Digital convergence within the realms of television and internet: UK regulation and the European approach Essay


Globalization is forcing the boundaries of what is accessible and how information can be spread across state boundary lines through the Internet and digital telecasting. While the chances of what can be accomplished with digital convergence are exciting, there are besides a figure of regulative and legal power issues that affect both the European Union and the United Kingdom. This paper foremost examines the tendencies behind digital media convergence in order to understand what it does, what it can supply, and how it creates both chances and challenges. From at that place, a history of ordinances and regulative organic structures in the U.K. will be discussed to exemplify how one state being praised for its advanced attack to convergence is covering with the rapid alterations, and this will be compared and contrasted to what the European Union is making in respects to the same issues environing convergence.

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Tendencies in Digital Media Convergence

The term, convergence, has many applications in today’s technology-based planetary society. It “refers to the turning tendency for digital content accessible by multiple devices across multiple platforms, such as Television or nomadic phones, driven by turning telecoms substructure and consumer appetency for on-demand services” ( Arnott 2005: 1 ) . Technology and consumer involvement in amusement and information from other parts of the universe has pushed the construct of digital convergence frontward. It has caused consumers to travel off from traditional media merchandises, such as newspapers, movies, and Cadmiums and choose for that same information as bundles of bytes on the Internet or telecasting ( Pereira 2003: 2 ) . Economically, convergence will do a enormous impact. Harmonizing to Deloitte, it estimates that on a world-wide footing, convergence will “lead to $ 1 trillion displacement in ratings and grosss in the convergence sectors by 2010, ” which “represents both a riotous menace and a immense chance for companies across a broad and fast traveling sector of the UK economy” ( Intellect 2005: 4 ) .

Many believe that there is great benefit to be derived for consumers from convergence in footings of “increasing competition and diverseness in bing services, making synergisms or economic systems of range from common proviso of once separate services, and bring forthing exciting new services” ( Marsden 1988: 7 ) . Convergence is besides believed to be “fragmenting the distribution market” and “speeding commoditisation” ( Griffiths 2005: 1 ) . Basically, harmonizing to OFCOM Chief Executive Stephen Carter, this means that “for consumers and concerns, these services are going cheaper, faster, more capable and even more important” ( Light Reading Europe 2005: 1 ) . As the Chair of the OFCOM Content Board said:

The bulk of families now have digital multichannel telecasting and entree to digital wireless. Additionally, audio-visual content through the Internet, a medium unregulated by OFCOM, is increasing. These technological developments, altering forms of usage and wider developments in societal attitudes to airing lead to go oning alterations in audience outlooks ( Hooper 2003: 1 ) .

Many believe that “interactive services and facets of the Internet which are appealing to consumers may look on telecasting sets and be more readily accessible at that place to more people than broadcast telecasting on a PC” ( Marsden 1998: 4 ) . It is this interconnectivity that “will enable entirely new attacks to the mass media, and to how people communicate and express themselves in society” ( Mobbs 2002: 2 ) .

In add-on to the technological alterations being quickly accepted by consumers and content suppliers, the saloon on consumer outlooks has risen even higher. For illustration, “audiences expect disputing and originative content, while besides desiring those criterions to be maintained and, in peculiar, kids to be protected from unsuitable material” while others want to guarantee that there is no violation of free address and thoughts, which is what makes convergence so appealing to people around the universe ( Hooper 2003: 1-2 ) . As one industry expert noted that the whole construct of convergence has less to make with engineering and more to make with ordinance:

Digital, multimedia, on-demand telecasting might supply us with 500 channels, but the quality, content, interactivity, interoperability and dependability of those Stationss will be a map, less of engineering, than of the regulative model in which it is allowed to develop ( Marsden 1998: 3 ) .

Therefore, it is of import to reexamine all the ways ordinance – from content and ownership limitations to economic ordinance and proficient interoperability ( Marsden 1998: 4 ) – has affected and now seems to be driving the motion of convergence. For illustration, many believe that digital telecasting will function to oppugn the justification of current ordinances due to the figure of suppliers and “lower entry barriers” ( Marsden 1988: 7 ) .

