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Broadcasters lobby for prominence beyond traditional EPGs

As Ofcom considers rule changes, the UK's main public service broadcasts have stepped up their lobbying.

Representatives at the BBC, ITV, STV, Channel 4, S4C and Viacom (Channel 5) have co-signed an open letter to The Guardian calling for them to be guaranteed prominence across new platforms.

They are concerned that new technologies and platforms mean that their prominence on traditional EPGs is being eroded. Increasingly, users are being directed to 'top picks' menus (pictured above) or other screens on devices that don't automatically feature content from the main broadcasters. As a result, current rules on EPG prominence are seen as becoming less effective and in need of change.

The broadcasters are also concerned how US tech giants such as Netflix can gain prominence by ensuring devices have a dedicated Netflix button on the remote control.

In the letter, the broadcasters say "Global technology players have growing influence on what UK audiences discover when they turn on their screens. Increasingly they are becoming the gatekeepers to what we watch, but they have little interest in supporting and reflecting UK culture, in ensuring the news they supply is accurate and impartial or in distributing their operations across the UK. In fact, they have every incentive to promote their own programmes and those of their commercial partners with deals done globally and implemented in the same way country by country. And this promotion matters: more than 80% of the TV shows people watch on Netflix are reportedly discovered through its recommendation system. The Netflix button on the remote control is another reminder of how much the market has already changed – the company is able to use its deep pockets to effectively buy prominence."

The open letter follows the conclusion of an Ofcom consultation held during August and September, which explored a possible "extension of the current prominence regime beyond licensed EPGs to other TV platforms and devices", in addition to enhancing prominence on existing linear programme guides.

The Digital Economy Act 2017 introduced a new duty for Ofcom to report from time to time on the prominence of linear PSB and video-on-demand (VoD) PSB services. The deadline for the first such report, along with a review of the Code, has been set to be completed by December 2020.

Ofcom is currently considering the responses to the consultation and will make known its planned next steps soon.