Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
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Protecting the consumer at heart of future for media services in the UK
Plans to regulate video-on-demand services and product placement on British television are set out in a consultation document published by Culture Secretary Andy Burnham today.
The proposals are part of a comprehensive consultation on how the UK should implement the EU Audio Visual Media Services (AVMS) Directive. The Directive includes both compulsory and optional elements, some of which are expected to lead to new legislation.
The Directive updates EU minimum standards on scheduled television services. It also for the first time brings in common standards for video-on-demand services.
Secretary of State Andy Burnham said:
"Preserving standards must be the guiding principles as we look to the media of the future. We need to ensure that traditional protections against inappropriate content and advertising standards are secured as technology advances.
"While citizens embrace the opportunities offered by massively increased choice of content, and can watch on demand on TVs, online or phones, it's right that the same standards apply.
"My instincts remain that if we were to relax the ban on product placement we would put at risk the integrity in British programming that underpins its international reputation. But I'm open to hearing other views. If, as some in the industry are saying, this is a crucial step for broadcasters, then the industry must marshal strong arguments and put forward a convincing case.
"These proposals are designed to protect the consumer without causing unnecessary burden on industry. Media regulation in the UK has been effective in offering safeguards and at the same time, workable for broadcasters. We want to keep that balance."
The consultation focuses on the Government's proposals on three specific issues in the Directive. These are:
- product placement in television and video-on-demand
- introducing a system for regulating video-on-demand services in the UK
- and controls over the content of non-EU satellite channels which are uplinked from a ground station in the UK.
The AVMS Directive states that all EU member states must prohibit product placement, but they may decide to allow certain exemptions. Currently product placement is banned on any UK made programmes. The Government has already said its initial view is not to change this. The consultation document however sets out the arguments for and against, and seeks views from both sides.
Under the Directive the UK also has an obligation to ensure its video-on-demand services meet new cross-EU standards. It encourages Member States to seek a 'co-regulatory' solution in which the system of regulation is owned and run by the video-on-demand industry, but with backup powers for Government or a national authority such as Ofcom to intervene if need be. The consultation seeks views on a number of different options designed to achieve this.
AVMS will also give the UK new responsibility under EU law for the content of a small number of non-EU satellite TV channels which legally broadcast into Europe from ground stations in Britain. New legislation is required to allow Ofcom to exercise this responsibility and the document sets out some options to consider.
The consultation runs for three months and closes on 31 October, 2008.
Notes to editors
1. The consultation document can be found at: http://www.culture.gov.uk/reference_library/consultations/5309.aspx
2. The AVMS Directive came into force in December 2007. The UK and all other Member States have until December 2009 to implement it in their domestic law. It revises and updates the existing Television Without Frontiers (TVWF) Directive, which was adopted in 1989 and amended in 1997.
3. The consultation concerns three parts of the Directive that require changes to the law in the UK. Other parts, which do not require changes to UK law, are not discussed in the consultation document in any detail. These are
* an enhancement to existing procedures under which a Member State can raise concerns about television broadcasts from another Member State which do not comply with the first Member State's own domestic rules; and
* relaxations in EU rules about the amount of advertising which may be shown on television and about the timing of ad breaks. Ofcom are consulting separately about the possible consequences of this for TV advertising in the UK.
4. The Directive also allows TV broadcasters to use short extracts of other broadcasters' exclusive coverage of sports and other major events to use in news reports. The Government is considering this separately from other AVMS issues and there will be an announcement later.
5. Further information about the TVWF and AVMS Directives is available on the European Commission's website at http://www.ec.europa.eu/avpolicy/reg/avms/index_en.htm
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