With a proliferation of new technology that continues to rapidly evolve, public media finds itself in a critical contest for prominence on new devices, often in direct competition with multinational giants.   

In April, the Public Media Alliance hosted a roundtable of members to discuss the issue of prominence. Prominence in this context means the discoverability of individual media applications – such as Netflix or BBC iPlayer – on the user homepage of smart televisions and other devices.  Our global membership joined us for PSM Unpacked to answer these questions and more. 

This technology provides an opportunity for public service media to connect with audiences, particularly younger ones, most of whom watch little – if any – linear television. But conversely, there is limited space on the interfaces most people make their selections from, so local content is often crowded out by global players such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney Plus, and other giants who pay for prime positioning.  

Explore: Previous PSM Unpacked summaries

This scenario presents a grave threat for local content and public broadcasters’ need to be seen.  As such, in some cases, countries including Australia and the UK are looking to introduce regulation to ensure local content remains prominent. In an increasingly crowded landscape, ensuring the accessibility of public service media content is a growing challenge, but one that is crucial to ensuring its viability and sustainability.  

The roundtable discussed two cases studies – Australia and the UK – which are both drafting legislation. What follows is a summary of the discussion.   


Australia is drafting laws to regulate prominence for all connected televisions, which will cover both commercial and public service broadcasters. The Bill is moving through the legislative process, with a Senate Committee releasing its report in April.   

The government said legislation would “seek to ensure local TV services can be easily found on connected devices, so they can continue to contribute to Australia’s public and cultural life.”  

Australia has two national public broadcasters, the ABC and SBS, as well as three commercial free-to-air stations. All five broadcasters have their own streaming video on demand (VOD) services and varying relationships with the television manufacturers. Channel 10, for example, is owned by Paramount, which has its own platform and international investments.   

It also has an influential pay-TV industry, which has its own expectations and demands for regulations. This has affected the process of drafting the legislation.    

In the case of the ABC, it launched its VOD platform, ABC iview, in 2008, when Smart TVs were in their infancy. Back then, the iview app was freely offered on home screens by television manufacturers. But increasingly, particularly since the arrival of Netflix and other international services, television manufacturers have been offering space on the home screen to the highest bidders, and a number have stopped installing ABC iview on their TVs at all. This has effectively rendered the national broadcaster invisible to a portion of the Australian audience.   

During Senate hearings, public broadcaster SBS also claimed that one television manufacturer had demanded both a placement fee and a 15 percent share of revenue to feature on the television’s homepage.   

Research by Melbourne’s RMIT University has found that about a third of Australians with Smart TVs say they don’t know how to download an app onto them, or how to customise the order and appearance. That means if an app like iview – or any local Australian platform, for that matter – isn’t on the default home screen, then people are unlikely to go out of their way to find them, again leaving local broadcasters and their content invisible.   

The Australian media industry has been collectively discussing the need to improve the discoverability of Australian content for about five years, and there were initial discussions with the previous Coalition government. In 2022, the country elected a Labor-led government that pledged a prominence framework during the election campaign.    

In 2023, the government introduced a draft Bill that was sent to a Senate inquiry. The Bill, which covers both public and private broadcasters, creates minimum requirements for prominence that can be amended. Essentially, if passed, it would make it illegal to supply a television device that doesn’t meet those requirements.   

It would also require manufacturers to ensure broadcasters’ apps are installed, continue to be updated, and are displayed on the primary user interface, and in other areas like the programming guide (EPG). In return, the broadcasters – at their own expense – will continue to update their apps and have them developed to meet the manufacturers’ technical requirements.   

However, as the Bill is currently written, the prominence framework will not come into effect until 18 months after the Bill is passed, which could be as late as 2026, and its provisions will not apply to televisions already in the market. Broadcasters – including the ABC – submitted that most of the regulations would only require software, not hardware, updates, which means it should be possible to implement them much sooner. It could cover televisions already in the marketplace, they argued.  

The Bill also makes no provisions for search functions. Research shows that many viewers are now skipping homepages and apps entirely, instead searching for content and individual programmes based on highly-personalised algorithms. The Bill has no requirement for Australian content to be featured prominently among search results and databases.   

In returning its report, the Senate Committee was partially convinced on the timing issue, proposing an amendment to bring the implementation date forward slightly. However, they appear not to have been convinced on the need for prominence in search functions.  

The UK 

The roundtable also heard from UK broadcast regulator Ofcom, who gave a presentation about a proposed prominence regime progressing through the UK Parliament. Jonathan Mackay of Ofcom said there are many parallels between the UK and other countries, including Australia.   

In the UK, around three quarters of households have smart TVs or internet-connected TVs, and they’re increasingly watching less broadcast television, with audiences down 30 percent in 2022 compared to 2014. Still, most people are watching about 4.5 hours of TV a day.   

British broadcasters, though, are facing increasingly intense competition for audiences and revenues from global players, as well as video sharing platforms, with the pressure only likely to increase. Netflix is the most-used service, with 59 percent of households holding a subscription. This proliferation is creating an imbalance for public broadcasters, Ofcom said, with the market dynamic increasingly skewed. This has added to arguments about the validity of the broadcast licence fee.   

This changing dynamic also means public broadcasters are struggling to secure favourable terms when they’re negotiating with platforms. Ofcom has recommended a new broadcast framework to ensure audiences are able to better access public broadcast content online, but also to support the broadcasters’ sustainability.   

That has led to the first major update of media legislation in the UK in more than twenty years, the UK Media Bill. Mackay said the Bill adopts many of their recommendations, including a prominence framework to assist British public media, which he said would better allow audiences to find original programmes for local audiences and to keep them accurately informed about the world around them. Essentially, the Bill, if passed, would give public media more flexibility with how they deliver their obligations, and includes new obligations for online providers and electronics manufacturers.   

It would ensure the apps of UK public broadcasters are made available and prominent on connected TV platforms in the UK. It also requires that all public service broadcasters offer their on-demand services to the TV platforms. In particular, the content they use to deliver their remits.   

Unlike the Australian version, the British proposal includes prominence in various areas of the user interface, including search and recommendation functions, but it is up to the broadcasters to agree deals with the regulated platforms.   

If passed this year, the new framework would be implemented within two years. The Bill does not specify where exactly these have to be placed, leaving it to Ofcom to develop, implement and monitor a code of conduct.   

What about radio?

The roundtable – and the proposed legislation – was largely used to discuss prominence and television platforms, but several participants asked whether radio would also be covered by these prominence regulations.  

In Australia, the current Bill focusses on television. Radio, it is argued, is considered to have different policy problems with different industries, requiring its own specific legislation. The government has committed to start building policy around prominence for radio and audio because the existential issue is the same. The car is still where most people listen to the radio, but with newer models, will local radio and audio drop off the user interface?   

The UK Media Bill, however, does have a section on how to regulate voice assistance (things like Amazon Alexa), and the availability of UK radio services including the BBC. It follows the TV model closely.   

The prominence of radio, especially access to in-car radio, has become a hot topic across Europe, with public media like Swedish Radio and associations like the EBU heavily advocating for greater protections. 

For World Radio Day, the Public Media Alliance signed a joint statement from UNESCO, EBU and AER calling on governments to better safeguard high levels of access to freely available radio around the world.  

Header image: Watching tv and using remote control. Credit: gpetric/iStock