Streamers like Netflix, Amazon, and Disney+ could soon find themselves regulated in the UK, as Ministers at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport have announced they are developing proposals to bring those international streaming giants under British broadcasting laws. That would put them on the same playing field as the BBC, ITV, Sky, and more, and Boris Johnson's government says it is considering things like strengthening rules for appropriate content age ratings and if streamers should be subject to standards regarding impartiality and accuracy for documentaries and news programs (via Deadline).
Those policies and the enforcement of them fall under Ofcom, who holds British broadcasters to standards of impartiality, fairness, and harm and offense. As of now Netflix and Amazon are not under its authority. Netflix is currently regulated in the Netherlands, which is the home of its European headquarters.
Ministers are also considering measures that would "level the playing field so public service broadcasters can compete with international rivals", though they didn't go into any specific details. They did say that services they are eyeing are Netflix, Disney+, and Amazon Prime Video, and this would be a huge shakeup in UK broadcasting laws, as when the Communications Act was started in 2003 Netflix and Amazon were not nearly the giants they are today.
That's why the need for change is critical according to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden. "Technology has transformed broadcasting but the rules protecting viewers and helping our traditional channels compete are from an analogue age. 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," Dowden said.
A person familiar with Netflix's thinking says the streamer is on board with the UK's directive. "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." Netflix already uses the British Board of Film Classification age ratings.
This is uncharted territory for streamers, and it will be interesting to see how it all plays out.