Commission denies stifling new media with TV regulation

The European Commission has said that proposed regulations on European television will not destroy new media business models. An industry lobby group had previously said that regulation would restrict advertising income for new media projects.

The Mobile Entertainment Forum (MEF) said last week that extending the Television Without Frontiers (TVWF) Directive to new media broadcasting would be damaging. The move would "risk dramatically reducing Europe’s competitive edge and stifling innovation," according to an MEF statement.

The group claimed that any regulation of advertising as strict as that designed for traditional – or linear – television would threaten advertising revenues. But a Commission spokesman has said that even if new media services are regulated the same rules will not apply to them as currently apply to television.

"There will be no restrictions on the amount of advertising on non-linear services," spokesman Martin Selmayr told news site ZDNet UK. "Content will be subject to minimum rules. Advertisements must be identified – there is a transparency requirement."

The MEF represents mobile phone networks and content companies and opposes the application of traditional regulation to a new industry.

“We agree that an effective legislative framework will create the level playing field necessary to foster technology and service innovation, however we feel the proposed amends to the TWF Directive are premature and could stifle the growth of the nascent mobile entertainment industry," said MEF chairman Patrick Parodi.

"New user-centric mobile video and music applications are some of the fastest growing, most innovative audio and video services in the world," said Parodi. "For Europe to become the region where these services are first developed, it will need to adopt a regulatory framework that provides the sufficient breathing room for these to find a place in the market and evolve to fit the needs of consumers."

The MEF has submitted a paper outlining its concerns to Viviane Reding, the Commissioner for information society and media.

The Commission's spokesman told ZDNet that the Commission plans to subject new media broadcasting to a set of minimum standards that fell far short of those for traditional television makers. "Today the mobile industry is part of daily life and provides all kinds of content," he said. "It should abide by minimum rules."

Regulation of the growing number of forms of media is already posing problems for law makers. A new international broadcasting treaty under negotiation by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) caused significant upset amongst podcasters in June.

The treaty also plans to apply some principles of traditional media to new media, which drew the ire of new media content creators.

"We don't mind regulation, we just want it to be reasonable," Dean Whitbread, chairman of the UK Podcasters' Association, told OUT-LAW at the time. "Podcasting and broadcasting are not the same. I don't think as podcasters we should be subject to the same legislation."