On-screen TV guides, or electronic programme guides (EPGs), enable viewers to find and select TV programmes on broadcast or linear TV. In 2004 we introduced rules for EPG providers to follow in a dedicated Code, the EPG Code.
The Digital Economy Act 2017 introduced a duty for Ofcom to review this Code before 1 December 2020. We are reviewing the requirements on EPG providers to ensure fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory treatment of channel providers, having recently reviewed the prominence and accessibility parts of the EPG Code.
There has been huge change in how we find and watch TV programmes since the rules were imposed in 2004. People are increasingly going online to access a variety of content, and creating their own. Nonetheless, linear TV is still widely watched and EPGs remain an important way to find TV programmes. Our review considers whether competition rules are still required to support fair and effective competition.
Alongside this review, we are also looking at how increased smart TV ownership, better broadband and more on-demand services may be changing market dynamics. We commissioned a report on this from Mediatique. This is not a formal consultation nor part of our EPG Code review but we would welcome views from stakeholders to inform our understanding of how markets are evolving.
We have concluded that it is necessary to have rules in place on licensed EPG providers to engage with channel providers on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms. The existing rules are working well and following consultation we have concluded that only minor amendments are necessary. In particular, we now additionally require that consultations by EPG providers follow a transparent process and allow reasonable timeframes both for channel providers to comment and for implementation of any changes to listings. The revisions to the EPG Code (PDF, 203.6 KB) take immediate effect.
In 2019 we made recommendations (PDF, 2.6 MB) for new legislation to protect the prominence of public service broadcasting beyond the EPG, to ensure UK content remains easy to find within the user interfaces of ‘smart’ TVs and other connected devices. We continue to work with Government and industry on how these recommendations could be implemented.
Separately, Government has commissioned a Digital Markets Taskforce, led by the Competition and Markets Authority, to advise on potential regulatory interventions aimed at supporting competition in digital markets. As a member of this Taskforce, we have an interest in understanding developments in online markets related to communications. In particular, we are keen to better understand the commercial dynamics, relationships and negotiations that determine which content services – like BBC iPlayer, Netflix, Reuters TV or Manchester United TV – are available or made prominent on different internet-connected devices such as ‘smart’ TVs and streaming ‘sticks’.
To inform discussion of these issues, we commissioned Mediatique to produce a report looking at the relevant commercial dynamics, which we have published today. We would welcome any views from stakeholders on these issues. Please get in touch with the team by 25 September 2020: firstname.lastname@example.org.