Government plans for regulation of video-on-demand
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has published a consultation document setting out plans to regulate video-on-demand and product placement on British television. The proposals are part of a comprehensive consultation on how the UK should implement the EU Audio Visual Media Services (AVMS) Directive. The Directive includes both compulsory and optional elements, some of which are expected to lead to new legislation.
The consultation focuses on the Government's proposals on three specific issues in the Directive. These are:
- Product placement in television and video-on-demand services
- Introducing a system for regulating video-on-demand services in the UK
- Control over the content of non-EU satellite channels which are uplinked from a ground station in the UK.
Secretary of State Andy Burnham said "Preserving standards must be the guiding principles as we look to the media of the future. We need to ensure that traditional protections against inappropriate content and advertising standards are secured as technology advances" – "While citizens embrace the opportunities offered by massively increased choice of content, and can watch on demand on TVs, online or phones, it's right that the same standards apply."
The AVMS Directive states that all EU member states must prohibit product placement, but they may decide to allow certain exemptions. Currently product placement is banned on any UK made programmes even though it is frequently present in films broadcast on television. Over the past few years the European directive has seen several revisions and the depth and even inclusion of proposals regarding video-on-demand and on-line video, has been in doubt.
Currently television broadcasting is regulated by the government body Ofcom, but they only have control over analogue or digital broadcast material. On-demand services are supposedly self-regulated by a group called the Association for Television on Demand (ATVOD), whose code broadly mirrors that of Ofcom. In practice, apart from things that are already generally illegal in the UK – such as incitement to racial hatred and blasphemy – and are still illegal on line, there is no legal regulation of on-line video.
Below the surface of these proposals the waters are somewhat murky. Some government bodies, Ofcom included, have in the past spoken out against stringent regulation due to worries that local regulation might stifle market growth in the UK and give an advantage to development in countries outside the European Union.
- Q&A: Future of TV regulation from BBC News online.
- Expanded Euro Regulation Repudiation By UK’s OFCOM: TWF from Digital-Lifestyles.
- Assessing Indirect Impacts of the EC Proposals for Video Regulation a study by Rand Europe published by Ofcom.
- International broadcasting article from the DCMS on implementing the AVMS Directive.