Britain could be “sleepwalking towards a world in which children and young people barely encounter public service broadcasting content”, BBC director-general Tony Hall has warned.
Lord Hall and Channel 4 chief executive Alex Mahon have joined together to call for an update to legislation to ensure public service content has prominence on smart televisions, tablets and smartphones.
They want public service broadcasting content to have a “protected prominent position” for a viewer on any device – set top box, streaming stick, smart TV, games console – that is sold in the UK.
Lord Hall said the current law was out-of-date and it was an “urgent and growing issue”.
“The existing statute is from another age. It was crafted in a world before smart TVs, streaming sticks, and voice recognition.
“Our stories – our culture – deserve to be seen and heard. But that’s under threat,” he said.
And he added: “There’s a danger we are sleepwalking towards a world in which children and young people barely encounter public service broadcasting content – even content that they love and that inspires them.”
Ms Mahon said the change was “the single biggest thing we need to do to safeguard British public service television for the future… one of the crown jewels of our country”.
She said, at an event in parliament, that if the situation was left unchanged, it “could have huge ramifications for our democracy”.
“None of these devices are regulated for prominence,” she said, “and we are facing the prospect of a new generation of viewers who will be unable to find public service broadcasting content as they go to watch TV.”