The British Government May Force Google & Amazon Smart Speakers to Offer UK Radio Stations for Free

british government smart speakers
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british government smart speakers
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Photo Credit: Kevin Bhagat

The British government may force Google & Amazon smart speakers to offer UK radio stations for free amid new broadcasting legislation.

Under draft legislation published today, the biggest broadcasters in the UK will receive additional privileges, like ensuring their on-demand services are easy to discover to encourage competition with global streaming giants. The draft Media Bill will enable new reforms to guarantee access to UK radio on smart speakers and require streaming services to provide subtitles, audio description, and signing to support those with disabilities.

The new legislation will enable public service broadcasters (PSBs) like the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, and Channel 5, “to unleash their potential to grow, produce more top-quality British content and invest in new technologies to keep viewers tuning in amid fierce competition from subscription-based online platforms.”

This legislation is the latest move in the British government’s plan to modernize decades-old broadcasting legislation, including new reforms to protect UK radio on smart speakers as listeners move increasingly further away from AM and FM stations in favor of internet-based services. 

Smart speaker platforms, such as those offered by Google and Amazon, will be required by law to ensure access to all licensed UK radio stations — from national stations to small community stations. Platforms will be prohibited from charging stations for being hosted on their services or overlaying their own advertising over station programming.

“Technology has revolutionized the way people enjoy TV and radio. The battle to attract and retain audiences has never been more fierce,” says Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer. “British content and production (are) world-leading, but changes to viewing habits have put traditional broadcasters under unprecedented pressure.”

“These new laws will level the playing field with global streaming giants, ensuring they meet the same high standards we expect from public service broadcasters and that services like iPlayer, All4, and ITVX are easy to find however you watch TV.”

Additionally, the Bill will reduce regulatory burdens on commercial radio stations, relaxing content and format requirements developed in the 1980s. These requirements tie stations to commitments to broadcast particular genres of music or to specific age groups within certain times of the day. Stations will have more flexibility to update or adapt their services as needed, while the reduced bureaucracy from these changes could save the radio industry up to £1 million yearly.