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The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) introduced a Media Bill [Bill 8 2023-24] on 8 November 2023. The Bill is scheduled to have its second reading in the House of Commons on 21 November 2023. 

What would the Media Bill do?

According to the Bill’s Explanatory Notes (PDF), the Bill would:

  • update the legislative framework for public service broadcasting (PSB), including provisions to facilitate the delivery of public service content through digital platforms.
  • introduce provisions so that public service content on designated services is available online.
  • introduce provisions to address the sustainability challenges faced by Channel 4.
  • apply the Bill’s changes to PSB to S4C, while retaining the Welsh language content requirement.
  • give Ofcom, the communications regulator, new powers to draft and enforce a Video-on-Demand Code.
  • update the regulatory framework for commercial radio.
  • protect UK radio’s availability on connected audio devices.
  • repeal section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 which could (if commenced) force news publishers to pay the costs of any court judgment if they were not a member of the approved regulator, regardless of the outcome of the court judgment.

Where would the Bill take effect?

The Bill’s provisions would extend and apply to the whole of the United Kingdom, except for the repeal of section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013. This would only extend and apply to England and Wales.

Background to the Bill

In June 2021, the Government said it would publish a broadcasting white paper. The Up Next white paper was published in April 2022. This set out the Government’s plans to, among other things, update broadcasting regulation to take account of new technologies, changing viewing habits, and the challenge of “global players” in the UK’s media landscape.

A Media Bill was included in the Background Briefing Notes to the Queen’s Speech of 10 May 2022 (PDF).

In a Written Ministerial Statement of 29 March 2023, Lucy Frazer, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, announced the publication of a draft Media Bill.

The draft Bill was subject to pre-legislative scrutiny by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee. A report from the Committee on the Bill’s radio measures was published in July 2023. This called for measures to address the risk to the industry of larger platforms controlling access to stations and driving listeners elsewhere. A second report, examining the Bill’s other provisions, was published in September 2023. This said the Bill was “critical” to the sustainability of PSBs. The report recommended that obligations on smart TVs, firesticks and set-top boxes to ensure PSBs were prominent on their platforms should be strengthened.

The King’s Speech 2023 of 7 November 2023 said legislation – a Media Bill – would be brought forward to support the creative industries and protect public interest journalism.

Reaction to the Bill

Dame Caroline Dinenage, Chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, has said the Bill is vital to ensuring PSBs maintain their prominence in the UK’s media landscape. She commented that the Bill was potentially a once in a generation chance to improve media regulation, and welcomed the fact that the Government had accepted most of the Committee’s recommendations after its pre-legislative scrutiny.

The broadcast industry has welcomed the Bill:

The Government’s manifesto commitment to repeal section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 has generated the most controversy. The News Media Association, the press industry body, has welcomed the proposed repeal of section 40, claiming that this would be “a very welcome step forward for press freedom”. However, Hacked Off, an organisation campaigning for a “free and accountable press”, has said the Government’s plan to repeal section 40 was a “cynical attempt to bribe national newspaper owners ahead of the next election in the hope of receiving more favourable coverage in return”.

More on the Bill

The DCMS has published an Overarching Impact Assessment (PDF) as well as impact assessments on the Bill’s parts. An ECHR Memorandum (PDF) and a Delegated Powers Memorandum (PDF) have also been published.

Documents to download

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