A proposal to update the EU's 1989 "TV without Frontiers" (TVWF) Directive in order to keep pace with rapid technological and market developments in Europe's audiovisual sector, was tabled by the European Commission on 13 December 2005.
Now renamed as the Audio-Visual Media Services Directive, European Commissioner Viviane Reding is determined that there should be a "level-playing field" between broadcast and online content, and so European regulation of television content should be extended to the Internet.
They want to regulate TV on the Internet. European Commission's proposals are for regulating video on demand, mobile television and other emerging media formats. Industries such as internet service providers are opposed, to the extension of the directive's provisions to so-called non-linear services. Ofcom think that it could lead to regulation of podcasting.
The directive also covers extending the rules on incitement to hatred on religious, racial or gender grounds, to on-demand audiovisual media.
Problems and Concerns
The UK government, the Confederation of British Industries (CBI), UK technology companies are against the directive in its current form their objections are:
- Premature - This is an emerging market that should be given time to evolve and develop
- Unjustified - Many regulatory and self-regulatory safeguards are already in place at member state level
- Inappropriate – Insufficient account is taken of the rapid pace of change in this market
- Unworkable – The proposals are based on categorisations of services that are unsustainable
Intellect public affairs director Tom Wills-Sandford. "A good example is the TV Without Frontiers plan to revamp an ancient European Commission broadcasting directive. While you would assume it would be updated for the new world of non-linear services, essentially what they are doing is planning on applying existing regulations to online services."
Senior policy advisor at the Institute of Directors, Jim Norton. "A significant worry is that the European Commission, in trying to do what it thinks is right, may well have the reverse effect and drive the content industry offshore. We have an awful lot of content creation in the UK and it would be a great shame to see that killed off,"
James Purnell MP, while he was Minister for Creative Industries. In a speech to the Foreign Policy Centre, Lessons for EU Regulation: How does the revised TVWF Directive affect competitiveness? "We do have serious concerns about a very fundamental aspect of what the Commission are proposing. That is the suggestion that the scope of this Directive be widened to cover new media services - that it should change from being a 'TV' Directive to being an 'Audio-visual Media Services' Directive." "My argument is that this increased scope could mean significant regulation of the Internet and stifle the growth of new media services. That would raise prices for consumers, and deprive them of potential new services." "I will argue that the case for extending regulation has not been made and that it is unclear how the proposal will fit with the e-Commerce Directive…the solution is to adopt the self-regulatory approach."
The Lords European Union Committee Internal Market (Sub-Committee B) is currently conducting an Inquiry into the European Commission’s draft Audiovisual Media Services (‘Television Without Frontiers’) Directive. The Call for Evidence
Australia seems to be having similar thoughts, it is to change its broadcasting laws to encompass webcasts in reaction to general outrage over an alleged sexual assault on the show which was "streamed online and not shown on television."
- 2006-07-06 - The Register - Oz Big Brother outrage prompts law change
- Author: Lester Haines
- Summary: Australia is to change its broadcasting laws to encompass webcasts in reaction to general outrage over an alleged sexual assault on the show which was "streamed online and not shown on television", the BBC reports.
- 2006-07-05 - Guardian- TV clampdown follows Big Brother 'assault
- Author: Mark Sweney
- Summary: Australian broadcasting rules will be changed to bring live webcasts within the remit of content regulation, following the live internet streaming of an alleged sexual assault during reality TV show Big Brother.
- 2006-07-05 - BBC - Law change after Big Brother case
- Summary: Australian broadcasting laws will be changed to cover webcasts following allegations that a contestant on Big Brother was assaulted.
Lord Currie of Marylebone (Crossbench Peer). Chairman of Ofcom. Became a Lord in 1996 but has attended only 7% of votes (From Public Whip). Has spoken in 1 debate in the last year (TheyWorkForYou.com) believes that regulation of these markets would be too complex and practically impossible because of the number of sites that would have to be regulated.
James Purnell MP, while he was Minister for Creative Industries. was vocal about his concerns with this directive.
Shaun Woodward MP (St Helens South, Labour) Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport with responsibilities for the digital handover for TV, and also serves on the Joint Committee of Human Rights in Parliament. Joined Lord Currie of Marylebone at a Westminster Media Forum event in criticising the directive. He made a lucid and powerful speech which went down well in the hall.
