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by Mike Zazaian October 18, 2006 - 4:45pm, 3 Comments

EU May Censor Online Video Content

The British Government is seeking to stop an EU directive that would force any website featuring video clips to register as a Television-Like Service.

A Revision of the existing Television Without Frontiers Directive (TWFD) would force all websites and mobile phone companies that use video to register in the same way that a television station would. Implemented in 1989, the TWFD not only registers and documents all broadcast video streams, but reserves the right to censor content that impair[s] the physical, mental or moral development of minors. A revision of the TWFD this year could include Internet to the list of controlled mediums, allowing EU officials to censor the content of websites at their discretion.

Despite the obvious civil rights violations that could ensue from such a policy, UK Media Commissioner Viviane Reding argues that the purpose is simply to set minimum standards on areas such as advertising, hate speech and the protection of children. Many UK officials are strongly opposed to the directive, however, citing that such restrictions would cause enormous inconveniences in the everyday operations of the ‘Net. Said UK Broadcasting Minister Shaun Woodward Shaun Woodward:

Supposing you set up a website for your amateur rugby club, uploaded some images and added a link advertising your local sports shop. You would then be a supplier of moving images and need to be licensed and comply with the regulations.

In addition to the hindrances it would cause, opposing forces such as UK media-regulator Ofcom fear that the directive would drive ‘Net-based businesses out of the EU. Minister Woodward echoed similar sentiments:

The real risk is we drive out the next MySpace because of the cost of complying with unnecessary regulations. These businesses can easily operate outside the EU.

Thus far Slovakia is the only country that has pledged support. However, other countries will likely show support for the TWFD amendment prior to a key EU Council meeting on November 13.

In its defense, the EU has stated that most of the nations that would be affected by the agreement already have statutes in place that criminalize the sort of broadcasts that the directive seeks to eliminate on the Web. The EU added that it’s simply trying to harmonize the policies of its nations into a consistent framework, not launch an internet censorship department.

Despite the claim, Minister Woodward maintains that there is no excuse for such legislation:

It’s common sense. If it looks like a TV program and sounds like one then it probably is. A program transmitted by a broadcaster over the net could be covered by extending existing legislation. But video clips uploaded by someone is not television. YouTube and MySpace should not be regulated.

[via The Times]

[via ars technica]