NMA Welcomes Press Freedom Assurances On VSP Regime

The News Media Association has welcomed Government commitments to press freedom and assurances that online newspapers will remain outside of the regime for video sharing regulation.

Responding to Ofcom’s call for evidence on video sharing regulation, the NMA said it appreciated “constructive dialogue” with Ofcom and Government on newspaper and the scope of the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive and its implementation in UK law.  

“As Ofcom is aware, the NMA’s chief concern is that there should be no extension of regulatory scope in respect of online newspapers and video content beyond the limits of the current AVMSD regime,” the NMA said.  

“We therefore welcomed the Government’s response to the public consultations on AVMS implementation (May 2019) and its assurances that the revised AVMSD makes no material change to the current situation.”

In its response, the Government cited NMA evidence on the issue and went to reiterate that news media websites would not be within the scope of the online harms regime.  

It said: “The Government is committed to protecting the freedom of the press and recognises that a vibrant and free press plays an invaluable role in our cultural and democratic life.

It added: “Stakeholders representing the news and publishing industry also expressed concern over a potential increase in scope of regulation. The NMA stated that it ‘would strongly oppose any government proposals for implementation of the revised AVMSD, including all the new regulatory requirements relating to video sharing platforms, or related legislation including the online harms white paper, which might deliberately or inadvertently extend and impose AVMSD or related requirements, restrictions, liabilities and sanctions upon news publishers, newspaper websites, content and services where these are outside the scope of the AVMSD.’

“The Government maintains its position that while newspaper websites remain outside the scope of the 2018 Directive and the future online harms framework, standalone parts of newspapers’ websites providing video services which are independent of the journalistic activities in content and form do fall into scope.

“The use of videos on websites, blogs and news portals which are connected to the journalistic activities falls outside the scope of the new provisions. This change reflects existing case law of the European Court of Justice on the issue, which found that the concept of a programme within the AVMS Directive includes video under the sub-domain of a newspaper website.”

The NMA  that the implementation of the legislation, the regulator’s guidance  and the regulator’s oversight of the new regime must be carefully framed to avoid bringing online newspapers and their content, whether on newspapers’ own websites or on third party platforms into scope of the revised AVMSD as implemented and then retained in UK law.