Council of Europe plans extension of broadcast rules to on-demand material

Out-Law News | 13 Oct 2008 | 5:28 pm | 2 min. read

The Council of Europe aims to increase the scope of a convention that affects the regulation of TV broadcasting to include video on-demand services and some online video. The changes will match those already made by the European Union.

Advert: The Sourcing Summit, 18 & 19 November 2008, Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, LondonThe UK Government has asked for responses to the proposed changes so that it can influence the Council's consultation on the convention.

The Council of Europe (CoE) is a larger body than the EU with 47 rather than 27 member states, and aims to promote respect for human rights and for diversity amongst its members.

It operates a Transfrontier Television Convention (TTV) which is designed to make it easier for member countries to show each others' television material. It covers similar ground to the EU's Audio-Visual Media Services (AVMS) Directive, which itself replaced the Television Without Frontiers (TVWF) Directive.

The TVWF Directive underwent some significant changes to become the AVMS Directive, and the changes to the CoE's regulations are similar.

"The CoE’s aim in revising the Convention is to bring it into alignment, so far as is practicable, with the EU’s AVMS Directive," said the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS)'s consultation on the issue. It has asked for responses to the plans to be submitted to it by 31st October.

The most important change to the rules will relate to their coverage. The regulations will no longer apply simply to television content, but to video on demand services.

The revised Convention uses very similar language to that used in the AVMS Directive to define what it means by audio-visual and on demand services. Like the AVMS definitions, they are likely to be taken to include internet-based on demand television.

"'Audiovisual media service' means a service which is under the editorial responsibility of a media service provider and the principal purpose of which is the provision of programmes in order to inform, entertain or educate, to the general public by means of an electronic communications network," says the proposed revision to the Convention. "Such audiovisual media services are either television broadcasts or on-demand services and/or audiovisual commercial communication."

The Convention does not include home-made audio visual material, such as that which someone would post to a sharing site such as YouTube. It only includes commercial material.

"These services may take any form of economic activity but exclude activities which are primarily non economic and which are not in competition with television broadcasting," its amendments say.

EU Directives take precedence over the Convention, so the conduct of companies in two EU member states is unaffected by its rules. The conduct of an EU state and a non-EU CoE member state that has signed up to the rules is affected, though.

The Government said that its relations with broadcasters in nine countries would be affected. They are Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Moldova, Montenegro, San Marino, Switzerland, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey.

The Convention also governs the retransmission of services and orders states to allow material which complies with the rules in the Convention to be re-transmitted into their country, with exceptions for material which breaks the rules of the Convention or broadcasting rules in the country of first broadcast.

The CoE has also changed slightly its rules on the provision of short extracts of newsworthy events. It has always required broadcasters in member countries to provide short clips of events of major interest to the public for news bulletins, even when the broadcaster has exclusive rights to that footage.

The Government said that it is consulting with the UK Intellectual Property Office on this issue, but that the earlier version of this requirement, in place since 1989, has had "no practical effect on UK broadcasters, either in terms of their own access to footage for news purposes or in terms of being asked to provide news access for broadcasters in other Council of Europe Contracting States".

The Government has asked for responses to the initial consultation by 31st October, and the CoE has said that a more formal consultation will take place at the end of the year.