Regulation Coming for UK VoD

UK media regulator Ofcom has unveiled proposals under which video-on-demand services from all broadcasters will be subject to new rules, in line with European law.

Regulation of all “TV-like” services such as BBC iPlayer, 4OD, ITV Player, SkyPlayer, and Demand Five will be necessary from 19 December 2009 as a requirement of the EU's Audiovisual Media Services Directive to create a level playing field in this emerging market and to protect the interests of viewers. Such services are available through Virgin Media, Sky and BT Vision as well as through the internet.

The UK government plans to give the overall duty to regulate these services to Ofcom, which is proposing on its proposal that two bodies carry out most aspects of the regulation on its behalf: the Association for Television On Demand (ATVOD), and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

VoD programming would not be subject to Ofcom's Broadcasting Code, which broadcast services currently licensed in the UK have to observe.

Electronic versions of newspapers, private websites and unmoderated user generated material (hosted on services such as YouTube) will not be regulated.

Ofcom is likely to hold ‘back-stop’ powers to intervene if the new co-regulatory system does not work effectively. The body will also retain the power to impose sanctions against service providers.

VoD programming would also have to meet a set of minimum standards (safeguarding incitemenet to racial hatred for example) while sponsored programmes and services must comply with applicable sponsorship requirements.

One major change the new rules will enforce is bringing the rules around VoD into line with existing legislation that governs TV advertising.

Currently, product placement can be a feature of online programming, since Ofcom's and the ASA's powers do not extend this far. This is not currently the case with broadcast TV although the government is shortly expected to announce that this law will be repealed.

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