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Ofcom appoints former trade body to regulate on-demand video

Media regulator has appointed the Association for Television on Demand (ATVOD) as the new regulator for video on demand material. Companies offering video on demand services must now notify ATVOD under new EU rules.24 Mar 2010

The Audiovisual Media Services (AVMS) Directive replaced the Television Without Frontiers Directive and established regulatory control over video on demand services, which means television-like programming offered over digital networks. The regulation does not cover user-generated video websites such as YouTube.

The UK's implementation of the Directive demands that a co-regulator be chosen by Ofcom to receive notification from companies running on demand services.

Ofcom has chosen ATVOD to be that regulator and will provide the body with financial resources to carry out its new functions.

ATVOD has until now been an industry trade body that advised members on standards. To manage its new responsibilities ATVOD has restructured itself to give it more independence from the companies it will now have to regulate.

"To manage its new responsibilities ATVOD has restructured, to ensure independence from the industry’s commercial interests and to make sure that protection of the public is its top priority," said an ATVOD statement.

The newly appointed chair of the body will be former National Consumer Council chief executive and bar council chair Ruth Evans, who is also currently a non-executive director of another Ofcom-delegated co-regulator, PhonepayPlus.

The body has also appointed its first full time chief executive, former British Board of Film Classification policy head Pete Johnson.

“This is a landmark moment for Video On Demand services in the UK," said Johnson. "We believe that its balance of independence and industry expertise will enable ATVOD to regulate effectively and without placing undue burdens on a fast developing industry."

ATVOD said that it would publish guidance on what kinds of services must come under its regulation. It will hear complaints from the public about on demand services, but only after a complaint has been made to the provider itself, it said.

Ofcom outlined in December what regulation video on demand (VOD) content will have to abide by.

"The AVMS Directive requires that VOD editorial content complies with minimum standards," said Ofcom'. "In brief, these require that VOD editorial content: a) should not contain any incitement to hatred based on race, sex, religion or nationality; b) which might seriously impair the physical, mental, or moral development of minors is only made available in such a way that ensures that minors will not normally hear or see such content; c) should fulfil the rules on sponsorship laid down in the AVMS Directive; and d) may contain product placement, but only subject to conditions laid down in the AVMS Directive."

Ofcom said in December that ATVOD would be its co-regulator if it restructured itself. It also said that it anticipated that existing ad regulator the Advertising Standards Authority would regulate ads on VOD services.

The Directive also permits product placement in programmes, and the UK Government last year decided to allow product placement in UK-made programming for the first time.