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Video services

Schwinging Britain

5:50 AM -- Jeremy Hunt, the U.K. government minister for Culture, Media, and Sport, is working towards a Communications Bill that will set a new agenda for the regulation of media and communications services in the U.K., he announced during a speech Wednesday at the Oxford Television Convention.

Much of the media coverage of his speech, such as this BBC report, focused on his ideas for the creation of local TV stations that could schwing open the door to any British publicity-hungry media wannabees keen to develop their own versions of Wayne's World.

But his speech also hinted that he'll examine the possibility of trying to regulate the delivery of content to computers over the public Internet, specifically over-the-top (OTT) video services. "Whether we’re watching a broadcast live or though catch-up services, via a TV or a computer, it’s the content that matters, rather than the delivery mechanism. So should it continue to be the case that the method of delivery has a significant impact on the method of regulation? Or should we be looking at a more platform-neutral approach?" stated Hunt.

That's going to be an interesting debate, especially if we get to find out which organizations with vested interests will suggest to Hunt that he should indeed try to regulate all multimedia content delivered over broadband (fixed or mobile) connections to U.K. consumers.

And it's likely to raise some groans around the rest of Europe too, believes Tony Ballard, a partner at London-based media and entertainment law firm Harbottle & Lewis. "The real point that emerges from his speech… that they are going to look again at whether content should be regulated without regard to the method of delivery, will exasperate some European countries. The Labour government campaigned against extending content regulation to the internet on the basis that is was impractical and damaging to the international competitiveness of European TV services," states Ballard in an email comment sent to Light Reading.

— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

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