Written evidence submitted by LG
LG welcomes the opportunity to respond to this call for further evidence. It is appropriate that all affected parties are regularly consulted as this will result in a much better outcome for all with less room for ambiguity and better implementations and services available for consumers.
LG fully supports the principles provided in the Media Bill and we have the common goal of delivering the best possible user experience to our customers including providing simple and easy access to UK PSB’s services and programmes. As suggested by the bill, LG expects that its SmartTVs will highly likely be classified as RTSSs, and as such it is important that the fine detail relating to their regulation is as clear and unambiguous as possible. The goal of LG’s response here is thus focussed on minimising any ambiguity and highlighting some areas of omission that we believe should be addressed.
Please note that LG has also made contributions to the techUK response to this inquiry and as such some similar texts maybe noted. LG fully supports the techUK response.
Should the Media Bill provide a clear definition of what prominence in online services looks like?
LG agrees that the Media Bill should provide the general principles relating to prominence and that Ofcom, as a highly respected regulator, should be tasked with providing the more precise clear definition of prominence in secondary legislation and guidance. However unless the billfully addresses all possible online services (Linear and On-Demand) there is considerable risk that the outcome will be ambiguous and cause confusion, not least to the consumer.
Prominence is a holistic all-encompassing concept and online services, including ODPSs, constitute only one part of a SmartTVs overall User Interface. It may be extremely difficult, if not impossible todefine prominence in an unambiguous implementable manner if the focus is based only on ODPS related service types, as proposed by this Media Bill, and other aspects of prominence (e.g. for linear IP content) are covered at a later stage elsewhere. LG’s expectations on the modernisation of the Communications Act is that a single harmonised Code of Conduct would cover all the requirements for prominence in a single code for both linear and on demand content and for both regulated and non-regulated EPGs.
In line with consumer expectations, linear content and on-demand content information is frequently merged and presented to the viewer on a single page of information. Determining appropriate prominence within that page could be extremely difficult if the definitions and requirements of prominence are defined for some content types (e.g. VoD) but not others (e.g. linear IP).LG thus strongly recommends that the definition and requirements of prominence includes all aspects in a single Code of Conduct for all Audio-Visual content types and that the Bill should require that Ofcom delivers this solution.
Furthermore LG fully supports the principle that holds Ofcom solely responsible for determining that sufficient prominence has been delivered and that it is not for the PSBs / DIPS to adjudicate independently.
The proposed clause under the “agreement objectives” in subsection 362AI(5)(b) suggests that RTSSs might be required to contribute to the costs of delivering designated IPSs services. This was probably not the intention of this clause however the ambiguity exists. We propose the alternative:
“that arrangements made between the provider of a designated internet programme service and the provider of a regulated television selection service prohibit the imposition of any charge that is attributable (whether directly or indirectly) to the conferring of an entitlement to receive the designated internet programme service in question.”
Are proposals allowing a Public Service Broadcaster to meet its remit by online programming as well as linear appropriate? LG: No Comment
Are the proposals in the draft Bill adequate for securing the future of Channel 4 and supporting independent content producers? LG: No Comment
Do the proposals for S4C meet the legislative changes required by the independent S4C review in 2018, and are these changes still relevant and appropriate today?LG: No Comment
Is the draft bill sufficiently flexible to legislate for any future extension of the Listed Events regime to include digital content? LG: No Comment
Are the requirements for the Tier 1 standards code proportionate? LG: No Comment
Are accessibility requirements for Video on Demand set at an appropriate level?
LG’s goal is to deliver as much accessible content to our consumers as possible. The significant issue for LG is that the technical formats of those accessible services need to conform to an agreed standard for use in the UK. There are numerous international global subtitle formats and LG’s Smart TVs do not support all of them. It is therefore possible that a VoD provider could meet its quotas by adopting a technology not specified or supported by devices in the UK.
