New draft of Television Without Frontiers
The European Commission has released a new draft of the Audio-Visual Media Services Directive (previously known as Television
The amendments have not pleased the UK government who say that European plans to regulate online audiovisual content remain a threat despite modifications.
Warning that continental Europe had a "stronger predilection for state intervention" than the UK, Shaun Woodward, the minister for creative industries and tourism, told a conference on Tuesday that the UK had nearly lost its battle to change
the Television Without Frontiers (TVWF) directive, now renamed the Audiovisual Media Services (AVMS) directive.
Woodward went on to plead with the media industry to help him in the continuing fight against the directive, saying that it had not done enough to combat what he said was a measure which would have damaged [the creative] industry beyond belief.
The original purpose of the directive was to create a "level playing-field" across Europe for audiovisual services, whether on television or online. In effect, however, this meant that each country would have had to regulate all audiovisual online
content put up in that country, with little distinction being made between, for example, what a television station put on normal TV screens and what it put online.
In November a European Council vote was held that forced a rephrasing of the directive, itself soon to be renamed. The latest draft of what is now the AVMS directive, published last week, makes a much clearer distinction between "linear" (ie
scheduled, as on television) and "non-linear" (ie on-demand) content — a modification designed to exempt services such as YouTube from the regulation.
Critics are still unhappy with the wording of the directive, however, which some say remains open to interpretation.
Woodward maintained that a self-regulatory approach, with occasional requests that inappropriate or illegal content be removed, was the way to go: The industry in the UK has been achieving spectacular growth in new media… without the need for state
controls, Woodward added, while repeating his claim that imposing regulation on the new media industry would only drive production outside EU jurisdiction while failing to protect consumers from accessing "bad" content.
Tim Suter, the Ofcom partner responsible for content and standards, agreed that self-regulation was desirable, and suggested that an organisation for online media, along the lines of the Press Complaints Commission, might be the best option. Describing
the AVMS directive as "wrongheaded", he said the best way to protect audiences from inappropriate content was to educate them.