Media convergence - Communications Committee Contents


Chapter 7: Summary of recommendations

CONTENT STANDARDS: THE CHALLENGES AHEAD

203.  Broadcast licences should be amended to ensure that standards similar to those set out in the Ofcom Broadcasting Code, amended for the relevant environment, would apply to any service using the same channel name or brand as a licensed broadcast service. (Para 51)

204.  Ofcom should investigate the option of non-broadcast providers of TV-like services, such as Netflix and the content providers mentioned in Box 1, being invited to comply with an appropriate set of standards (the Broadcasting Code suitably amended for their environment) in return for some form of public recognition or kitemark. (Para 53)

A NEW CONTENT STANDARDS FRAMEWORK

205.  The Government should introduce a new power in the next communications Bill for the Secretary of State to lay an order subject to the super-affirmative procedure which would amend that Act by:

·  establishing scope for Ofcom to introduce a common regulatory framework for TV and TV-like content and giving Ofcom authority to designate a co-regulator for that purpose;

·  moving non-PSB broadcasters from a licence based to a notification-based regulatory system and altering, where appropriate, any detailed content standards requirements set out in the Act for those non-PSB broadcasters.

In this way the Government can make good on its commitment to develop a policy with sufficient flexibility to remain relevant and adaptable to future advances, while being mindful of the need for the exercise of such flexibility to be suitably overseen by Parliament. (Para 84)

206.  The Bill should establish a duty for Ofcom to advise the Secretary of State on a regular basis (e.g. once every four years) about the timing of laying such an order, with the first such review to be conducted no later than 2016 (coinciding with Charter renewal). (Para 85)

207.  The Government should set out, after consultation, clear guidance to Ofcom on the considerations for Ofcom to take into account in giving advice regarding the establishment of a new system of co-regulation for all (non-PSB) TV and TV-like audiovisual services, whether broadcast or not. These considerations might, for example, include:

·  the demonstrable convergence in the markets for TV and TV-like content;

·  the extent to which disparity in the content standards codes for each is detrimental to audiences and to innovation;

·  the scope for reducing the burden of statutory regulations which are or have become unnecessary;[98]

·  the prospects of establishing adequate alternative arrangements which would secure effective co- or self-regulation. (Para 86)

208.  On each occasion in this report where a recommendation is made to the Government regarding the next communications Bill, these recommendations should be taken equally to apply to the forthcoming White Paper on communications as far as time allows. (Para 87)

209.  Once the regulatory area for TV and TV-like content has been established, the Government should press for provisions made in its code, as appropriate, to be incorporated into an amended AVMS Directive or its successor. (Para 91)

210.  Given the infrequency and pace of reviews of the AVMS Directive, the Government should also press the Commission to ensure a mechanism or forum is in place through which the relevant national regulators and co-regulators overseeing the fusing category of TV and TV-like content can share best practice and work towards voluntary harmonisation of their codes as far as possible. (Para 92)

211.  We urge the Government to ensure that cooperation on the regulation of converging media content, such as the category of TV and TV-like material, is included as part of the discussions between the EU and the US about the establishment of a free trade agreement. (Para 94)

212.  As part of a new system of co-regulation for all (non-PSB) TV and TV-like services, the relevant industry players should adopt a standard age-based classification system to be used by the content providers under the purview of the co-regulator described above. (Para 106)

213.  Further, given the pivotal role this is likely to play under the new framework, and given that audiences will need to adjust to this new way of prejudging (non-PSB) TV and TV-like content, the TV and TV-like industry should introduce a self-administered age-rating scheme sooner rather than later across (non-PSB) broadcast and TV-like services. While it would initially provide, to a certain degree, a redundant layer of protection for (non-PSB) broadcast TV already subject to the watershed, this redundancy in itself has value, as it will help to habituate audiences to the signals they will need to rely on in the new framework once some of the current protections they are used to, such as the watershed, are no longer in place. (Para 107)

214.  The Government should seek to influence amendment to the AVMS Directive to ensure that such an age-rating scheme is adopted by TV and TV-like providers across the European Union. (Para 108)

215.  While the use of an age-rating system would be required of (non-PSB) broadcasters and TV-like providers, PSBs could also be invited to use the new system, especially for their on demand content, so that it is applied consistently across the board. (Para 109)

216.  As part of a proposed co-regulatory model for TV and TV-like content providers, Ofcom and Government should consider, in consultation with the future press regulator, the implications of incorporating regulation of all non-PSB news and current affairs content into its remit, and removal of the impartiality requirement from those providers. (Para 119)

217.  Ofcom should at the same time consider arrangements for providers who combine news and general entertainment in a single TV or TV-like service. (Para 120)