James Purnell MP (Stalybridge & Hyde, Labour). Before he moved on to Minister for Pensions he held the post of Minister for Media and Tourism (covering broadcasting, creative industries, tourism and licensing), during this time he made speeches against the directive.
- Television Without Frontiers The Digital Content Forum have been tracking this issue for some time and have a very detailed page covering the directive.
- Legislative proposal for the revision of the "Television without Frontiers" Directive Commission (13 November 2005)
- Full text of the proposed Directive Commission
- Impact assessment report and statistics Commission
- Press release Commission
- Frequently Asked Questions Commission
- TV Without Frontiers must go back to the drawing board, says hi-tech industry Intellect and the Broadband Stakeholder Group, Press Release (20 September 2005)
- 2006-10-18 - Hot Air TV - When the Euroweenies attack
- 2006-07-18 - MobuzzTV - MobuzzTV covered the TV Without Frontiers Directive
- 2006-07-19 - Technorati vlog - Kevin Marks on blogs reaction to the TV Without Frontiers Directive
- 2008-01-03 - Computer Weekly - DCMS & BERR to study convergence while Brussels blocks it
- Author: Philip Virgo
- Summary: The move to extend the TV Without Frontiers Directive to cover services delivered over the Internet brought together a unique coalition of network operators, technology suppliers and content creators who worked with and through an excellent joint team of officials in DTI and DCMS to try to emasculate an unworkable set of proposals. Slowly Britain worked from a minority of one towards a set of wrokable compromises. I thought they had finally succeeded when the final drafts passed their Second Reading in the European Parliament in December. Then I attended the first briefing on UK implementation. This was almost entirely attended by those from the broadcast and programme making industry. The obsession of the Internet and digital content communities with technology rather than profitable business models appears set to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. There was almost no-one present from the Internet service or digital content communities.
- 2007-03-14 - OUT-LAW.COM - Multimedia Directive proposal is revised
- Summary: European Commission has updated its proposed successor to the TV Without Frontiers Directive, the Audiovisual Media Services (AVMS) Directive. The European Commission hopes that the document will be adopted by all the European institutions. The controversial proposal has been characterised by podcasters and web media specialists as an attempt to impose television-like state regulation on new media. The proposed Directive has been changed to allay those fears.
- 2007-02-05 - BBC - Internet video rules 'misguided'
- Summary: An EU bid to make internet broadcasters subject to the same laws as traditional television is "seriously misguided", the All Party Lords European Union Committee has said. Saying it was not the role of regulation to protect established broadcasters from new competition operating under different business models. "Burdensome and inappropriate" rules risked damaging the thriving British new media industry, the committee said.
- 2007-01-03 - Out-Law.com - European Parliament approves law to replace TV Without Frontiers Directive
- Summary: A new European law governing television and some internet video content has been approved by the European Parliament. The Audio Visual Media Services Directive must be approved by the Ministers and again by Parliament before coming into force.
- 2006-11-16 - Out-Law.com - Regulation of web video watered down in Europe
- Summary: The EU's Council of Ministers has proposed a watering-down of multimedia services regulation after opposition from the UK Government. The UK won the major concession on the regulation of internet video.
- 2006-10-18 - Arstechnica - EU to regulate video bloggers (?)
- Author: Nate Anderson
- Summary: There's a row brewing in Britain over a new EU television directive which some believe could open the door to increased regulation of the Internet. Because of the proposal's less-than-specific language, it could be interpreted to cover any video clip posted on the Internet, even at a personal site.
- 2006-10-18 - The Guardian - Video bloggers under threat from EU broadcast rules
- Author: Jack Schofield
- Summary: There is always concern in the UK about the stupidity and incompetence of the European Commission, and in this case it concerns updates to the Television Without Frontiers (1989) directive that would, according to today's Times, "require websites and mobile phone services that feature video images to conform to standards laid down in Brussels"
- 2006-10-18 - The Times - Amateur 'video bloggers' under threat from EU broadcast rules
- Author: Adam Sherwin
- Summary: The Government is seeking to prevent an EU directive that could extend broadcasting regulations to the internet, hitting popular video-sharing websites such as YouTube.
- 2006-10-18 - CNET News - EU to regulate video blogs?
