21 September 2005

The Web

EC regulation 'could stifle' net

Tech lobby groups in the UK have warned that proposed changes to European TV regulation could stifle net content.
The European Commission wants to update its TV Without Frontiers directive to take account of new developments such as video-on-demand, broadcasting via broadband and podcasting.
The Broadband Stakeholder Group and trade body Intellect have branded the planned changes unworkable. It could be an attempt to regulate the net by the backdoor, they said.
The European Commission is planning to extend the regulation of traditional broadcasting to cover all audio-visual content.
The BSG and Intellect are worried that the definitions the Commission has come up with to distinguish traditional and new methods of broadcast are already out of date.
They also believe the proposed changes could extend to areas such as online newspapers which currently fall outside of the EC's regulatory remit.
"Our members are seriously concerned that the European Commission's proposals will inhibit growth of the content and new media market in Europe," said Antony Walker, Director of the Knowledge Economy at Intellect.
"New audio-visual content services, made possible through innovation in digital technology and the internet, should be given time to evolve and develop rather than being shackled by premature and unnecessary regulation intervention by the EU," he added.
The two organisations believe the proposals are premature, unjustified, inappropriate and unworkable.
In this view, they seem to have the support of the telecoms, publishing and new media industries.
A straw poll, conducted by the BSG, found that the majority of senior executives of affected industries, wanted the directive put on hold. Over 80% felt that the legislation could open the door for wider net regulation and 77% felt the proposals could inhibit the emerging new media market.
TV delivered via broadband will be a reality within a decade, according to a recent report from Lovelace Consulting and informitv.
TV is likely to become more web-like with millions of shows to download as the worlds of digital TV and the net increasingly converge, the report found.

Blanket regulation
While acknowledging that the TV Without Frontiers directive, drawn up in 1989, needs updating for the modern age, both Intellect and the BSG are calling for the European Commission to go back to the drawing board with its plans.
The lobby groups are calling for a fuller consultation with all the industries that will be affected.
"The broadcasting world is entering a period of rapid change and the regulatory framework will need to be amended," Philip Graf, chairman of the BSG, told delegates at the i2010 European Broadcast Conference.
"But this blanket regulatory approach is absolutely not the way to do it," he said.

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