New EU Rules Could Hinder Internet Media/Mobile

Gretchen Gallen
BRUSSELS – Online media might be feeling a crimp if the EU has its way in drafting a new set of rules that could restrict video broadcasts and third-generation mobile content.

The proposed EU broadcasting law, an update to the 1989 Television Without Frontiers directive, puts traditional broadcasters on equal footing with “new media” ventures and imposes severe restrictions on the use of hate speech, advertising and content that is inappropriate for children.

According to the EU, its aim in drafting the rules is to level the playing field between TV and “TV-like” media services. The law would uphold the same regulations on big companies broadcasting television as well as audiovisual media.

Demand for an updated law is in large part at the behest of state-run broadcasters who want to see media regulation extended to the Internet.

In order to pass the EU, the proposed law will need the backing of the European Parliament and 25 European Union governments before it can take effect.

But critics are crying foul, saying that the law is too broad, unenforceable and would hinder innovation and the development of new technologies and content rollout.

Even the European Internet Services Providers Association has expressed doubts that the law will be effective, questioning its clarity and the scope of its governance.

The most vocal opponent of the proposed law so far is a group of leading technology companies including Yahoo, Intel, Cisco Systems, ITV and Vodafone that claim the new rules will only restrict emerging media formats and could have "unintended consequences” on the Internet and mobile industries.

"Many services unconnected to scheduled broadcast television will be unintentionally caught," the group said in a statement. "Citizen media such as blogs, video-casts and the like are one of the most exciting developments enabled by new technology. This phenomenon has the potential to create new businesses ... but this proposed regulation severely risks stunting its growth.”

A Parliament vote is expected in several months.