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Last Updated: Monday, 16 October 2006, 13:15 GMT 14:15 UK
Q&A: EU Audiovisual Media Services directive
Critics feels the directive threatens sites such as YouTube
Broadcasting figures are giving evidence to the UK House of Lords on the European Union's proposed Audiovisual Media Services directive.

The directive, which is still being debated, is proving to be controversial as the EU attempts to increase regulation of video content on the internet.

What is the EU's Audiovisual Media Services Directive?

The wide-ranging directive would extend and update 1989's TV Without Frontiers to cover the growing market of video on demand services and internet-based broadcasters.

The directive is designed to reflect and encompass the enormous pace of change that broadcasting and the online space are subject to.

"The rules devised for one-to-many broadcasting are being rendered obsolete by the shift to one-to-one, on-demand services," states the European Union directive.

The new directive would also support new forms of advertising, such as split-screen, virtual and interactive advertising.

Why is the directive being introduced?

The directive seeks to create a "level playing field" between traditional TV-based broadcasts and online broadcasts.

As video via the net and video on demand services become a reality there is a concern among some politicians that the lack of regulation applied to the internet creates a problem when TV and other video content is made available online.

They argue: If TV content is regulated to protect children, promote pluaralism to enforce public service values, to keep advertising in check etc, why then should TV and video over the net be exempt?

Why is the directive controversial?

Critics of the directive fear that any attempts to regulate the net would lead to an overly-complicated, inflexible range of regulations that would strangle the growth of TV and video content delivered over the net.

Organisations such as the Confederation of British Industry argue that such an approach would only stifle the development of video via the net and would be too rigid to deal with a fast-moving world.

The internet has traditionally been self-regulated and stakeholders in the net, such as Internet Service Providers and content providers, are also resolutely opposed to the directive.

There is also a concern that the directive applies to all video content on the net and would therefore mean regulation of content from home videos posted to YouTube to clips posted on estate agent websites and even video podcasting.

Online video games could also fall under the scope of regulation, if the directive was passed.

Many organisations, including the Broadband Stakeholder Group, agree that the 1989 directive needs updating but have called for the plans to go back to the drawing board.

What do proponents of the directive say?

Few organisations or individuals back the directive in full as it is so wide-ranging.

In the UK, Ofcom which regulates broadcast television welcome the directive's proposed liberalisation of controls on alternative advertising techniques.

Ofcom also feels that the definition of broadcasting needs to be modernised to reflect new technological realities.

"It makes no sense to regulate broadcasting in different ways on different delivery platforms," says Ofcom.

The EU Information Commissioner Viviane Reding says the directive will mean "red tape is removed, existing rules are made more flexible and co-regulation and self-regulation become the prominent means of implementation".

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