Written evidence submitted by Directors UK


Directors UK response to DCMS committee Call for Evidence

Pre-legislative scrutiny of the Draft Media Bill written evidence


About us

1.        Directors UK is the professional association of UK screen directors. It is a membership organisation representing the creative, economic, and contractual interests of over 8,000 members — the majority of working TV and film directors in the UK.


2.        Directors UK negotiates, collects and distributes royalty payments on behalf of directors and provides a range of services to members including campaigning, commercial negotiations, legal advice, events, training, and career development. Directors UK represents directors’ rights and concerns, promotes excellence in the craft of direction and champions change to the current landscape to create an equal opportunity industry for all.


3.        Directors UK members are the freelance TV and film directors who make the programmes that fill the Public Service Broadcasters channels. As copyright holders, directors are also underlying rights holders, who are compensated for the secondary exploitation of their work through the onward sales and distribution of programmes and content


4.        We welcome the opportunity to respond to this Call for Evidence. We have focused our response on areas that have the most direct relevance to Directors UK members.


Public Service Broadcasting


Should the Media Bill provide a clear definition of what prominence in online services looks like?

5.        The Bill should provide a clear definition of prominence in online services. This is something that the industry has long been calling for to ensure that PSB programming is easily findable in a digital world. It is vital for audiences, the screen industry, and culturally, that British PSB originated programming has prominence in the digital distribution of television content.


6.        In order to provide clarity to both PSBs and to service providers it is essential that there is clear definition around what services are eligible to benefit from prominence and what services are obligated to offer prominence. We are aware that there is some ongoing industry discussion around prominence, what services would qualify, and around the “Must Offer” and  “Must Carry” obligations and associated regulation. This is not our area of expertise, but we welcome the move towards ensuring prominence on Smart devices/TVs/set top boxes etc.


Are proposals allowing a Public Service Broadcaster to meet its remit by online programming as well as linear appropriate?

7.        It is appropriate that the regulation be updated to allow Public Service Broadcasters to contribute to their public service remit with programmes made available on their on-demand services, as this reflects the increasingly online way that audiences are accessing PSB content. This change would also bring these services under Ofcom’s reporting and regulation. We agree that part of this requirement should be that programming must be able to be accessed by as wide an audience as is practical and free of charge, this is important to ensure that the move to digital does not prevent people from accessing content.


8.        We have some concerns regarding the change to the regulation that sets out the type of content that should be included as part of the remit.  New subsection (5) of 264 of the Communications Act 2003 changes the obligation to include news and current affairs content; distinctively British content, including content broadcast in a recognised indigenous minority and regional language of the UK; original, independent and regional productions; and programmes that reflects the lives of children and young people; but removes specifics such as religion, education and specialist interest. The change is designed to give PSBs greater flexibility as to what content they make to meet these broader public service obligations. Our concern is that if there is no statutory obligation on the broadcasters to create some of the more niche, often undervalued content (e.g. specialist factual, arts, religious programming etc), that these may be at risk of becoming underserved. We recognise that the Bill makes provision for the Secretary of State to step in if this is seen to be the case, but if there is no obligation to produce this content then it is unlikely that this will be measured, meaning it will be harder to track if there is a drop in provision. 


9.        In addition, it is important that the change in language proposed in Clauses 8 and 9 from a proportion of output to a fixed number of hours does not have any adverse impact. To maintain a healthy level of UK-originated and diverse programming, it is really important that the switch to number of hours does not result in a significant reduction in PSB requirements and programme production.  It is not clear by what criteria the required hours will be set in the first instance or kept under review, but it is important that this must not become a means to reduce the public service requirements. Similarly, in offering increased flexibility for the PSBs to determine where they show programme content, it creates the possibility that it could just be made available for online channels, with no requirement specifically to show such programming on linear TVWe wouldn’t want this to result in lowering production values - putting low budget programming online where audiences don't have to interact with it if they don't want to - in order to meet PSB requirements.


10.     In light of these concerns we agree with the update to the regulations that providers of licensed PSBs must provide Ofcom, in their statements of programme policy, details about which services they will use to fulfil their channel remit and the contributions each service will make (clause 3, clause 4, amends section 266 CA 2003).  It is also right that they update the definition of “Significant change” to include all their services not just the linear channel, so that a notable change in purpose can be identified across both linear and on-demand services.


11.     An area of concern for Directors UK is Clause 12, which addresses the issue of repeats.  Traditionally, once a programme has been shown on linear television future showings are considered a repeat. With the quota regulations being updated to enable public service broadcasting to include AV content shown on any ”qualifying audiovisual service” it throws into question what is considered a repeat if a programme has been shown in more than one place on multiple occasions, and whether/how these count towards PSB quotas. The legislation has recognised this issue and given powers to the Secretary of State or Ofcom to make appropriate provision for this. 


12.     For our members, as underlying rights holders, royalty and residual models are traditionally calculated in terms of repeats and onward sales of a work.  In a digital media world determining what is a primary or secondary (repeat) broadcast is more challenging, and this has implications for how rights holders are compensated for their work. How repeats are captured, measured and valued is important. We would urge that whatever system Ofcom or the Secretary of State put in place for determining how repeats count towards PSB quotas, it should not set a precedent for measuring the value of repeats to rights holders like ourselves, as that is a commercial matter to be agreed between rights holders and the broadcasters. Directors UK will continue to engage with the broadcasters through our ongoing rights negotiations to ensure rights holders are fairly compensated for the ongoing/multiple uses of their work across all services, particularly with the moves towards more “digital first” delivery.


