TV guide positions debated ahead of possible law change

Current legislation means that public service channels, which include BBC One, BBC Two, ITV and Channel Four, must appear at the top of the television channel listings. Sky wants this law changed.

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BBC’s director, James Purnell, is concerned that if they lose the top billings, viewers will have trouble finding their favourite programmes. Public service channels are facing a real threat of losing out in a golden age for television –


A Sky spokesperson says that this is blatant self-interest. The BBC has refused to grant Sky the rights to show any content whatsoever on the Sky Go and Sky Q mobile app and will not allow them to promote their shows on their home page. The spokesperson went on to comment that the BBC was not allowing customers to view content they had already paid for and needed to move with the times.


ITV agree that the prominence of public service channels should be preserved, and, in a changing environment, viewers need to be able to find their favourite channels easily.

Commercial services, such as Sky, Amazon, and Netflix, are changing viewing habits with more than six million households now signing up to streaming services. So, do we call out our Sky dish repairman or our television aerial repairman, such as Worcester TV aerial repair

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The United Kingdom has a strong tradition of public service broadcasting and Mr Purnell argues that legislation is not keeping up with the rapid growth in channels and viewing habits. With more than 17 million households subscribing to on-demand services which allow viewers to watch programmes at any time, he says that on the new Skybox Sky Q there is no live TV button. Instead, the home button takes you to a set of recommended programmes chosen by Sky.


The government is saying that on-demand programmes should be driven by consumers and not legislation. A Labour peer has tabled an amendment that would give Ofcom the power to intervene if the public service channels are not given enough prominence. He believes he has sufficient support to defeat the government and get the new laws put through. Without these rules, public service channels will get hidden behind other commercial content put on by Sky.

Perhaps the public should decide, after all, it is they who watch the television.

Richard Anderson


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