UK to regulate streaming services in line with traditional TV broadcasters

Streaming services such as Netflix are now facing regulation in the UK. (REUTERS/File Photo)
Streaming services such as Netflix are now facing regulation in the UK. (REUTERS/File Photo)
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Updated 28 April 2022

UK to regulate streaming services in line with traditional TV broadcasters

UK to regulate streaming services in line with traditional TV broadcasters
  • Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and other platforms will be regulated by British media watchdog Ofcom, just as as traditional broadcasters already are
  • Any video-on-demand provider that breaks the rules will face a maximum fine of $310,000 or up to 5 percent of revenue, whichever is higher

DUBAI: Streaming services in the UK are to be regulated by the country’s Office of Communications, known as Ofcom, in line with existing rules governing traditional media outlets.

In a government white paper on the matter, Nadine Dorries, the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, said that “changes in technology, viewing habits and the entrance of global players have introduced new challenges for British broadcasters.”

The government needs to take action “to support British broadcasters” and “ensure public-service broadcasters remain at the heart of our plans,” she added.

The white paper details the proposed reforms, which include efforts to ensure that all “TV-like content, no matter how audiences choose to watch it, is subject to similar standards.” This suggests that video-on-demand services will be obliged to adhere to standards equivalent to those that traditional broadcasters must abide by.

The move aims to regulate “TV-like video-on-demand providers” such as Netflix, Disney+, and Amazon Prime Video, among others, “who target and profit from UK audiences under Ofcom jurisdiction.”

Traditional TV channels are required to abide by Ofcom’s broadcasting code but, until now, VOD services have been unregulated. Under the proposed changes, Ofcom will gain the power to draft and enforce a new video-on-demand code. The maximum fine for services that break the rules will be £250,000 ($310,000) or up to 5 percent of revenue, whichever is higher.

The announcement comes at a critical time for British broadcasters, who increasingly have been competing with streaming services, especially since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of subscriptions to streaming platforms shot up by 50 percent in the UK to more than 30 million during the health crisis, according to an Ofcom report. This helped Netflix overtake pay TV providers in terms of subscribers for the first time last year. Meanwhile, broadcast TV’s share of total viewing dropped from 67 percent in 2019 to 61 percent in 2020.

In response to the white paper, Netflix said: “As we’ve previously said, we are supportive of measures to update the legal framework and bring our service in the UK under Ofcom’s jurisdiction.

“We look forward to reviewing the White Paper’s other proposals and continuing to engage with the government on their plans.”


The Marketing Society launches gender equality program

The Marketing Society launches gender equality program
Updated 29 June 2022

The Marketing Society launches gender equality program

The Marketing Society launches gender equality program
  • Program aims to have equal female representation on industry panels and in mid to high-level roles

DUBAI: Industry body The Marketing Society announced its first gender equality program in the region, titled “Gender Equality Acceleration,” at an event held at the TikTok lounge in Dubai.

The event was attended by over 75 senior marketers and their teams.

The Gender Equality Acceleration Program aims to break barriers by increasing gender equality at mid and high levels of management in the marketing and communications industry across the UAE and the wider Gulf region.

“This initiative not only better educates both genders on how to find their voice to ensure there are equal opportunities at senior levels in all organizations, but, more importantly, provides an essential support network to build the self-belief of many women, giving them the strength to truly believe they deserve the recognition of a leadership role,” said Abby Lyons, co-founder and managing partner of House of Comms.

A key focus of this project is to make an actual impact — not just talk about gender equality without any real change. In order to achieve this, The Marketing Society will hold training, events, mentoring, policy changes, and other decisive actions to bring about real change.

For example, the body will work closely with different conference producers and event organizers to support them in having equal representation on panels by creating an accessible speaker directory that spotlights female experts in the industry. The goal is to have half of all speakers be women on panels across the marketing and communications industry by 2023.

The Marketing Society will also organize and host identified training and masterclasses with over 50 women by December 2022, and share best practices to inspire and empower businesses of all sizes to launch and follow the initiative.

Mohammed Ismaeel Hameedaldin, partner at Toughlove Advisors and chair of The Marketing Society Dubai, said: “Marketers are changemakers within businesses who can make an impact and make a difference.”

He added: “The time for talk is over, it’s about action and we look forward to supporting this through our planned activities and engaging the whole industry to speed up change.”

The Marketing Society is a global community that strives for a more diverse and inclusive leadership to shape, support, and steer the region’s top marketers. It is looking for more partners to join this initiative and work alongside the program’s founding partner, TikTok.


Social media companies could be sued for addicting children in California 

Social media companies could be sued for addicting children in California 
Updated 29 June 2022

Social media companies could be sued for addicting children in California 

Social media companies could be sued for addicting children in California 
  • Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat could be sued under the state’s law

LONDON: The California state senate voted on Tuesday to pass a law that would allow state lawyers to sue social media companies, such as Facebook and TikTok, for features that harm children. 

Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat could be sued under the state’s law if a prosecutor believes the companies utilized features they knew or should have known would addict minors.  

Supported by youth advocates, teachers’ unions and customer groups, the bill passed by a vote of 8-0. 

“I was addicted to the place that was killing me, that was reminding me of who I would never become, what I would never look [like],” activist Larissa May said in the hearing. “There needs to be some accountability. The more that we suffer, the more money that they make.”

However, Dylan Hoffman, an executive director at Technet, testified that the measure would violate free speech rights because the algorithms used to curate content on social media platforms are a protected form of speech.

In an earlier version of the bill, parents would have been able to sue the companies for harm to their children.

However, after lobbying from business and tech groups, the bill was amended so that only government attorneys can file the lawsuits.

The measure must be approved before the end of the legislative session in August. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has not taken a public position on the bill.

In response, Meta, Twitter and Snapchat have individually lobbied against the measure.

While Meta has increased the age-verification protocols on Instagram, a Meta representative said the measure would do nothing to encourage companies to make meaningful changes.  

“We want to make sure that the people on our platforms have a safe and positive experience,” said a Meta spokesperson.


Russia moves forward on proposed law on banning foreign media

Russia moves forward on proposed law on banning foreign media
Updated 29 June 2022

Russia moves forward on proposed law on banning foreign media

Russia moves forward on proposed law on banning foreign media
  • The proposal must still pass a third reading in the Duma and secure the upper house's approval
  • The draft law also calls for allowing Russia's prosecutor general to cancel the registration of media outlets

MOSCOW: The lower house of Russia’s parliament on Wednesday approved the critical second reading of a proposed law that would allow the banning of foreign news media in response to other countries taking actions against Russian news outlets.
The proposal must still pass a third reading in the Duma and secure the upper house’s approval before going to President Vladimir Putin to be signed into law. But the Duma’s approval on second reading, when a proposal still can undergo substantial changes, almost always prefigures a law’s enactment.
Russia has repeatedly complained in recent months that Western countries were improperly restricting Russian media by banning their operation or denying visas to their journalists. In early June, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called in representatives of American media, including The Associated Press, to warn that they could be denied renewal of their visas and accreditation.
The draft law also calls for allowing Russia’s prosecutor general to cancel the registration of media outlets for disseminating “illegal, dangerous, unreliable publicly significant information or information expressing clear disrespect for society, the state, the Constitution of the Russian Federation, as well as aimed at discrediting the Russian armed forces,” state news agency RIA-Novosti reported.
Many foreign news organizations suspended or curtailed their operations in Russia following the passage in March of a law calling for up to 15 years in prison for reports seen as discrediting the Russian military.
The foreign ministry in May ordered the closure of the Moscow bureau pf the state-funded Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in response to Canada’s ban on RT, a Russian state-controlled broadcaster.
In February, as Russia built up troops along Ukraine’s border, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle was ordered to close in Moscow after Germany banned the broadcast of RT’s German-language programs.
Before the vote on the second reading, Vladimir Solovev, the head of the Russian Journalists’ Union, told the committee preparing the draft that the measure was justified by an “information war unprecedented in history” against Russia.
Russia in recent years has persistently clamped down on independent journalism. Following the start of the Ukraine conflict, many significant independent news media shut down or suspended operations. Those included the Ekho Moskvy radio station and the Novaya Gazeta newspaper, whose editor, Dmitry Muratov, was last year’s co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.


Hong Kong bars some journalists from handover anniversary

Hong Kong bars some journalists from handover anniversary
Updated 29 June 2022

Hong Kong bars some journalists from handover anniversary

Hong Kong bars some journalists from handover anniversary
  • The journalists represent at least seven media outlets, including international news agencies Reuters and Agence France-Presse and several others
  • At least three other journalists from local news outlets were informed Wednesday that their applications to cover the July 1 events were rejected