- Author: Margaret Kane
- Summary: A new European Commission proposal would require Web sites and mobile phone services that feature video images to conform to standards set by that body, the Times of London reports.
- 2006-10-17 - The Progress and Freedom Foundation - UK Fighting the Good Fight
- Author: Patrick Ross
- Summary: For the last several weeks, UK Ministers led by Broadcasting Minister Shaun Woodward have been reaching out to EU member states seeking a compromise on the proposed Television without Frontiers (TVwF) directive. The outreach by the UK ministers is driven by a fear that broadcast-like regulations will be extended across the Internet, even to an individual's rugby match home video. The effort comes as Ofcom has released a substantial study by RAND Europe raiding serious concerns about TVwF.
- 2006-10-16 - BBC - EU 'threat' to internet freedom
- Summary: Internet broadcasters should not be subject to the same rules which govern television, peers have been told.
- 2006-10-12 - The Economist - Regulation without frontiers
- Summary: The proposed rules may be unrealistic as well as onerous. The idea that websites can be regulated like broadcasters, which are required to keep strict records of what they show in order to help watchdogs investigate complaints, is untenable. Firms could simply relocate outside the European Union to escape the new rules
- 2006-09-21 - The Register - EU threatens to apply TV standards to web media
- Author: Bill Ray
- Summary: Ofcom, the UK telecommunications regulator, has said that a European Union plan to regulate video risks restricting innovation and even forcing companies to relocate outside the EU to avoid compliance.
- 2006-07-06 - The Times - Attack on move to regulate podcasts
- Author: Amanda Andrews
- Summary: Lord Currie, the chairman of Ofcom, hit out yesterday at European Commission proposals that could lead to regulation of podcasting, saying that the market was too diverse for tighter controls.
- 2006-07-06 - The Guardian - It's TV, but not as we know it
- Author: Peter Warren
- Summary: The European Commission and the UK are once again set on a collision course. Forget constitutions, Euros or Maastricht. This time it's about something you care about: television, and particularly the future of TV and new media over the internet. The complex row between the UK government, the Confederation of British Industries (CBI), UK technology companies and the EC revolves around the cheerily named "TV Without Frontiers" directive. It's a proposed piece of European legislation intended to bring television in line with recent changes in technology.
- 2006-06-15 - CNET News.com - Europe defends online broadcasting plans
- Author: Tom Espiner
- Summary: The European Commission has defended its proposal to revise online broadcasting legislation called Television Without Frontiers, saying Internet businesses would benefit from the changes. The existing TVWF regulations, which cover traditional broadcasters, set minimum standards for advertising and the protection of minors. The EC wants to extend them to cover online audio-visual content, including new media broadcasting and emerging technological platforms.
- 2006-04-18 - EurActiv - Industry opposes online content regulation
- Summary: An industry alliance bringing together internet service providers, telecom operators, content providers and hardware makers attacks Commission plans to bring some online content under a regulatory scheme initially created for TV.
- 2006-04-17 - Financial Times - Media groups blast Brussels over directive
- Author: Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson
- Summary: An alliance of old and new media companies including Cisco Systems, ITV, Vodafone and Yahoo will on Tuesday launch an attack on the European Commission's proposals for regulating video on demand, mobile television and other emerging media formats.
- 2006-01-30 - CNET News.com - U.K. battles Web TV regulation
- Author: Graeme Wearden
- Summary: The U.K. government is fighting an attempt by the European Commission to change the way television is regulated in Europe amid fears that this could lead to the regulation of Internet content.
- 2005-12-14 - PC Pro - EU takes battering as Net villain nominee
- Author: Simon Aughton
- Summary: In line for the Villains gong are: European Commissioner Viviane Reding for the revision of the TV without Frontiers Directive which threatens ISPs by extending the scope of broadcasting regulation to content delivered via the Internet, in a market which is not yet fully developed
- 2005-09-14 - vnunet.com - Europe must lead digital revolution
- Author: Sarah Arnott
- Summary: A good example is the TV Without Frontiers plan to revamp an ancient European Commission broadcasting directive. While you would assume it would be updated for the new world of non-linear services, essentially what they are doing is planning on applying existing regulations to online services.
- 2004-08-16 - EurActiv - TV Without Frontiers Directive: The Commission's roadmap for revision
- Summary: Background, Issues, Positions, Latest & next steps.