In the U.K. , it has been estimated that the state is on class to be to the full convergent by 2012 ( Arnott 2005: 1 ) . Presently, digital broadcast medium transmittal already has a market portion of 57 per cent in the U.K. while digital tellurian telecasting could be accessible to up to 71 per cent and is now working on a program to present it to 97 per cent of the population, which is good in progress of the other EU member provinces ( Europa 2005: 1 ) . Recently, the BBC was allowed to travel in front with its iPlayer, which will let consumers to download and hive away telecasting series and ticker shows streamed over the Internet ( BBC News 2007: 1 ) . For the U.K. to accomplish this, it has been recommended that ordinance, industry and authorities work more closely together to take “traditional silos” for a “more coordinated approach” that will “reflect the altering environment” ( Arnott 2005: 1 ) .

There is a great concern that “burdensome ordinances and barriers will restrict new entrants, delay the debut of new merchandises and services to consumers, and stunt overall growth” ( Intellect 2005: 20 ) . In order to understand what this means and estimate the existent deductions of over-regulation, it is of import to reexamine the history of the U.K.’s ordinances and authorities engagement in footings of media.

United kingdomDigital Television and Internet Convergence Regulation

Since the 1980s, there has been deregulating and denationalization of the media and the U.K. with a figure of regulative actions created to react to the altering media channels and convergence with telecasting and the Internet. While the BBC chiefly regulates its ain broadcast medium services, OFCOM has taken on a greater function since 2003 ( Doyle 2006: 1 ) . Before that, there were a figure of regulative motions. This included the 1990 Broadcasting Act, the 1996 Broadcasting Act focused on the development of digital services, and the 2003 Communications Act that created OFCOM ( Doyle 2006: 1 ) . The Broadcasting Act of 1990 was due, in portion, to Margaret Thatcher in which she proposed ordinances to apportion commercial telecasting licences to the highest bidder ( Harvey 2006: 94 ) .

Part of this motion toward ordinance has been based on the wider usage of the Internet and digital telecasting, including the increasing handiness to broadband services through overseas telegram and fiber-optic links ( Mobbs 2002: 6 ) . With certain limitations being placed on broadband, other services, including radio and satellite systems, are turning in popularity to go on accessing these convergent media services ( Mobbs 2002: 6 ) . Other regulative issues are stemming signifier the usage of proprietary systems that lay claim to information and other rational belongings or the ability to stream sound and picture or download media cartridge holders ( Mobbs 2002: 6-7 ) . The argument furies in the U.K. about whether or non ordinances around this activity are hindering the human right of freedom of look ( Mobbs 2002: 7 ) .

The greatest reform did come in 2003 with the Communications Act and creative activity of OFCOM because alterations were necessary in order to “respond to the technological communications revolution and the phenomenon of convergence” ( Barendt 2003: 1 ) . Additionally, there was consensus that past regulative administration was excessively complicated and needed simplification if the U.K. was traveling to set up itself as “the world’s taking advanced market for convergent communications package, content and technology” ( Barendt 2003: 1 ) . OFCOM would be comprised of experts with an “in-depth cognition of all facets of the communications sector” ( Towers Perrin et. Al. 2002: 6 ) . Their end would be to “ensure the widest possible pick of diverse communications services of the highest quality, ” vouching that the U.K. keeps up with the rapid alterations that convergence has created ( Towers Perrin et. Al. 2002: 6 ) .

In returning to the end of simplification, OFCOM was formed to replace a figure of bureaus that seemed excess or that could non turn to the new tendency of convergence. The phased out regulative organic structures included bureaus that were considered sector-specific ( Cowie and Marsden 1998: 13 ) , such as ITC, Radio Authority, Broadcast Standards Commission, Radiocommunications Agency, and Oftel ( Barendt 2003: 1 ) . OFCOM would enable the U.K. to accomplish “greater trust on self-regulation by broadcasters of qualitative standards” ( Barendt 2003: 1 ) . Despite the farther powers of OFCOM, the BBC has remained under the general legal power of the authorities ( Barendt 2003: 2 ) .

