UK balks as EU moves to regulate Internet broadcasts

EU considering regulation of Internet broadcasting, Google and others opposed, British minister steps into the fray.

ZDNet  UK reports that the British broadcasting minister, James Purnell, is resisting proposed changes to the EU's Broadcasting Without Frontiers directive. Drafted in 1989, the directive makes no mention of the Internet and some EU countries want to update it.

The Commission has proposed that TV services over the Internet, or to mobile phones, would be subject only to "a basic set of minimum principles" that would seek to protect minors, prevent incitement to racial hatred and outlaw surreptitious advertising.

Purnell, though, has indicated that the U.K. government will oppose the EC's actions. He instead supports a continuation of today's system of self-regulation.

"There is no benefit to the consumer that justifies this move. This increased scope could mean significant regulation of the Internet and stifle the growth of new media services. That would raise prices for consumers and deprive them of potential new services," Purnell said last week, according to the Sunday Telegraph.

The Telegraph also reported that Google objects to the proposed change to the directive but ZD reports that Google has denied leading the charge. More from Purnell as reported in the Telegraph:

If the proposals became part of European law, Purnell said, "in 10 years our successors will bemoan the handicaps we gave to European industry and the restraints we put on free speech".

"For example, the proposals suggest that member states should ensure that media service providers. . . do not offer material which contains incitement to hatred on grounds of, for example, disability or age. I'm the last person to say that issues like this are not important and of course we have been discussing race and religious hatred in our own Parliament only recently.

"But what that debate showed was that these are wide-ranging issues on which there are different, strongly and legitimately held opinions and where intervention must have the strongest justification. Some member states - and I don't just mean the UK - will have serious difficulties with such an approach on grounds of freedom of speech."