Sunday 18 August 2019

Media commission plan to revamp broadcast watchdog

BAI bids to regulate Apple, and YouTube, writes Samantha McCaughren

BAI chief executive Michael O'Keeffe
BAI chief executive Michael O'Keeffe
Samantha McCaughren

Samantha McCaughren

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) will need significant additional resourcing under proposals to vastly extend its remit and become a leader in the regulation of social media across Europe.

In the plan outlined to Government, the BAI recommends a single Media Commission to take on the regulation of video-sharing platforms (VSPs) and on-demand services.

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As the world's largest VSPs have their European headquarters in Ireland, the new regulator will be at the frontline of policing YouTube and video content on Facebook and Twitter

Video-on-demand services will also face new rules under an EU directive which must be transposed in each country by September 2020. Netflix will be governed by rules drawn up in the Netherlands but movies and other audiovisual material on Apple TV will be subject to the Irish rules due to Apple's operations in Ireland.

Under the regulations, video-on-demand platforms will have to provide their ownership information in a publicly available register.

They will be required to make services better available to people with disabilities.

They will also have to comply with Irish sponsorship, advertising and product placement rules.

On-demand services would face a levy under the BAI proposals, although the detail of such a scheme would need time to be drawn up. Under the EU rules, media services can be required to contribute financially to European production works. All audio visual services, including VSPs will have to comply with advertising codes, including YouTube. "We have to draw up the codes and then they will have to comply with them. But they should be more general principles than specifics I would think," said BAI chief executive Michael O'Keeffe.

The Government consultation on the directive gave two options as to the form of the regulator - one was that the BAI form a new larger media commission and the other was two separate regulators. The BAI is supporting the first option.

O'Keeffe, pictured, said that other stakeholders may set out different recommendations in the consultation.

He said the social media and tech firms were open to the new regulation.

"Once the directive came in, they knew it was there, it was going to be transposed and we now have to embrace this." Representatives from Facebook and other platforms have had meetings with the BAI.

"They have been informal and preliminary because obviously we don't have a relationship with them," said O'Keeffe.

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