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VOD Services Must Kow-Tow To New Regulator; But Is It Workable?

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UK culture secretary Andy Burnham has confirmed he will create a “co-regulatory body, led and funded by the industry, to take on responsibility for regulating programme content on video-on-demand services”. Under the new rules, “all UK providers of VOD services will need to notify the co-regulator that they are providing a service“, Burnham’s department for culture, media and sport said. The department had previously said such a body could cost £1.72 million annually to run.

Burnham’s announcement signals the UK government’s acceptance of most of the provisions in the European Commission’s new Audiovisual Media Services directive (AVMS), drafted in 2007 to replace its 20-year-old Television Without Frontiers rules. AVMS, which is being implemented by EU member states, makes the first regulatory distinction between linear and on-demand media, which was designated to get only light-touch regulation. Burnham’s implementation through “co-regulation” will throw the spotlight on the existing Association for Television On Demand (ATVOD), which has operated since 2003 to self-regulate the sector.

But many will wonder how far the new regs will extend, and whether they are really enforceable. When we asked the European Commission’s media department in 2007 whether “non-linear” and “VOD” also meant internet video sharing sites, for example, a spokesperson told us: “The services YouTube currently offers do not fall under the definition … as these are not TV- or TV-like programmes – the directive covers only audiovisual media services – this would change only if YouTube would offer TV- or TV-like services via the internet.

2 Responses to “VOD Services Must Kow-Tow To New Regulator; But Is It Workable?”

  1. The Internet already provides the means for video content to reach a far greater audience globally than national broadcasters or Telco TV VOD providers could ever do. So the phrase “mass media” is certainly not one that should be used in a regularity context.

    All Internet TV providers aspire to make their content available “TV-like” and on the large screen Living Room TV. This is particularly so for niche or “long tail” services like “Planes TV” “Railway TV” or the “Countryside TV. But will the co-regulatory environment stifle innovation and freedom of choice particularly for these smaller players – who might have to pay a fee to register.

    What actually is the purpose of regulation in this context? Unlike broadcast TV which is often free-to-view – most viewers have to “opt-in” for such a VOD service or even a linear scheduled Internet TV (viewed on a TV) service. If regulation, just involves forcing a viewer to register for such a service this should not be a big issue. Any pre-registration “taster” video content should of course be U-rated (suitable for children).

    My main concern is the potential cost of any registration fees – which should not be large for small players – thus creating barriers to entry. The likes of BT Vision, BBC, C4 and ITV should not be just seen as the most likely players for such a service. And, if Project Canvas gets the go ahead – with its open source solution – many smaller players might want to enter this market with “TV-like” services via the Internet.

  2. Mukkinese

    Here we have another minister trying to justify their job by "doing things". Little matter that it is unworkable and will put U.K. creators at a disadvantage. At least it allows the government to keep on telling us what we can and cannot do. Thank goodness they are protecting us from ourselves. Who knows what damage we may do without their superior judgement to guide us? Thank you Nanny!