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 Wednesday, 20 July 2005

A senior partner at Ofcom recently gave a speech entitled "Trends in Television, Radio and Telecoms", highlighting some interesting points about the convergence of broadcasting and the internet.

"We already see the capability and the propensity to access audio and video content in different ways at different times and over many different platforms. How do we think about the watershed when the ten year old is watching a PVR stored 18 rated movie on Saturday morning, while the parents are doing the shopping? It's not intrinsically different to what is possible with a VHS; its the ease of access and the immediacy of the access that makes a difference.

How do we think about impartiality of news services for a television home media hub, where the viewer can access not only the traditional, impartial broadcast news services but a range of entirely partial, opinion driven audio and video services over broadband and internet? The content regulation model will have to evolve. David Currie and Stephen Carter have already, in separate contributions, already suggested that the time for a debate is soon. I want to endorse that view and give you a practical reason and a couple of simple ideas about the problem.

The practical reason for pressing ahead, is that the debate about TVWF has begun: * The EUs working proposals include the idea that the regulations be updated to include all audio visual content services, including non-linear content. * We expect a Draft Directive by the end of the year, with the debate kicking off firmly during the UK Presidency. If we seek a consistent approach, in a world where distinctions according to different distribution mechanisms becomes less and less practical, then the question is do you regulate up to the highest common factor or regulate down to the lowest common denominator? Do television standards apply to all content, or do the absence of standards on the internet apply to all television and radio? In a world where significant numbers have video capable broadband access, the question really can be posed as starkly as that. Or is there a compromise somewhere between these starkly opposed positions. Will, in reality, traditional services endure, with everyone accepting a fringe of alternative activity that is beyond the regulatory ambit. A sort of tolerable and tolerated black economy? Accepted because it remains marginal to the main event. Or is there a consistent framework that is beyond general law, but perhaps not as detailed as present day broadcast regulation?

Perhaps the difference can be addressed by a combination of greater personal responsibility alongside practical technologies which enable filtering and labelling. Alongside market choices by companies seeking to offer viewers and web surfers a safe environment, or by opt-in regulation to specified public service standards' which might then be kite marked or certified to indicate, an impartial news service for example. Or indeed there may be by other forms of self regulation which yield similar results."

For the full text, click here.

Article accessed through CommsWatch.