Is social media responsible for killing the linear TV star?

4 Sep 2018

Image: Sinada/Shutterstock

UK TV and telecoms giants want content on social media regulated as linear TV is a turn-off for teens weaned on Snapchat and Instagram Stories.

Leading broadcasters and telecoms firms want the UK government to intervene as linear TV content becomes less relevant to a younger audience.

The heads of the BBC, Sky, ITV, Channel 4, BT and TalkTalk have called for the UK government to introduce independent regulation of content carried on social networks.

They argue that the content carried on sites owned by Facebook, Google, YouTube and Twitter are not regulated in the same way as traditional media.

The group including Tony Hall, the BBC director general, and Jeremy Darroch, Sky’s chief executive, said in a letter to the Sunday Telegraph that there is an “urgent” need for independent oversight of social media.

“We do not think it is realistic or appropriate to expect internet and social media companies to make all the judgement calls about what content is and is not acceptable, without any independent oversight. There is an urgent need for independent scrutiny of the decisions taken, and greater transparency,” they railed.

“This is not about censoring the internet; it is about making the most popular internet platforms safer, by ensuring there is accountability and transparency over the decisions these private companies are already taking.”

That was entertainment

The call comes at a time when traditional TV is under major threat as young people spend more time on platforms such as Snapchat and YouTube to get their news and entertainment than they do watching linear programming.

It also comes at a time when Facebook has launched Facebook Watch, a YouTube-like platform for original series and user-generated content. Facebook is also toying with the idea of producing its own original programming.

In the UK, broadcasters, telcos and ISPs are not entertaining the idea.

The companies referenced the large investments they are making in high-speed broadband infrastructure as well as original content. However, this contrasts with the lower contributions to the public’s coffers by US technology companies, already under pressure in the UK for not paying enough tax.


The UK is still reeling from the fallout of the Cambridge Analytica Affair and the government is reviewing how to improve online safety.

In related news, the UK government yesterday demanded that tech firms take more strident action against child abuse images appearing on pages and in news feeds.

UK home secretary Sajid Javid said there was “overwhelming evidence” that content featuring child abuse was continuing to appear online in large quantities.

In July, Facebook’s Dublin operations were embroiled in a scandal over content moderation policies following a Channel 4 Dispatches investigation.

The investigation revealed systemic failures to remove content flagged as inappropriate or recommended to be removed by users, including graphic images and videos of violent assaults on children.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years