The UK’s controversial video-on-demand regulator, which has angered some web publishers by charging them to be regulated against their wishes, will itself now come under review.
Ofcom, which handed the role of VOD co-regulator to ATVOD in 2010, will conduct its first biennial formal review of the agency, to assess whether ATVOD is “an appropriate regulatory authority”, whether it is meeting its obligations and whether there are any problems.
ATVOD executes the European Commission’s 2007 Audio-Visual Media Services directive, which said “TV-like” services “must not contain any incitement to hatred based on race, sex, religion or nationality”; “must provide appropriate protection for minors against harmful material” and “sponsored programmes and services must comply with applicable sponsorship requirements”.
But the body has proved controversial:
- Three quarters of ATVOD’s planned £426,388 first-year running costs had to be met by the very services ATVOD wanted to regulate, meaning it set out to identify a specific 150 services to regulate, all of which had to self-identify themselves.
- Large national publishers must pay between £10,350 and £25,000 a year to come under ATVOD’s auspice.
- Small-scale operators complained at being crippled by ATVOD’s first-year rates, but they won concessions for year two.
- ATVOD believed it had to regulate the web video activities not just of broadcasters but also of publishers whose core activity is not video. After being admonished by ATVOD for not self-identifying, newspaper and magazine publishers who post some videos online complained strongly.
After all, the legislation under which ATVOD was handed responsibility states: “The scope of this Directive should not cover electronic versions of newspapers and magazines.”
So ATVOD agreed an about-turn on the issue after News International won on appeal to Ofcom.
Now Ofcom has opened a consultation ending May 31, and it specifically wants to hear from those publishers which ATVOD thinks it regulates.
In latest cases, MTV last month lost an appeal against ATVOD’s decision that its Viva music channel’s web video should pay to be regulated, and an adult website called Bootybox.tv was told it must screen out access by under-18s.