Minister challenges 'unworkable' EU proposals to regulate online content

Minister challenges 'unworkable' EU proposals to regulate online content

Purnell backs industry on revision of the TV without Frontiers Directive

Speaking at a Foreign Policy Centre event last week, James Purnell MP, Minister for Creative Industries, laid out the UK Government’s concerns about the proposed changes to the TV without Frontiers Directive, echoing points raised by the BSG throughout last year.

This was one of the first times that the Government has spoken publicly about the Directive since the European Commission published its final draft in December and the speech confirmed that this is a major issue for the UK Government as the Directive moves into the European Parliament.

Mr Purnell reminded the audience that this is not just a ‘techie’ debate, but one that will fundamentally affect the ‘digital technology’ sector that forms the backbone of Europe’s knowledge economy, and in particular the UK, which is ‘on its way to becoming Europe’s digital laboratory’.

Despite agreeing with a number of aspects of the Directive, such as the retention of the Country of Origin Principle, Mr Purnell explained that Government had ‘serious concerns’ about extending legislation designed for the broadcasting world to cover a much wider range of audio visual media services delivered over new and emerging platforms. He questioned the rationale for the extension of scope – given that e-Commerce Directive already covers many of the new services – and explained that in a rapidly evolving sector the Directive’s market definitions are unworkable, in particular the distinction between linear and non-linear services, which is effectively ‘a line in the sand’ that will be ‘washed away by the tide of convergence’. Burdening a nascent market with unenforceable and unnecessary regulation would have far reaching consequences, he said, raising barriers to entry in new media markets, preventing new services from developing and pushing investment outside of the EU.

The Government’s views mirror those that have been voiced by Intellect and the BSG over the last year. Antony Walker, CEO of BSG, was also on the panel of speakers at the event and took the opportunity to highlight the disparity between the EU’s better regulation policy and the draft Directive. He also said that in many cases self-regulation is a more effective instrument for delivering the public policy objectives of the Directive than centralised legislation and that this is an area where the BSG is actively engaging with industry bodies.

James Purnell’s speech in full