HONG KONG: Hong Kong authorities, citing security reasons, have barred more than 13 journalists from covering events this week marking the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China, according to the Hong Kong Journalists Association and media reports.
The journalists represent at least seven media outlets, including international news agencies Reuters and Agence France-Presse and several others from Hong Kong, the association said in a statement posted online late Tuesday.
“The authorities have made ad hoc and narrow interview arrangements at this important juncture and have put forth vague grounds for refusal, seriously undermining the freedom of the press in Hong Kong,” the statement said. It said at least 10 journalists have been barred.
The Hong Kong Economic Journal said at least three other journalists from local news outlets were informed Wednesday that their applications to cover the July 1 events were rejected.
Hong Kong police have confirmed that Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit the city for the anniversary of the former British colony’s return to Chinese rule on July 1, 1997. Xi’s visit will be his first trip outside of mainland China since the coronavirus pandemic took hold about 2 1/2 years ago. Police in Hong Kong, a special semi-autonomous region of China, have announced a raft of security measures, including road closures and a no-fly zone.
Strict requirements have been set for those attending the events. Journalists must have daily COVID-19 nucleic acid tests starting last Sunday and stay in a quarantine hotel from Wednesday.
Despite receiving initial approvals that included instructions for checking in to the quarantine hotel, some journalists received rejection notices on Wednesday while on their way to the hotel, while others were informed that they were barred from the events upon arrival, the Hong Kong Economic Journal said.
Authorities had invited media outlets to submit up to 20 applications to cover the events — which include a flag-raising ceremony and the inauguration of the new Hong Kong government — but later specified that only one journalist from each outlet could be sent to cover each of the two events.
Reuters said in a news report it submitted the names of two journalists to cover the events, and that both were rejected.
A Reuters spokesperson said the company was seeking further information on the matter.
The affected Hong Kong media outlets include the English-language South China Morning Post, the Chinese-language newspaper Ming Pao and online news outlet HK01, the journalists association said. The South China Morning Post said in a news report that one of its photographers had been rejected, with no reason given.
Ming Pao and HK01 did not immediately comment. Agence France-Presse declined to comment and a South China Morning Post spokesperson declined to comment beyond their news report.
The affected media organizations were invited to send other journalists to cover the events, but the replacements must also meet the quarantine and testing requirements, according to the journalists association.
The Information Services Department, which sent out the initial invitations to media outlets to register to cover the events, declined to provide information on how many journalists were given accreditation and would not comment on a South China Morning Post report that one of the department’s own photographers had been barred from the events.
“The government is striking a balance as far as possible between the need of media work and security requirements,” the department said in a statement. “We will not comment on the accreditation outcome of individual organizations and persons.”


Philippine Nobel laureate to fight order to shut Rappler news site

Philippine Nobel laureate to fight order to shut Rappler news site
Updated 29 June 2022

Philippine Nobel laureate to fight order to shut Rappler news site

Philippine Nobel laureate to fight order to shut Rappler news site
  • Co-founded by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa, Rappler is known for its scrutiny of President Rodrigo Duterte
  • Shutdown order comes as Duterte set to complete presidential term on Thursday

MANILA: Philippine journalist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa vowed on Wednesday to fight a government order to shut down her online news site Rappler, known for its tough scrutiny of Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte.

The order, issued by the Philippines’ Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday, affirmed the corporate regulator’s 2018 decision to revoke the certificates of incorporation of Rappler over what it said was a breach of the ban on foreign ownership of media outlets.

The ruling came as Duterte was set to complete his six-year presidential term on Thursday and hand over power to President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

“We are entitled to appeal this decision and will do so,” Ressa said during a press conference. “We will continue to work. It is business as usual. We will follow the legal process; we’ll continue to stand up for our rights.”

Ressa, who last year became the first Nobel laureate from the Philippines — sharing the prize with Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov — was recognized by the Norwegian Nobel Committee for efforts to safeguard freedom of expression and her work and criticism of the Duterte regime’s “controversial, murderous anti-drug campaign,” an antidrug policy that since 2016 has led to the deaths of thousands of Filipinos, mostly urban poor, and drawn international condemnation.

She told reporters the corporate regulator’s decision to shut down Rappler was “political tactics.”

“Over the last six years, we have been harassed,” she added. “We’re not going to voluntarily give up our rights. And we really shouldn’t. I continue to appeal for that. Because when you give up your rights, you’re never going to get them back.”

Ressa co-founded Rappler in 2012. Since Duterte took office in 2016, he has openly slammed journalists and publications criticizing him and his war on drugs campaign.

In 2018, the SEC ruled that Rappler violated foreign equity restrictions on domestic media when it sold depositary rights to a foreign entity.

Rappler argued the Omidyar Network, the philanthropic arm of eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, was a silent investor. Omidyar later announced donating the depository receipts to Rappler’s staff to resolve foreign ownership issues.

The news outlet’s chief legal counsel, Francis Lim, said they had two weeks to file a petition for review of the shutdown decision before the Court of Appeals.

“There are powerful, factual, and legal grounds to reverse the SEC decision,” he told reporters. “It’s not the end of the world for us. There’s still a very long process to go.”

The shutdown announcement sparked an outcry among local journalists.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines called on its members to stand together against attempts to silence the media.

“Throughout the six years of the Duterte administration, we have seen lawsuits and regulatory processes used as tools to muzzle the press,” the union said in a statement. “It is clear now, if it had not been clear before, that the journalism community and the communities that we report about and for must stand together against government moves to harass, restrict, and silence any of us to keep the press free for all of us.”

The Philippines ranks 147th out of 180 countries in the 2022 World Press Freedom Index, after having dropped in the ranking each year from 133rd in 2018.

Human Rights Watch said in a statement that Rappler was “facing government retaliation for its fearless reporting about rights abuses.”

“This is an effort to shut up Nobel laureate Maria Ressa, and shut down Rappler, by hook or by crook,” HRW Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson said. “It’s entirely predictable that the SEC would bend over backwards to interpret rules in a way that would enable them to take Rappler down while spuriously claiming that this is a normal regulatory action.”