218.  In establishing a co-regulator for TV and TV-like content providers, Ofcom should investigate the option of non-PSB providers of news services, such as Sky News, being invited to comply with the Broadcasting Code (suitably amended for their environment if TV-like) in return for some form of public recognition or kitemark. (Para 122)

219.  While we have made a number of specific recommendations for action on the part of both the Government and Ofcom, we also invite them to respond critically to the new framework as set out above in overview. (Para 124)

A SAFER INTERNET

220.  The next communications Bill should establish a more pro-active role for Ofcom regarding the internet than has been the case to date, to be reflected in Ofcom's general duties. (Para 140)

221.  Specifically, Ofcom should be required, in dialogue with UK citizens and key industry players, to establish and publish on a regular basis the UK public's expectations of major digital intermediaries such as ISPs and other digital gateways, specifically with regard to protecting UK audiences and their families when accessing content through digital intermediaries' services, covering for example:

·  The scope of their responsibilities (given they are not always in direct control of the content to which they provide access);

·  Appropriate processes for receiving complaints and subsequent redress;

·  Any specific measures, such as access controls, content classification systems, or other actions which the UK public might expect them to take in protecting children from harmful material. (Para 141)

222.  In publishing the UK public's expectations of major digital intermediaries, Ofcom should also carry out periodic reviews to establish their current performance against them. Ofcom should have no sanction or reward for successful or insufficient action, not least because of jurisdictional problems of enforcement. Should these reviews reveal a major concern on the part of the UK public, which the industry repeatedly and without reason fails to respond to, Ofcom would then be required to advise the Secretary of State. (Para 143)

CONTENT CREATION

223.  We recommend that as preparation for the next BBC Charter Review, the Government consider fundamental strategic questions surrounding the PSB system as an interconnected whole and the potential impact of convergence: what is the right scale and scope of PSB, what purposes should it serve and how can it be best sustained in a converged world? Such consideration could be informed by the work of Ofcom's periodic reviews of the current state of PSB, and should include the role not just of the BBC but of other providers such as Channel 4. (Para 159)

224.  We recommend that the Government consider the implications of changes in the way that public service content will be discovered and accessed by viewers on new connected TVs and other converged devices, and specifically what interventions on prominence and 'must carry online' obligations may be appropriate in non-linear environments. (Para 165)

225.  We recommend that existing prominence regulation is updated, to include these new forms of access, and their electronic guides, and to ensure in particular, as far as possible, that the on demand services offered by PSBs gain due prominence on any relevant "home" screen or guide used by those devices to direct users to content. (Para 166)

226.  We recommend that, as part of its current work in re-planning the UHF spectrum, Ofcom helps secure the future of DTT by making available sufficient spectrum to support a sustainable DTT platform for the future, capable of delivering a sufficient range of services to remain attractive to audiences, and provide a competitive broadcast platform. The Government and Ofcom should also consider how best to manage the costs of any transition to the new spectrum, especially those costs which might be incurred by audiences if they need to acquire new receivers and antenna as part of the change. (Para 171)

227.  While welcoming Ofcom's proposal to delay introduction of AIP for DTT until 2020, we recommend that, following the current consultation process and before any move is made to full AIP, Ofcom should consider further the risks and benefits involved in introducing AIP for DTT. As part of that analysis, Ofcom should be asked fully to assess the impact that spectrum pricing will have on the funding available for high quality PSB. If any adverse effect seems likely, we recommend that AIP is only introduced once the Government has proposed alternative funding or other plans for offsetting that impact. (Para 177)

228.  We endorse the view that the BBC should not become a publisher broadcaster, and cannot support an arbitrary change to the BBC's WoCC. However, given its importance to the creative sector as a whole, we recommend that the costs and benefits of further extending the BBC's external commissioning quota should be assessed by the Government as part of the next Charter Review: how large can the window of creative competition grow (how slim can the in-house guarantee become) while retaining an optimal and sustainable level of in house production at the BBC? (Para 182)

COMPETITION

229.  We recommend that Government should, in the forthcoming White Paper and communications Bill, consider clarification of Ofcom's existing ex ante competition powers for the audiovisual sector. The aim of such clarification should be to enable Ofcom to take effective action where necessary, but also to ensure a high hurdle before an ex ante approach can be adopted. (Para 197)

  1. In the run up to the next BBC Charter Review, we recommend that the Government invite the BBC Trust to consider how best to make progress on two fronts: enhancing the BBC's overall economic impact, and reassuring the market that there are effective safeguards in place, possibly through the use of periodic and independent market impact reviews. (Para 202)



98   This could be based on Ofcom's existing duties to review regulatory burdens which are currently set out in section 6 of the 2003 Communications Act. Back


 
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