Ofcom issues roadmap to regulating new Media Bill

February 27, 2024

Ofcom has published a roadmap to regulating the new Media Bill, which is currently passing through the UK parliament. This article considers the aspects of most interest to SCL readers.

The measures in the Bill include:

  • Amending a simplifying the requirements of public service broadcasters, including protecting listed events (i.e. events of national interest such as sporting events), requiring them to be free to watch.
  • An Ofcom-regulated video-on-demand code for major streaming platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+. This will impose editorial standards like those applying to broadcast TV. Streaming services will also be subject to accessibility requirements, such as subtitling.
  • New rules to make sure public service content is available, prominent, and easily accessible on connected TV platforms, such as smart TVs and streaming sticks. This requires Ofcom to establish new codes, guidance and dispute resolution processes.
  • The Bill gives Channel 4 the ability to produce and monetise more of its own programming.
  • Removing outdates regulatory burdens on radio services, while protecting and strengthening the provision of local news. This includes ensuring that BBC, commercial and community stations are accessible to listeners via smart speakers.

The Bill will require changes to the Ofcom fee structures for many services that it currently regulates, as well as bringing new services into scope of its regulation (including connected TV platforms, voice-activated services and some non-UK based VoD services). A revised fee regime is expected to be in place before April 2026.

Listed events

Following Royal Assent, Ofcom will draft regulations to define the meaning of certain terms used in the listed events regime, including ‘adequate live coverage’ and ‘adequate alternative coverage’. It will call for evidence in the summer ahead of consultation. It will consult fully in 2025, with the revised Code and regulations to follow later that year.

Ofcom’s roadmap – VOD providers

Shortly after Royal Assent, Ofcom expects the government to formally request a report from Ofcom on the state of the VoD market in the UK. This will be considered by the Secretary of State when deciding which services will be designated as ‘Tier 1’ services and therefore subject to the new VoD Code and the new accessibility requirements. Ofcom expects to submit this report around the end of 2024.

It will also work on the VoD Code and accompanying guidance, due to come into effect in 2025 following consultation. There will be a 12 month grace period from publication of the Code (or their designation as a Tier 1 service, whichever is later) before they are required to comply. Ofcom will also consult on and finalise new procedures for handling and resolving complaints.

The Bill also requires Ofcom to review the audience protection measures implemented by VoD providers (both existing and new) to protect audiences from harm. This will begin shortly after Royal Assent.

Ofcom also expects to consult on a new VoD Accessibility Code around the beginning of 2025. The first set of accessibility quotas is likely to come into effect around the middle of 2027 of 24 months after a provider is designated as Tier 1, whichever is later. However, there will be interim quotas and reporting requirements in force from 2026.

Radio code

Ofcom will also produce a Code of Practice that will set out Ofcom’s expectations on both designated platforms and radio services that have opted into the regime. The Code of Practice will, among other things, explain the steps platforms can take to ensure compliance with their duties as well as clarifying the technical and other requirements which will apply to internet radio services. Ofcom plans to launch a consultation on the draft code around the end of 2025 alongside a consultation on draft enforcement guidance. It expects to publish final versions of these documents in 2026.


Ofcom plans to focus first on the process designating the services in scope. Later in 2024, it will consult on how it intends to apply the criteria for the designation of PSB online players alongside its plans for running the application process. It will also consult on the methodology it will use to give advice to the Secretary of State about platform designation. It plans to issue final statements and its report by the middle of 2025.

It will then focus on drafting the codes and guidance. It will consult in 2025 on how Ofcom recommends regulated platforms can comply with their duties to give prominence to designated PSB players and content as well as securing the accessibility of their services to people with disabilities.

For the final stage of implementing the regime, it will consult on its enforcement and dispute resolution procedures – this is likely to be the end of 2025.