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Netflix to be regulated by Ofcom under plans to level playing field for BBC

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The Crown - Des Willie /Netflix
The Crown - Des Willie /Netflix

Netflix will be regulated by Ofcom under Government plans to level the playing field for the BBC and other traditional broadcasters struggling to compete.

Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, is due to set out the proposal this week, with other streaming giants including Amazon Prime and Disney+ also brought under the UK’s regulatory framework.

The plans, due to be set out in a broadcasting white paper, would see Ofcom’s remit extended to cover on-demand services, meaning it could rule on complaints relating to bias and inaccuracy.

It comes after Netflix, the world’s biggest streaming service, was last year embroiled in a row over the accuracy of scenes in The Crown, the historical drama based on the Queen and the Royal Family.

Following the release of the fourth series, which chronicles the marriage of the Prince of Wales and Diana, the Princess of Wales, Mr Dowden called on Netflix to use disclaimers making clear it was a "work of fiction".

Amazon Prime was also criticised for hosting anti-vaccination documentaries in the US that it later removed.

Meanwhile, there is growing concern that public service broadcasters are under increasing strain as younger viewers switch to streaming services with large budgets for original productions.

Mr Dowden has previously said it is time to "ask really profound questions" about PSBs and the role they play in the new media landscape.

Under current rules, Netflix does not fall within Ofcom's jurisdiction because it is based in the Netherlands. Instead, it is subject to Dutch regulation even on its English language programmes tailored to the UK version of its site.

A Government source said: "UK broadcasters are having to compete with these giants with one hand tied behind their backs. The companies have deep pockets and go largely unregulated, leaving them free to impose their interpretation of British life.

"The rules governing the way broadcasters operate were written for an analogue age. They are not fit for purpose in an era of smart TVs, streaming and on-demand programming.

"With the pace of change and the increase in global competition, the Culture Secretary feels it is time to look at how we can level the playing field between broadcasters and video-on-demand services and make sure the UK's broadcasting landscape is fit for the 21st century."

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