Netflix chief says new laws will have a “chilling” effect on content
(Credit: Netflix)

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Netflix chief says new laws will have a "chilling" effect on content

Benjamin King, the Netflix director of public policy in the UK and Ireland, has warned that the UK government’s recently drafted Media Bill could “prove unworkable” and have a “chilling effect” on the platform’s content available in the UK.

In an appearance at a Westminster Media Forum, King told attendees that the Media Bill, published in draft form in March and currently under review, poses significant issues to the streaming site. 

The bill is intended to update age-old broadcasting legislation to make public service broadcasters (PSBs) better equipped to compete with the US streaming bodies. The action could bring on-demand services like Netflix under UK regulation by allowing Ofcom to regulate. 

This action could make specific US titles unavailable in the UK if they fail to meet British standards. In his address, King didn’t refer to any specific titles that might be affected but maintained that such actions could negatively impact Netflix. 

“We have long supported the bill’s introduction and proposals to bring our service under Ofcom’s jurisdiction in the UK. Policymakers’ desire to further harmonise the regulation of linear and video-on-demand is equally understandable,” King began.

“We are concerned that the government’s plans for due-impartiality provisions on non-UK content could, without careful circumscribing, prove unworkable or risk a chilling effect on Netflix’s appetite to make available our many documentaries, which are so beloved of our UK members,” he continued.

“Even in the linear context, Ofcom has highlighted in past adjudications the potential threat to freedom of expression from overzealous application of this challenging concept. We would strongly urge the government to consider carefully whether legislation in this area is both necessary and proportionate, given the absence of any obvious harm under the status quo.

“We look forward to engaging closely with government, parliament and Ofcom on all these questions to ensure the eventual outcome is the right one both for audiences and creative freedom, and also helps to further foster and support the dynamic and world-leading screen sector we have today.”

Controversial documentaries such as Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story could be affected by such legislation.