Friday, July 15, 2005

EU Internet Broadcasting Regulation

The European Commission has released five issue papers on its revision of the regulation of audiovisual content, which will bring a replacement of the Television without Frontiers Directive. The revision will also extent broadcasting regulation to the internet, with main obligations for all audiovisual services on:
  • Protection of minors and human dignity
  • Identification of commercial communications
  • Minimum qualitative obligations regarding commercial communication
  • Right of reply
  • Basic identification / masthead requirements.
The regulation would exclude all non-commercial or private, and individual communications.

The papers make a bit of a distinction between linear and non-linear audiovisual communications, with the first also being subject to "lighter and modernized" rules of the Television without Frontiers Directive. The first paper explains the distinction:
[N]on-linear audiovisual services would cover on-demand services where users/ viewers are able to choose the content they wish at any time, e.g. video-on-demand, web based news services, etc., whatever the delivery platform.

The notion of linear audiovisual services would only cover services that are scheduled, i.e. where there is a succession of programmes arranged throughout the day by the responsible editor and the viewer does not control the timing of the transmission.
An attempt of even regulating anything internet is set up to criticism, as outlined in this Times Online article. From America comes the Technology Liberation Front, under the headline "And We Thought things Were Bad Here [...]", with:
[I]t's hard to predict what, if anything will sprout out of BrusselsÂ’ bureaucratic maze. Still, it kind of makes you glad that over here we have that pesky First Amendment to protect us (well, usually) from such regulatory musings.
From both articles speaks a fear of state involvement in internet regulation. While this may be benign, and the "bureaucratic maze" has resulted in some intransparent and sometimes overbroad regulation, one might aks why to shoot down any regulatory initiative, because it's by the state (or the European Commission, for that matter). I haven't yet gone through the proposals at length, and more than likely they will be open to criticism, but they focus on problems that not just have no merits because the internet is involved. Commercial communications will have a growing impact on the future of the internet. To reach the user's attention commercial parties will increasingly use manipulative measures, relating to the technological process, rather than the content. Identification of these measures, of the involvement of a commercial party that seeks to manipulate for commercial gain, may ask for more extensive protection of user interests. Regulation of commercial speech is a difficult subject, and will be hard to tackle. And as always with regulation on a European level, a question will be in how far users, and not the commercial interests against which these proposals seek to offer protection, will be the real winners. Only in recent years there is a tendency to increase consumer protection, but more than often it were the core principals of the EU (free movement of goods and services) that came out on top really. So, things can go bad here, by misplaced regulations, but also by a lack of protective intervention out of fear for state involvement.


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26/12/07 14:17  

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