When: October 2015
Law stated as at: 19 November 2015
UK communications regulator Ofcom announced that it is bringing the regulation of video-on-demand (VOD) programme services in-house, to sit alongside its regulation of broadcast content.
VOD programme services are currently regulated in the UK primarily by the Authority for Television On Demand (ATVOD), after statutory regulator Ofcom designated ATVOD as a co-regulator in 2010 – with an appeal process to Ofcom. However following a review Ofcom has decided that going forward it should be the sole regulator for both VOD programme services and broadcasting. It believes that this should give rise to operational efficiencies and should be “a more effective model”.
With effect from 1 January 2016, ATVOD will hand its responsibility for regulating VOD programme services back to Ofcom.
Why this matters:
At this stage there is no proposal that the Rules and Guidance published by ATVOD for providers of on-demand programme services should be amended, and it seems likely that a number of existing ATVOD personnel would transfer over to Ofcom. Further, regulation of advertising content on VOD services is still devolved to the Advertising Standards Authority under a separate co-regulation arrangement between Ofcom and the ASA.
So in many ways it will be “business as usual” for VOD regulation but with ATVOD dropping out of the picture and Ofcom taking primary responsibility for non-advertising regulation.
For advertisers, one key difference in the new regime will be in relation to the risk profile for product placement and commercial references in VOD programming, in that Ofcom has a wider range of sanctions available to it than ATVOD. Sanctions include financial penalties of up to 5% of an on-demand service provider’s applicable qualifying revenue or £250,000 (whichever is greater). While those powers could always be applied on a referral from ATVOD, they will be readily available to Ofcom as primary regulator under the new regime.