Streaming Peacefully - The Must-Knows for Audiovisual Media Service Providers



GDPR made many companies sit up and take notice of data. Most knew they had obligations, many were acting as they should, however with GDPR came the prospect of eye-watering fines, and this made directors listen. A new Regulation coming out of Europe is reverberating just as loudly amongst audiovisual media service providers, and for the same reason: the prospect of big fines. Unlike GDPR, it marks a shift change in the way these businesses will need to conduct themselves.

In the first of a two-part blog, we go over the basics, providing an overview of the existing regulations that audiovisual media service providers need to know. In part two, we will introduce you to the new kid on the block, the Audio Visual Media Services Directive and it’s UK counterpart, the Visual Services Platform Regulation.

Setting the Scene

Over the last decade, new technology has transformed the way that we consume content. It’s 2003. The Sugarbabes are at their peak, flying high. David Beckham has left Fergie’s United to become a Galactico. You’ve waited all week, and your favourite X-Factor contestants are about to sing for survival. The ad-break arrives and you have two minutes to sprint to the kitchen, put the kettle on, let the dog out, make the teas, retrieve the dog and arrive back in your seat in time for Dermot O’Leary’s all-too familiar introduction. Were you distracted by the ring of your landline? Did waiting for the kettle cause you to miss your favourite contestant’s performance? Too bad. In  2003 hitting pause on live TV just wasn’t a thing.

Fast-forward to 2020. You are sitting on the sofa and decide that you want to watch an episode of the X Factor. Clearly, little has changed. Except, now you can retrieve any episode of the X Factor instantly and watch it on demand. In fact, if you want to save time, you can choose between the full episode or the YouTube highlights. If you are away from your TV, you can just pull it up on your phone. Commuting on the underground? No problem, there is 4G down there now. Don’t want to waste your 4G? No worries, you foresaw your need for a dose of Simon and downloaded the episode in advance. In 2020, content is always available. If you have an internet connection and a subscription with a media provider, you can dive straight in at any time.

The structure under which we experience audiovisual media has been completely overhauled. In fact, the continued rate of technological development means that it is constantly morphing. Unsurprisingly, the regulatory landscape has transformed too. In an effort to keep up with the rapidly changing landscape, governments have been churning out legislation to ensure that appropriate controls and restrictions are in place.

If you are an audiovisual media service provider, i.e. if you share or stream video content, there is now a web of regulation which needs to be observed and complied with. If you are not already aware of the varying national and international laws in place, now is the time to get a grip on them. The world has changed and the law has changed with it. In the all-too familiar words of Dermot O’Leary:

“It is time. To face. The muuusic.”

At Lawbox, we have been keeping an eye on the regulations that affect audiovisual media providers. If you are providing an audiovisual media service it’s likely that you’ll need to think about the cross jurisdictional nature of your service, which means keeping an eye on our national changes in the UK as well as any EU level regulations which may apply to you.

We’ve set out some of our favourites below:

EU Level Regulation

The European Union has issued a swathe of directives, aiming to ensure that video streamers and content sharers do so responsibly. The following regulations apply to all EU member states (and potentially transposed into UK following Brexit) and should be observed:

The Audiovisual Media Directive will govern the EU wide coordination of national legislation on all audiovisual media.  It will establish the fundamental principles for a safe and open landscape for all audiovisual services including both traditional tv broadcasts and on-demand services.

The Digital Services Act which sets to update the EU’s legal framework by modernising the E-Commerce Directive which will mean new legislation regarding illegal content, transparent advertising as well as many other day to day requirements for businesses.

The Copyright Directive which aims to create more favourable conditions for cross border distribution of tv and radio programmes online and increase the availability of audiovisual works.

UK Regulation

Of course, in the UK, we have our own set of laws (whether by transposition or otherwise) that apply to audiovisual media providers which also need to be observed. They include:

The Video Sharing Platform Regulations which (like it’s EU counterpart, the AVMSD above) focusses on whether services have taken appropriate measures to protect users from harm.

The UK Copyright Directive, a direct copy of the EU Directive mentioned above; and

The UK Age Appropriate Design Code Compliance  which sets out the standards expected of those responsible for designing, developing or providing online services likely to be accessed by children and which may process their data (including apps, social media platform, online games to name a few).

Let’s also not forget the general Online Harms agenda on the government’s docket and awaiting formal approval!

These regulations restrict audiovisual media providers in a myriad of ways. Some prevent the spreading of hate speech, while others protect children from illicit content. Some govern the way that data must be handled, while others set out stringent sanctions for those that act outside of the law. Their application is broad, and failure to act responsibly and remain on top of your obligations under these rules could prove costly.

At Lawbox, we are prepared. We are currently advising some of the most exciting streaming providers out there and are well placed to guide you through the murky waters.

If you are concerned about how any of the above regulations might impact on your business, get in touch! We would love to chat about how you can best prepare for these.  As with all new regulations, there is likely to be much to do to prepare your business, both as part of your general compliance programme as well as day to day practices you will need to introduce.  Whatever it is, we can help.

Involved in audiovisual media?
Want help navigating the murky waters of regulation?
Get in touch!