U.K. set for VOD regulation

Ofcom proposal to farm out content regulation

LONDON -- The future regulation of video on demand services in the U.K. is under the spotlight after media watchdog Ofcom published Monday a consultation document.

The regulator is faced with having to oversee content on VOD services -- such as those offered on the BBC iPlayer, 4OD, ITV Player, SkyPlayer and Demand Five -- by the middle of December this year under European law.

Ofcom is currently asking the industry and the public alike to submit thoughts on its proposal that it farms out the regulation to a duo of proposed bodies.

The regulator is proposing that VOD services are regulated by industry body the Association for Television On Demand (ATVOD), and that advertising included in those services, be regulated by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

Under the proposals, VOD programming would not be subject to Ofcom's Broadcasting Code, which broadcast services currently licensed in the U.K. have to observe.

Regulation of VOD is a requirement of the European Union's Audiovisual Media Services Directive and covers all VOD services which are, according to the Directive, "TV-like."

Under the proposed co-regulation, Ofcom will have back-stop powers to intervene if the new co-regulatory system does not work effectively and Ofcom will also retain the power to impose sanctions against service providers.

Because BBC content is jointly regulated by the BBC Trust and Ofcom, BBC iPlayer content will be subject to these new regulations but enforced by the Trust and Ofcom and not under the proposed co-regulatory arrangements.

Ofcom's consultation closes Oct. 26.
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