ATVOD was sacked from its job as the Video on Demand censor a few weeks back. Ofcom has now taken over the role from 1st January 2016.
Ofcom has just published a paper outlining transitionary arrangements for Video on Demand Censorship and has outlined proposals for future changes to processes. Ofcom is consulting on these proposals and invites responses by 1st March 2016.
Ofcom will take on some employees from ATVOD and in the first instance the ATVOD censorship rules and processes will be continued. However Ofcom makes the following proposals for the future:
Service providers will still be required to register for censorship using more or less the same impossibly convoluted rules that currently exist (perhaps with improved explanation).
Ofcom proposes that service providers should no longer be charged a fee. (Ofcom note that the marginal cost to extend current TV censorship processes to Video on Demand are not great).
Ofcom will reorganise the complaints procedure along the lines of that used for broadcast complaints
Ofcom will rewrite the censorship rules in the style of the TV broadcast rules but substantive content will not be likely to change much as it is basically derived from EU and UK decrees.
On 21 October 2015, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that the video section of an online newspaper could be considered an audiovisual service and therefore may be censored under the Audiovisual Media Services Directive.
The newspaper in question had a subdomain containing more than 300 videos, ranging from 30 seconds to several minutes long. The videos covered a wide range of content, such as local news, sports, film trailers, craft activities for children and
readers' videos selected by the editors.
The Austrian Supreme Court asked the ECJ to consider whether video services such as these fell within the meaning of audiovisual services in the Directive.
The court considered whether the videos served to complement the written articles or whether they were separate from the news content. And in this case consider that the videos were not sufficiently related to news content to avoid qualifying for
internet censorship. If the videos had been more related to news content then they would not have been subject to state censorship.
Ofcom and ATVOD have also wrestled with the vagueries of the EU directive and ended up with a nearly impossible to understand set of 'guidelines'.
The Daily Mail seems to have quite cleverly pieced together news about Ofcom's sacking of ATVOD and related statements, (but not directly on the subject of censoring Clarkson) to give the impression that it is all about retaining the ability
to censor Jeremy Clarkson after his move from TV to the Video on Demand service, Amazon Prime. The Daily Mail writes:
Ofcom has taken it upon itself to extend its watchdog remit to internet TV shows in a move that will come as a blow to Jeremy Clarkson's hopes for freedom for his new Amazon series.
The broadcasting regulator announced it is taking over internet-watch duties of online video content from the little-known quango Authority for Television On Demand (ATVOD) following an internal review.
It comes just weeks after former Top Gear presenter Clarkson said he was looking forward to freedom from finger wagging .
Following filming of the new Amazon Prime motoring show, Clarkson wrote in his Sunday Times car review section that he was in the free world, where you can say what you want.
But it has now emerged that the programme will be overseen by the TV regulator.
The Daily Mail doesn't mention that the legal constraints on VoD censorship are set at a higher bar and are more about hate speech than mere taste and decency, but why spoil the case.
The newspaper also notes the news that the EU is eyeing further censorship powers over the wider internet, not just VoD.
The European Union has launched a public consultation on current rules surrounding broadcast and on demand media services.
Next year there will be a full review of the EU's Audiovisual Media Services Directive, originally adopted in 2010, where the European Commission will examine whether the current system should be adapted.
It will also look at whether the directive's current scope should be broadened so as to apply to new services and players that are outside the existing definition of audio-visual media services.
Ofcom have sacked ATVOD as explained in the following statement:
The regulation of video-on-demand programme services is being brought fully within Ofcom to sit alongside its regulation of broadcast content.
The move follows an Ofcom review to ensure regulation of broadcast and on-demand content remains as effective and efficient as possible for the benefit of consumers, audiences and industry.
The review included the current co-regulatory arrangements for video-on-demand services. These can include catch-up TV and on-demand services on the TV and the internet. Ofcom designated the Authority for Television On Demand (ATVOD) in 2010 as
a co-regulator to take the lead in regulating editorial content for video-on-demand services.
Following the review, Ofcom has decided that acting as sole regulator for video-on-demand programmes is a more effective model for the future than having two separate bodies carrying out this work. This will create operational efficiencies and
allow editorial content on video-on-demand to sit alongside Ofcom's existing regulation of broadcasting.
Video-on-demand services have become increasingly popular among viewers. The proportion of adults aged 15 and over that watch video-on-demand services has increased from 27% in 2010 to 57% in 2014, according to Ofcom research.
ATVOD has played an important, effective role in regulating on-demand TV over the past five years. Like Ofcom, it is committed to protecting audiences from harmful content.
ATVOD and Ofcom are therefore working closely together to ensure a smooth transfer of responsibilities so that audiences, especially children, remain protected at all times.
As co-regulator for on-demand services, Ofcom already has concurrent responsibility to act in addition to, or in place of, ATVOD. From 1 January 2016, Ofcom will take sole responsibility for regulating video-on-demand programme services. The
Advertising Standards Authority will continue to act as a co-regulator for advertising content on video-on-demand services.
The UK's video on demand regulator today responded to Ofcom's decision to end ATVOD's role as the co-regulator for the editorial content of on demand programme services on 31 December 2015, after nearly six years.
Commenting on the decision, ATVOD Chair Ruth Evans said:
We are immensely proud of the work ATVOD has done since it was given the job of overseeing a brand new set of regulatory rules for video on demand services in 2010. We have done this as a co-regulator dedicated to engaging fully with the
industry we regulate in order to ensure that consumers enjoy the protections to which they are entitled without the imposition of unnecessary burdens on providers of video on demand services. Under our regulation, the UK video on demand industry
has grown strongly and consumer complaints have been dealt with effectively and efficiently.
Our task now is to make sure that our service to consumers and service providers remains of the highest standard during the remaining months of 2015 and to work closely with Ofcom to manage a smooth and seamless transition. We will do this with
the professionalism stakeholders have come to expect of ATVOD over the past few years.
ATVOD Chief Executive Pete Johnson said:
We would like to thank all those who have helped us discharge our duties since 2010, including past and present Industry Forum Chairs Kerry Kent and Martin Stott, past and present Industry Forum Deputy Chairs Helena Brewer and Michael Gooding
and all the service providers who have helped put the 'co' in co-regulation by serving on our Board and participating via our joint working parties. Our regulation benefited greatly from their input and we've been pleased to develop together a
robust and efficient model of co-regulation taking a fledgling industry sector through its first five years.
Finally, we'd like to thank the ATVOD staff and Board for all their hard work and dedication. They have done a challenging job fantastically well.
Ofcom have indeed upheld the appeal against ATVOD decision that the site hosted by Clips4Sale qualifies for censorship by ATVOD.
Ofcom's arguments are way too intricate to precis here but the video content was found to be too short and unprofessional to count as TV-like. It also becomes clear how incompetent EU lawmakers are issuing legislation that is so vague and
meaningless that the only way to handle it is through officials and barristers to argue what the lawmakers were trying to say. And that is for the most basic issue as to whether a website qualifies as something that needs state censorship. Shame
on the EU.