The British government is set to fight off proposed European rules that would make it responsible for overseeing taste and decency in video clips on sites such as YouTube and MySpace.
Under a clause in the European media regulation directive TV Without Frontiers, national governments would be responsible for regulating the Internet for the first time. Britain's media watchdog, Ofcom, backed by the culture secretary, Tessa Jowell, argued that the plan was unworkable and would stifle creativity and investment in new media across Europe.
Ofcom said Internet users should be left to police themselves within the bounds of the law. Because Internet technology does not respect borders, it argued, users would simply turn instead to websites in the US and elsewhere. In a statement of "general approach" before a vote in the EU assembly, the council of ministers yesterday bowed to pressure to limit government oversight to "TV-like" services on the web.
That means Ofcom will regulate TV-style video downloads from major broadcasters, but not video clips on social networking websites.
When it first objected, Ofcom had the support of only a handful of other EU member states, but it has since won them over. "Today's outcome is testament to the substantial progress we have made in persuading our European partners to take our arguments on board," said the creative industries minister, Shaun Woodward.
Britain also won majority support for its line on the "country of origin" principle, which makes national regulators responsible for broadcasters operating from within their borders.
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