose financial resources dwarf our own BBC chairman Sir David Clementi

Speaking at the Oxford Media Convention at Worcester College, University of Oxford, he will say: “We must be able to adapt and innovate in the digital world.

“We must be able to make the changes our audiences demand, in real time. Not by revolution, every few years, but by rapid, ongoing evolution.”

On-demand commercial services like Netflix can rapidly update the programmes and films they provide.

But the BBC’s iPlayer must go through a public interest test which can take months, he will say.

Sir David will call on the Government and regulators to change these rules, which he will say put public service broadcasters at a disadvantage in the new digital landscape.

He will add: “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.

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iPlayer faces competition from Netflix and Amazon Prime (Nick Ansell/PA)

“Increasingly, our major competitors are well funded, international giants – Netflix, Spotify, Facebook, YouTube – whose financial resources dwarf our own.”

These issues, he will add, should be considered “with urgency” during the BBC’s upcoming mid-term review.

Earlier this month Channel 4 chief executive Alex Mahon called for action to make public service broadcasters easy to find for viewers.

She said the rise of smart TV interfaces, streaming sticks and other ways of watching TV meant “we are sleepwalking into a position where public service content is no longer prominent”.

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