While OFCOM does non hold legal power over the Internet, the past twosome of old ages have hinted at the possibility that ordinance will be an option due to the fact that the boundaries between telecasting and the Internet are acquiring blurred as more Internet service suppliers are streaming picture content ( BBC News 2005: 1 ) . The concern so becomes protecting consumers while leting freedom of address ( BBC News 2005: 1 ) . It becomes a slippery state of affairs because Internet service suppliers claim that they are non responsible for what they carry on their waiters and were dubbed “mere conduits” in 2002 by the Law Commission ( BBC News 2005: 2 ) . This is merely one illustration of how hard and fundamentally impossible it is to modulate the Internet ( BBC News 2005: 2 ) . The thought of a digital licence fee has been tossed around in recent old ages as manner of making some regulative authorizations for telecasting and Internet convergence ( BBC News 2005: 2 ) .

OFCOM is comprised of assorted organizational maps that address specific facets of the U.K. communications and media system, including scheme and development, regulative policy and conformity, regulative operations and corporate services ( Towers Perrin et. Al. 2002: 8-9 ) . Over these maps is a consumer panel, board of managers and executive squad that works within a system of cross-checks and balances to do certain that no one country or map is excessively powerful or diverges from the overall ends ( Towers Perrin et. Al. 2002: 9-10 ) . The primary map of OFCOM is to “protect the populace from any violative or potentially harmful effects of broadcast media, and to safeguard people from being below the belt treated in telecasting and wireless programmes” ( Wimmer 2003: 7 ) .

Throughout all ordinances, the U.K. has kept the focal point on “the right to freedom of expression” as portion of its articles because those making the Torahs understand the demand by the audience to bask originative information as portion of a democratic society and they realize that the tendency towards convergence of the Internet and telecasting has built upon that same premiss ( Hooper 2003: 3-4 ) .

While all of the above are definite betterments to the U.K.’s response to convergence, more demands to be done because the authorities is still utilizing two different sections alternatively of “a individual champion” to pull off convergence in footings of substructure and the media ( Arnott 2005: 1 ) . For illustration, regulative deductions of IP-based telecasting has non yet been addressed because the minds within authorities may non truly understand all the chances that convergence outputs, so there must be an on-going instruction procedure for those involved ( Arnott 2005: 1 ) .

The European Approach to Convergence

The tendency toward media ordinance and denationalization, which began in the U.K. during the 1980s, spread to Europe during the 1990s ( Mobbs 2002: 2 ) . Until late, broadcast ordinances in Europe have been really slow to alter with periods of clip where no Torahs were revised for more than ten old ages ( Hooper 2003: 2 ) . With the velocity of convergence, this length of clip before ordinances are updated is merely non realistic.

To turn to the complex audiovisual market in the European Union every bit good as tackle some of the challenges that convergence has brought, a figure of attacks have been proposed and attempted. Overall, Europe has referred to the convergence construct as the Information Society which would hopefully take to farther economic and political integrating within Europe ( Sauter 1998: 4 ) . This Information Society undertaking was started in the early 1990s and has been a taking force behind what Europe has done since so in footings of media integrating and convergence ( Saute 1998: 8 ) .

In December 1997 the European Commission published a Green Paper cheapness identified both existent and possible barriers to convergence ( Marsden 1998: 1-2 ) . The bing barriers were identified as “access limitations ( to users, to webs and to content ) , presently high monetary values for telecommunications services and EU market fragmentation” while possible barriers included “market entry and licensing restrictions” ( Marsden 1998: 2 ) . The Green Paper besides suggests “that there could be jobs of inconsistent ordinance of basically similar services based on the implicit in substructure used to present them” while globalization is further perplexing the issue by “side-lining national ordinance and arbitrage of domestic markets” ( Marsden 1998: 2 ) . Within the Green Paper, a regulative model was besides suggested that would turn to boundaries between sectors and regulators, market entry and licensing, entree to webs and frequence spectrum, a set of criterions, pricing, and consumer involvements for free address and protection of bush leagues ( Saute 1998: 18-19 ) .