We do not expect the bill itself to specify which technical formats are allowed, nor do we believe that Ofcom should do this. Similar to the way that the UK D-Book defines such matters to enable digital TV service interoperability there should be a similarly agreed industry agreed specification for providers and devices to adhere to. As such it would be appropriate that the bill gives Ofcom the ability to delegate such matters to another independent body to set the more granular detailed technical requirements where necessary.
Do the proposals in the draft Media Bill create any risks to UK’s desirability as a market for VoD content?LG: No Comment
What should be the specific criteria for designating an on-demand programme service as Tier 1?LG: No Comment
Is the definition of a radio selection service appropriate?
Is the definition of an internet radio service appropriate?
Are the obligations on radio selection services proportionate?
Does the draft Media Bill sufficiently protect the relevant internet radio service to be played in response to a voice command?
Are the provisions in the draft Bill sufficient to protect the identity and content of local radio?
LG: No Comment on Radio matters, except to note that many of the issues raised will be common between Radio and TV-like services.
Is Ofcom able to deliver its new and updated obligations set out in the draft bill?
LG perceives that there are some ambiguities that will make it difficult for Ofcom to unambiguously deliver its obligations. These will be resolved in part by more precise terminology definitions:
According to the Media Bill Explanatory Note #105, the definitions of an IPS in 362AA, including subsection (10), are intended to include BBC iPlayer, ITVX etc which provide both on-demand and live-streamed television programme services (i.e. the channels listed in 362AI(7)). However this is not obviously apparent from the definitions provided in 362AA(10), particularly (c)(ii) where there is no mention of “livestream programming”. LG recommends that the definitions in 362AA are further clarified to ensure the definitions unambiguously match the intention. The definitions should also be explicitly clear whether or not, or the degree to which emerging FAST only services are categorised and defined.
ITE, RTSS Definitions
LG foresees some difficulties in defining the criteria that will determine which platforms will qualify as ITE/RTSSs and we foresee future problems if definitions (of ITE/RTSS etc) include usage thresholds (e.g. significant numbers) (362AE(2)(3), 362AF). A device can either perform the defined function or not (e.g. receive internet TV services). The current legislation could lead to a piece-meal approach where some are under the regime and others are not. The commercial playing field must be as level as possible between all such device categories and LG is concerned that some of our most significant competitors may be awarded a regulatory advantage. The Bill must require that Ofcom does not unfairly distort the market in favour of certain device types or service providers.
Is the draft bill flexible enough to address future developments in audience habits and new technology?
All TV-Like Content
The first bullet point of the Secretary of State’s Up-Next foreword stated “Ensure TV-like content, no matter how audiences choose to watch it, is subject tosimilar standards.” LG had thus envisaged that the Media Bill would provide the necessary holistic update to the Communications Act 2003, resulting in a common level playing field for all “TV-like” content, rather than simply focusing on updating the issues relating tothe new ODPSs. It makes implementation very difficult if different aspects of the Audio Media industry are at different unequal phases of regulatory evolution.
Although audience habits have clearly demonstrated a desire to consume on demand content, and thence the focus of the Bill, this does not mean that linear content is disappearing. Indeed recent global (non-UK) organisations have signalled their plans to increase their linear offerings by several hundred channels and make them available in the UK. Indeed FAST was a major topic at the recent DTG Summit. So whilst the Bill comprehensively addresses non-UK ODPSs the same cannot be said for non-UK linear service providers, including the UIs and EPGs that will present those services to consumers.
LG does have some concerns that the Bill has been heavily written only in the paradigm of today which is currently very heavily “partitioned-apps” focussed. Real consumershave consistently expressed the desire that all content would be better exposed in a single user interface, similar to traditional all-encompassing EPGs. Unless the legislation fully covers the possibility of an all IP future on all aspects (ODPS, Linear IP and FAST channelsetc), there is considerable risk that consumers will be left with implementations that are considerably restricted and with much less functionality than they currently have.
