Ofcom slams proposed EU broadcast video directive

The UK communications watchdog Ofcom has thrown its weight behind criticism of the move to regulate new video services over the Internet. A study carried out by RAND Europe and commissioned by Ofcom warns that Europe may miss out on new industries if it moves to regulate too soon.

Ofcom slams proposed EU broadcast video directive

The European Commission is currently considering a new directive to member states that would extend regulation currently applied to TV to all ‘video’ services, defined as those whose principal purpose is the provision of moving images. As defined, the proposals would not only include IPTV (Internet-based television) but also online video games and content streamed to mobile phones.

The new directive would supersede the 1989 Television without Frontiers Directive, which created a single market for the provision of television services and established minimum content rules for the protection of children and inappropriate advertising.

The Ofcom warning echoes a campaign by Britain’s biggest media players, which has already condemned the EU proposals as ‘Unworkable, unclear and unnecessary regulation (which will) divert investment away from the EU’.

The study concludes that the technologies and businesses may be only at an early stage of development, with major investment and location decisions still to be made and that any premature regulation would simply mean that industries would relocate outside the European Union with a subsequent impact on jobs and innovation. Also, many of the new players are start-ups and are particularly vulnerable to being tied up in regulation and red tape.

The study also says that it is unclear to what extent any regulation will be applied and is leading to uncertainty in the market place while investment decisions are being made. It also says that, with the globalisation of media through the Internet, many of the ‘regulated services’ will simply relocate to the US and Far East and deliver their content outside EU jurisdiction.

In a statement, the watchdog says it has ‘expressed serious doubts about the practicability and appropriateness of extending broadcasting regulation to a whole range of new media services which are very different from traditional TV, both in nature and in the manner in which they are consumed’.

A draft of the new directive is currently being considered by the European Council and the European Parliament, and adoption is expected by 2007, at the earliest.

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