Who Regulates The TV You Watch And Might Brexit Change The Channel?

69% of UK adults get their news from TV. Of course, the picture is more complicated than that and is changing fast: according to Ofcom only half of 16-24 year olds say they use TV for news compared to 90% of those aged 65+. Still, for the foreseeable future, broadcast media will continue to be hugely influential.

So, it is perhaps surprising that, under EU rules, not all companies broadcasting into the UK are regulated by Ofcom. If an individual wanted to complain about the content shown by any of these channels - about what they say or show, or how it is broadcast - then Ofcom would not be able to help. They would have to complain to the foreign regulator in the responsible EU country, usually in their language - and that is only possible once they've identified who regulates the particular channel in question. The process can be opaque, slow and unsatisfactory.

Economically, the UK has been the major beneficiary of this system, becoming Europe's leading broadcasting hub. Ofcom is the predominant regulator in the EU and this has brought jobs and revenue to our shores.

However, all this may change as the Government grapples with Brexit. Many in the UK broadcasting industry, including the Commercial Broadcasters Association (COBA), fear that legal and regulatory change may threaten revenue and jobs. EU cities such as Dublin and Amsterdam are reported to be looking to attract broadcasters currently based in the UK.

Unsurprisingly, Ofcom says that Brexit is the biggest challenge facing the sector. But is it also an opportunity to reimagine how the majority of our news is regulated?

Current regulations

Television broadcasts in the EU are regulated in accordance with the Audio Visual Media Services Directive 2010/13/EU ("AVMSD"). The key provisions of this are:

Article 2(2-4), which provides which Member State will regulate a media service provider. This is determined by: (a) where it is established (essentially, its head office is in the member state where editorial decisions are taken); and (b) if the media service provider is not established in any Member State, then the Member State where they use a satellite uplink, or where they use satellite capacity appertaining to that Member State. Article 3(1), which sets out the country of origin principle - Member States cannot restrict retransmission of content by other Member States into their territory. Member States may only derogate from this principle in extremely limited circumstances...

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