The Media Bill Explanatory Note #108 onwards and the definition of a TSS in 362AD (1) requires RTSSs to be able to select between IPSs (e.g. BBC iPlayer and ITVX) and between programmes provided by those (IPS) services. 362AI (7) then lists the “channels” for which must-offer will apply. Although not explicitly stated it is inferred that these are all the relevant PSB’s linear TV services. LG fully expects that its SmartTVs will be defined as an RTSS (according to the terms indicated in 362AE and Explanatory Note #108) and then as such LG must include these services from 362AI(7) within its UI (362AJ) and provide prominence in line with Ofcom’s guidance (362AK, 362AI (5)(a)).These requirements alone are insufficient to ensure the implementation of a compliant RTSS as further explained below.
The first issue to note is that an RTSS has no visibility of the programmes available within an IPS. Currently an IPS is a “black box” application which does not expose the content it contains to the TSS. In order to implement thisoverall requirement ALL necessary programme metadata must be made available to an RTSS. Thus ALL programme metadata must also be included as a component part within the “Must Offer” obligations. This will require a new subsection (8) under section 362AI that states that allnecessary metadata associated with the channels in subsection (7) must also be offered by the IPSs. In order to enable interoperability and efficiency this metadata must conform to a single common standard specification. Ofcom must be charged with identifying how such an agreed specification can be arrived at.
Secondly in order to meet consumer (channel changing, channel zapping) expectations it must be possible for the RTSS to directly access the listed linear IP channels in 362AI (7) without having to first initialise an individual IPS application. If the RTTS has to re-start the IPS application for every channel selection (e.g. programme up/down button) this will result in channel switching times of many 10s of seconds rather than the almost instant experience consumers have currently. It must therefore must also be a requirement in the must offer section that the channels listed in subsection (7) must be also be offered as standalone IP services and not only locked within the IPS application. (Note: This consumer unfriendly phenomena has been show by the IP-demonstrator project in Ofcom’s Technology Lab). As above such IP linear livestream services must be made available using an open common standard specification and Ofcom must be charged with identifying how such an agreed specification can be arrived at.
Device Type Categories
As above (in RTSS definition issues) new (unclassified) device types will almost certainly emerge that will have a commercial advantage as they will not be regulated and subjected to the same compliance costs. As such the regulation must be agile enough to changes in the short term.
Does the draft Bill provide sufficient protection for those without internet access or who prefer to use broadcast services?LG: No Comment
Are the proposed powers to be given to the Secretary of State proportionate?LG: No Comment
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 UK?
This question may refer to the issues we raised above on all “TV-like” content, whereby the “Broadcasting (amendment) (EU exit) regulations 2019 No 224” only partially addressed the deficiencies of the Comms Act 2003. Please refer to that answer
Are there any issues missing from the draft Bill within the scope of public service broadcasting, video-on-demand or radio?
Yes. This is covered above under “Apps Paradigm” above, where significant gaps are identified relating to an all IP future that includes PSB service.There must be a requirement that the current familiar PSB linear broadcasting services are as available to consumers as is currently the case without any reduced functionality, before existing digital TV transmissions are switched off e.g. programme up/down channel zapping must work in a like for like manner.
Do you have any recommendations for additional or amended drafting to the draft Bill?
Interoperability is enabled by strict adherence to technical specifications and standards and these are a fundamental aspect of delivering any digital service to a common goal. Interoperability can only ever be achieved if the services offered by DIPS are fully compliant to open international standards. It would not be sufficient for individual PSBs to offer services ‘based on’ international standards, as this actually means various levels of divergence from those international standards and therefore fragmentation.
It is right that the Media Bill itself should not identify which actual technical standards shall be adopted, however these have to be defined and agreed on somewhere. The bill should give Ofcom the responsibility of identifying where these specifications shall be agreed, including the ability to delegate such tasks to other independent, cross industry, external organisations wherever appropriate.