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Ofcom holds broadcasters to certain standards on impartiality, fairness, and harm and offence, but streamers do not fall under its remit. Netflix is regulated in the Netherlands, its European headquarters.
Dowden is proposing a broadcasting white paper that would bar Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+ from streaming harmful and offensive content, as well as from using “surreptitious” product placement.
The streamers could face mandatory age ratings and stronger parental controls and would also have to introduce a complaints system overseen by Ofcom, which would deal with bias or inaccuracy claims.
In recent years, streaming sites have faced criticism over their programmes, from Netflix’s suicide drama 13 Reasons Why to Amazon’s anti-vaccine movies such as Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe.
The libraries of streaming sites also benefit from shows that are made by the public service broadcasters they are competing against, such as the BBC’s Peaky Blinders and Fleabag, Channel 4’s The End of the F***ing World, and ITV’s Unforgotten.
The white paper will also set out plans to make sure the BBC and other broadcasters are given prominence on smart TVs and other digital platforms to ensure that viewers can find “high-quality British content” at their original source.