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New regulator takes over video-on-demand content supervision

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Regulation of television and video content delivered over the internet has now passed to the Association for Television On-Demand, or ATVOD, a former trade body turned regulator.

New structures put in place to ensure that the UK complies with EU rules came into force on 20 September. ATVOD is now the regulator for content access via video on demand services, while the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) will regulate advertising delivered via on demand services.

ATVOD has published its first complaints procedure (pdf) outlining how it will deal with issues raised about material. It came into force on 20 September, the document said.

"As a result of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive 2007, providers of certain VOD [video on demand] services are required to comply with minimum standards set under the Directive," said the guidance. "These requirements were implemented into UK law through various amendments to the Communications Act 2003. Ofcom has delegated powers and duties to ensure compliance with the requirements that relate to the editorial content of VOD services to ATVOD.

"ATVOD will decide on complaints concerning editorial content on VOD services and information which must be supplied to users of VOD services in accordance with the legislative requirements," it said.

The Audiovisual Media Services (AVMS) Directive replaced the Television Without Frontiers Directive and for the first time ordered EU member states to establish regulatory control over material broadcast over the internet.

The material to be regulated, though, does not include all internet video. The rules apply only to television-like services delivered on demand, not to user-generated videos such as those that appear on YouTube.

Material qualifies for regulation if it is similar in form and content to television programmes; if it has a person who is editorially responsible for it; is based in the UK; and is available on an on-demand basis.

The material that does fall under ATVOD's regulation must conform to some of the standards expected of broadcast television. It must not incite racial hatred; harm under-18s; or break rules on sponsorship or product placement, ATVOD's rules say.

ATVOD's complaints procedure outlines the steps it will take on behalf of a complainant if that person has been unable to resolve a problem directly with the distributor of the material.

ATVOD can order service providers to stop showing some material; to publish corrections; to provide additional information on the material; or to publish ATVOD's findings.

If a breach of its rules merits a financial penalty of a suspension of the service, ATVOD will refer the matter to Ofcom, it said.

ATVOD was a trade body which advised its members on standards in the video on demand industry. It restructured itself over the past year to give itself more independence from the companies it represented, though, and was chosen by Ofcom to take over initial regulation of on demand content.

Copyright © 2010, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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