Ofcom Seeks Public Comment Over Proposed Changes

Ofcom Seeks Public Comment Over Proposed Changes
Rhett Pardon

LONDON — Ofcom, now the U.K.’s sole regulator for video-on-demand services, plans on procedural changes as it takes its reins.

In a paper that spells out Ofcom’s new authority as well as its needs for alterations, the British communications czar said that there will “need to be some consequential changes” to reflect the ending of the co-regulatory model involving ATVOD.

ATVOD, the former co-regulating authority, was responsible for making sure VOD providers operating in the U.K. pay fees, employ an effective system that verifies that users are 18 or over at the point of registration and not stream "prohibited material," or content that would be denied a British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) certificate.

Ofcom plans on seeking public comment from stakeholders on proposed new procedures for investigating breaches of rules relating to editorial content and age verification.

It also seeks consultation on whether the agency should abolish regulatory fees that ATVOD imposed.

The agency said it later intends on publishing a revised set of rules and guidance in the first half of 2016, aligned more closely in format, tone and style to the U.K.’s Broadcasting Code.

“The end of the co-regulatory regime automatically means that there is no appeal process from ATVOD to Ofcom,” Ofcom said in a report. “An internal review process is retained in the interim, and ODPS providers have an appeal route via judicial review in the High Court.

“ATVOD was a much smaller organization than Ofcom, with limited opportunity for internal governance and decision making involving individuals not directly involved in the original investigation. It is neither appropriate nor necessary to replicate ATVOD’s Determinations Committee, nor to have board-level involvement in typical cases.”

After public comment, Ofcom said it would publish responses from stakeholders and give reasons for its decisions, along with “an account of how the views of those concerned helped shape those decisions.”

Ofcom invites written comment over the future regulation of VOD program services to be submitted by 5 p.m. on March 1. The web form is available here.

Mailed comments can be sent to: Ofcom, "Consultation on ODPS procedures and fees," Riverside House, 2A Southwark Bridge Road, London SE1 9HA.

View Ofcom paper