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 Wednesday, May 04, 2005

CommsWatch has a post on the challenges to content regulation with convergence:

"It is not obvious why, in a news item today, the "Guardian" should highlight the challenge to conventional regulation of broadcasting posed by the growing trend to put broadcast material over the Internet. After all, it was 20 January 2005 when Ofcom published its Annual Plan for 2005/06 which contained the following statements:

  • "We will prepare for further change, for example, by examining how digital platforms and services are likely to evolve and the implications for regulation, including regulatory withdrawal. (para. 1.5)
  • "We will also look forward by conducting a review of digital, multi-media platforms. We hope this will facilitate a wide-ranging public debate about whether content, including internet content, could or should be regulated in a converged world, and, if so, how. (para. 2.15)
  • "In setting the agenda for media literacy, we will complete a major research programme and seek to identify areas of concern relating to emerging communications technology and services, particularly relating to fixed and mobile internet content. We will encourage public debate and engagement on key issues such as labelling. (para. 3.30)
  • We will carry out a review of digital platforms that will address the regulatory issues associated with content becoming available via a range of different media. (para. 3.47) andWe hope this review will facilitate a wide-ranging public debate about the future development of content and the implications for regulation, if any. (para. 3.48)
  • "Media literacy agenda setting: Identify areas of concern relating to emerging communications technology and services, particularly relating to fixed and mobile internet content, and encourage public debate. (Annex 3, section 3)

There [i]s obviously a theme here: Ofcom wants a debate on Internet content and it intends to encourage, facilitate and inform such a debate. It is now up to broadcasters, Internet service providers, and others to engage in that debate. Today's "Guardian" piece suggests that the issue has "come to a head" because of the European Commission's review of the Television Without Frontiers Directive. However, it was 21 March 2005 when the new European Commissioner Viviane Reding used a speech to the Council of Presidents of UNICE in Brussels to state:

  • "Let me be clear. The Television without Frontiers Directive can no longer just be concerned with broadcasting. Television is now on the Internet; it is also going mobile. Admittedly, for the moment TV on the internet is small scale but it will grow. We have to make sure it grows strongly and correctly. And for this we need the right, modern framework. I will only regulate this new market where absolutely necessary in the concerns of European citizens for diversity, quality, decency and safety from abusive uses. Also, convergence means increased competition between media. This indicates relaxing regulatory restrictions to leave more to the market and to consumer choice than in the traditional media world. In particular, I am thinking about easing advertising restrictions.""