UK leads charge against EU online regulation

An alliance of IT firms and ISPs is campaigning against proposed revisions to an EU directive on online broadcasting

The UK's IT and telecoms industry has launched a scathing attack on a proposed new EU directive that would extend TV regulation to online broadcasting.

Brussels is proposing major changes to the existing Television without Frontiers directive that has governed broadcasting regulation in the EU since 1989.

The changes would extend regulation to cover a broad range of new and emerging audiovisual media services including Internet broadcasts.

An alliance of broadcasting, telecoms, technology, new media and advertising bodies led by UK IT industry body Intellect and the Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG) claims the changes will be damaging for players in the emerging online broadcasting market.

The alliance claims there is already enough existing legislation and self-regulation and that the proposed changes to the directive will deter new and existing new media players from the market and divert investment and innovation away from the EU.

Antony Walker, chief executive of the BSG, said in a statement: "As currently drafted, this directive is likely to confuse businesses, overwhelm regulators and let down consumers. The proposed scope is too broad and the definitions used too vague.

"The result could be an all-encompassing regulatory framework that takes five years to implement, undermines existing safeguards and proves largely unenforceable."

His comments echo those made by the James Purnell, the broadcasting minister, who made it clear in January the government is also opposed to the changes. At the time, he told the Sunday Telegraph: "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."