Are the proposals in the draft Bill adequate for securing the future of Channel 4 and supporting independent content producers?

13.     One of the proposals in the draft Bill around Channel 4 places a new sustainability obligation on C4C to ensure that it conducts its activities in a way that will enable it to meets its costs on an on-going basis, and manages costs so that it can sustain, and aim to grow, the level of its activities. The wording in the Bill around this leaves it for Channel 4 to determine what the appropriate activities are and how it will fulfil this sustainability duty, with reporting obligations in its Annual Report.


14.     We are grateful that the proposal to privatise Channel 4 is no longer under consideration, and we support the intention to ensure that Channel 4 has a sustainable and secure future. It would seem right to allow Channel 4 to determine how it delivers this sustainability duty and not to be overly prescriptive in the statutory legislation. The requirement to report on how it is meeting this obligation should provide opportunity to monitor the approach and its effectiveness and should be kept under review.


15.     With regards to Channel 4’s involvement in programme making, Clause 25 revokes the restriction previously placed on C4C’s involvement in programme-making, meaning that it is no longer obliged to act only as a publisher broadcaster, but now has the flexibility to consider in-house production. The Media Bill itself provides no further detail around this.  There is concern in the production industry as to the impact of the change on the sector and how that will be regulated.  We have responded to the DCMS Call for Input on the removal of this restriction.  In summary, our response has highlighted the following points:


  1. That possible unintended consequences of removing the publisher-broadcaster restriction are fully explored, so that they do not distort or negatively impact the market in which our members are employed, or negatively impact the commercial value and return on the IP in the works they create.
  2. Channel 4’s independent production quota obligations should be increased, or caps placed on in-house commissioning, in order to ensure that there is ongoing commitment to invest in commissions from the independent production sector.
  3. There should be clear separation, and transparent processes, between Channel 4’s in-house production operation and Channel 4, to ensure that there is fair competition for commissions.
  4. We welcome C4Cs commitment to skills investment, but would like to see more being done to address the skills needs affecting talent retention  and mid-career progression.
  5. Channel 4 must retain or increase its obligation to commissioning from within the nations and regions, and using production talent from the nations and regions. 


Is the draft bill sufficiently flexible to legislate for any future extension of the Listed Events regime to include digital content?

16.     The current draft Bill doesn’t cover on-demand services for Live Events.  It would be sensible to review this now, rather than having to review it again later.




17.     We are pleased that video-on-demand services of non-UK on-demand services are now being brought under the regulation of Ofcom, in line with UK PSB services, particularly with regards to protecting audiences. We have no further comment on the specific details.


General issues


Is Ofcom able to deliver its new and updated obligations set out in the draft bill?

18.     There are numerous additional obligations placed on Ofcom within the draft Bill.  From drafting more standard codes, regulating and enforcing compliance across more services and handling complaints about the new Tier 1 services, to providing reports for the Secretary of State and acting on their behalf as requiredAs the current broadcast industry regulator it seems appropriate that Ofcom is tasked with regulating the video on demand and Tier 1 services to ensure consistency of standards across the different media providersHowever it will be important to ensure that the regulator is equipped with the resources and skills it needs to be able to deliver this extended remit, particularly given the breadth of its other obligations across telecoms and postal services.  As the remit has grown there could be an argument for the broadcast/media sector to have a dedicated regulator of its own.


Is the draft Bill flexible enough to address future developments in audience habits and new technology?

19.     The draft Bill seems to have allowed provisions in some areas for the Secretary of State to make amendments or to add additional services in the future. This should allow some flexibility to update the Bill (subject to due process), but the sector is moving at such a pace that it is not possible to account for all future developments.  There have been some discussions over whether the Bill is taking account of developing technologies such as AI, however this is a rapidly emerging technology and the discussions around how this is regulated are in early stages. An updated Media Bill is needed urgently in order to address some of the much awaited provisions it covers e.g. prominence and regulation of video on demand, and we, like others in the industry, are keen that this should not be delayed any further. However, it is right that legislators should consider whether there is enough flexibility to be able to introduce amendments for any significant technological developments that could affect the sector.


Does the draft Bill provide sufficient protection for those without internet access or who prefer to use broadcast services?

20.     The draft Bill does state that audiovisual content will only be regarded as contributing to the fulfilment of the public service remit if the Broadcaster has taken steps to ensure that the content may be received or accessed by as wide an audience as is practical, in an intelligible form and is free of charge.


21.     We are not able to say whether this is sufficient protection for those without internet access, or how broadcasters will interpret “as is practical”, but we advocate the universality principle of Public Service Broadcasting and believe it should remain accessible on both terrestrial as well as digital platforms. This is important to ensure that the move to digital delivery does not prevent people without internet access from viewing PSB content.


Are the proposed powers to be given to the Secretary of State proportionate?

22.     The draft Bill does give considerable power to the Secretary of State to amend certain provisions or to add new regulations via Statutory Instruments which are to be laid before parliament.  We understand that this is to provide an element of flexibility to adapt to future developments in a rapidly changing sector, we would urge that there should be clear and transparent process and consultation around how these are introduced.


Does the draft bill sufficiently address failures of retained EU law to operate effectively and other deficiencies arising from the withdrawal of the UK from the EU?

23.     We want to flag a note of caution around amendments within Section 11 and references to the AVMS directive, particularly in relation to European Works. It’s important that there are no unintended consequences arising from the proposed amends that may affect UK works being included on similar services in European countries. We are keen to ensure that UK works remain part of European Works quotas in the AVMS directive going forwards.




17 May 2023

Directors UK