Like other countries of concern, commercialism, and the economic system, there have been a figure of proposed thoughts to wholly take all barriers to media between European Union member provinces ( Doyle 2006: 2 ) . While the U.K. has supported this attack, other states, such as France, prefer that there be more intercession to protect civilizations and privateness ( Doyle 2006: 2 ) . Many contend that there can non be complete convergence in telecasting in the European Union because most consumers will still prefer content that reflects their cultural individuality but they may hold some involvement in other civilizations to a lesser grade ( Marsden 1988: 4 ) .

In 1989, the European Union proposed the Television Without Frontiers Directive, which allowed for “free circulation throughout EU of broadcast services licensed in any one Member State, provided they comply with minimal common rules” ( Doyle 2006: 3 ) . At that clip, nevertheless, telecasting had a “linear broadcast medium method of distribution” alternatively of what exists now with legion non-linear offerings ( Bourne 2006: 1 ) . In 2005, it was decided that at that place needed to be overhauls to the current Europium policy so a new model was created that would include “non-linear ( i.e. on demand ) every bit good as additive ( conventional scheduled broadcast ) 1s, although the former will merely be capable to light touch regulation” ( Doyle 2006: 3 ) . In 2007, a complete inspection and repair of the aforesaid directive is planned ( Bourne 2006: 1 ) to better reference convergence.

In recent old ages, the European Commission has had to turn to other issues related to convergence, including synergistic telecasting and the push for “open and interoperable standards” ( Europa 2004: 1 ) . In 2004, the Commission proposed the Multimedia Home Platform ( MHP ) criterion for an country of digital media convergences that shows extraordinary growing potency ( Europa 2004: 1 ) . It recommended a figure of actions, such as “the creative activity of a Member State group on MHP execution, verification that Member States an offer consumer subsidies for synergistic telecasting receiving system equipment, capable to conformance with province assistance regulations, and monitoring of entree to proprietary technologies” ( Europa 2004: 1 ) .

In 2006, OFCOM stated expostulation to EU ordinances because of fright that this over-regulation will “straight-jacket the emerging new moving ridge industries taking to impel high tech growing in the EU zone over the coming years” and that it would “mean that states outside of the EU would profit from the expected growing in non traditional bringing of multimedia content, before it has established itself in Europe” ( Bourne 2006: 1 ) .


The overall end is to let the benefits of telecasting and Internet convergence to be reached across the U.K. and Europe without impacting freedom of address and impeding any cultural individualities. Even though convergence seems to hold more to make with ordinance so engineering, both the U.K. and Europe understand that they should “refrain from smothering convergent services by using inordinate regulation” ( Marsden 1988: 7 ) . As one expert summed up the government’s function in the issue of ordinance and convergence, “It will necessitate to make an environment in which houses are free to react to consumer demand for the bandwidth and connectivity necessary to entree convergent services, to guarantee that no gatekeeper, whether it be a set-top box porprietor or an Internet browser, can barricade consumer entree to convergent services, and to implement societal policies…in a competition-friendly way” ( Marsden 1998: 7 ) . While one side may reason that convergence is truly merely an alibi to farther modulate the media, others believe it is necessary to turn to cardinal issues that surround convergence that goes good beyond telecasting and the Internet and involves civilizations, individualities, rights, look, creativeness, and privateness.

There does non look any turning back as the U.K. and Europe look to stop the usage of parallel systems and travel to the convergence of Internet and digital telecasting. Both consumers and concerns will profit from more competition and picks available to them as the monetary value of engineering lessenings to farther meet demand and let these systems to go the norm. Convergence will go on to force regulative organic structures to believe about what can protect the populace without decelerating the motion toward a new manner of interacting and assemblage information and amusement.


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