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

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.

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