UK Frets Over Internet Policing

LONDON – With the European Union proposing a continental “Television without Frontiers” program focusing on standardization of content ratings throughout its 25 member countries, British authorities worry they might not have time or resources to monitor television content on the Internet.

British media watchdog Ofcom also fears that patrolling the Web for sites infringing on standards of taste and decency might chill innovation within the EU’s web community, especially since citizens can procure content produced elsewhere.

Ofcom is an independent regulator and “competition authority” dealing with everything from radio licenses to broadcasts over cell phones. It has numerous professional and citizens’ advisory committees to comment on UK communications industries and media.

"(Television without Frontiers) seems to be geared to extending traditional broadcasting regulation into new media and the internet,” said Ofcom’s Robin Foster. "The slight worry is that it takes a very regulatory approach to new media, which may have a number of benefits, but it may not be positive and may stop new ideas developing in a broadband world.”

Ofcom suggests a media literacy program to allow surfers to choose for themselves the pages they view. “We shouldn't just assume that we should regulate," Foster said.

British authorities are also watching the web in search of child pornography. Reports have surfaced in the past month that the child porn stings are “too successful” and have created 18-month case backlogs. The fear is that adhering to an EU standard of Internet content might be unenforceable in light of existing burdens on UK police.