Ed Richards, the boss of Ofcom made a speech to the Oxford Media Convention on the 25th January 2012.
He repeatedly alluded to more censorship for the internet and video on demand in particular. He said:
In between the twin poles of linear TV and the open internet, it becomes quite interesting.
When something looks, feels and acts like TV, but is delivered over the internet and into people’s living rooms, we need something that meets audiences’ expectations and provides the right degree of reassurance.
It is here that such services intersect with the views and concerns expressed by the participants in our research and where greater assurance than currently on offer may need to be considered.
It seems undesirable for these services to be subject to full broadcasting style regulation — by and large they belong to a different form of service and come from a very different context. But we do need to consider whether to develop the approach in relation to existing co-regulation for video on demand to offer greater assurance and to ensure there is public trust in the approach to regulation as these services become more and more pervasive and significant.
In the case of video-on-demand services, our research shows that protection of minors and the risk of harmful content is the most likely focus. And our experience of broadcast regulation suggests that privacy and fairness for individuals are also areas that need careful exploration.
In this context I wonder therefore whether there may be a fairly simple opportunity to establish a core set of principles and aims which are held in common across a diverse media terrain with different regulatory environments.
Such a set of core principles could be established between the regulators that emerge from the current debate. They might aim to articulate the minimum standards which we would like to see in the UK, regardless of the nature of the service or its specific regulatory setting.
This is not as far-fetched as it may seem. The Ofcom Broadcasting code is remarkably close to the BBC’s editorial guidelines. The PCC Code and the Ofcom Broadcasting Code share many of the same objectives, principles and indeed requirements, although the range of issues in the Ofcom Code is, for obvious reasons, significantly more extensive.
But we take an interest in the debate because over time, and quite quickly in some cases, the difference between video on demand content and that of increasingly video rich digital newspapers may well diminish. In thinking about an approach to media regulation for the next decade or more, it is as well to have an eye on the direction in which the tide is flowing.
More prosaically, we might be able to offer some assistance from what we have found to be necessary for regulation to be effective.
In our experience there are some critical features of regulatory systems which need to be present, or largely present, in order to ensure effectiveness and in turn to build and sustain public trust.
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