The battle over your TV listings guide

Viewers may have trouble finding shows they love if public service channels aren’t guaranteed top positions on TV guides, broadcasters have warned.

The current law says channels including BBC One, ITV and Channel 4 must appear at the top of all TV listings.

Major broadcasters argue that public service channels should be protected in the future as viewers switch to more on-demand platforms.

However Sky says they’re are acting in “blatant self-interest”.

The BBC’s James Purnell wrote in The Telegraph that “sensible action” needed to be taken, or “we’re at serious risk of losing something very special about our British culture”.

The House of Lords is debating whether there should be an amendment to the Digital Economy Bill to protect the place of public service broadcasters (PSBs).

Here’s what the main players say:

The BBC argues that new set-top boxes offer limited options on their homepages – which means there’s no space for on-demand services from public service broadcasters like iPlayer, ITV Hub and All4.

Mr Purnell, the BBC’s director of radio and education, said: “Some pay-TV platforms are already making ‘free to air’ services harder to find. There’s no point being top of the programme guide if it’s difficult to find the guide.

“This isn’t about forcing people to watch public service programmes, or stopping viewers watching American shows we love. It’s about making sure you can find them easily.”

ITV says the prominence of PSBs on electronic programme guides (EPGs) “needs to be preserved”. It said: “In a changing environment, people are watching television differently and viewers need to be able to continue to easily find PSBs channels.”

Channel 4 agrees, adding: “It’s important that the regulation of broadcasting keeps pace with the changing ways that viewers are now watching television.

Scotland’s STV says it “fully supports this amendment to guarantee our consumers can readily access our regionally differentiated content on air and via the STV Player”.

However Sky has criticised a proposed amendment, telling The Telegraph: “This is blatant self-interest. For many years we’ve provided the top five slots on the programme guide to public service broadcasters, making them easily accessible.”

Virgin says BBC content is already prominent on its platform, the EPG is accessible via a button on its remote, and BBC on-demand content is “easily found”.

The government argues that viewers are getting more choice over what appears on their own homepages – and protecting PSBs would be anti-competitive.

The Department for Media, Culture and Sport says: “With users increasingly able to personalise their own homepage for on-demand services, it would not be in their interests to legislate against this progress.”

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