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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 September 2005, 13:59 GMT 14:59 UK
EC regulation 'could stifle' net
Children watching TV
The way we watch TV is set to change
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.

Premature and unworkable

The European Commission is planning to extend the regulation of traditional broadcasting to cover all audio-visual content.

In a speeech at the Audio Visual Conference 'Between Culture and Commerce' in Liverpol, BBC director general Mark Thompson added his criticism to the plans, saying it was unrealistic to attempt to regulate new media in the same way as traditional broadcasters.

What people expected of BBC Online content was very different to what they expected from TV content, he said.

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the definitions the Commission has come up with to distinguish traditional and new methods of broadcast are already out of date.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.

80% agreed reform of broadcast regulation is necessary in the light of new methods of content delivery
77% thought current proposals were 'inappropriate'
82% thought it set a precedent for wider regulation of the internet
82% agreed that current proposals did not take account of the pace of change within technology, content and media markets

"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 some 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," commented Philip Graf, chairman of the BSG.

"But this blanket regulatory approach is absolutely not the way to do it," he said.

New Media Age Online industry fights EC plans to impose TV-style regulations - 1 hr ago
Business EuropeEU internet policy 'unworkable' - 24 hrs ago
Guardian UnlimitedHi-tech firms fear EU regulation - 43 hrs ago
Silicon.com EU trying to regulate web 'by the back door' - 44 hrs ago
The Register Trade bodies ask EC to stop broadband regulation review - 48 hrs ago
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