UK Government Minister Savages EC Media Proposals

03 July 2006

UK government minister Shaun Woodward, encumbered one month ago with the risibly-conjoined portfolio for 'Creative Industries and Tourism', last week attempted to make his mark on an indifferent world by savaging new legislation proposed by the European Commission.

Given that easy targets are manna from heaven for an ambitious politico, Woodward gratefully latched onto the EC's new audiovisual media services directive, which plans to extend regulation from traditional broadcasting to new media services such as cellpphones and the internet.

"We are really negative about it," he told the Westminster Media Forum seminar last week. "The more I look at it, the more I'm convinced it's really a bad idea. In lots of ways it represents a very good example of where the EU goes wrong.

"The fundamental flaw in this - even if we thought it was well intentioned - is that it probably will not work. Critically, I see it as doing huge damage to our growth," opined Woodward who, having once been a BBC programme editor, knows all that's worth knowing about the media.

Woodward, whose sole claim to political prominence is his defection from the Conservative Party to New Labour in 1999, opined: "Viviane Reding [the European Union media commissioner] got it wrong, the commission got it wrong. We are right to be entirely negative about it."

The planned legislation - a reappraisal of the 1989 Television Without Frontiers directive - also covers personal blogs, charity websites and online games, alleged Woodward [erroneously], and would increase regulation on businesses.

Of the EU's twenty-five member-states, only the UK and the Czech Republic oppose the mooted new rules. "We have a real battle to persuade our partners in the rest of Europe that we are right," said Woodward, displaying his gift for understatement.

"If the commission is wrong, the very things that are leading to growth in the creative industries, all of these people, are inhibited by a whole new burst of regulation and a whole new burst of compliance," opined the politico. This was "not desirable nor practical" and could provoke companies providing media services to relocate outside the EU.

On the same day as Woodward's polemic, EC Commissioner Reding clarified to the European Parliament that that neither video blogs nor charity websites would be affected by the planned changes.

"The proposal aims to cover audiovisual media services, and I stress media. It will cover services under the editorial responsibility of media services providers, the principal purpose of which is the provision of programmes with moving images, with or without sound, to inform, entertain or educate,"

Harald Trettenbrein, EC head of information and media, described the planned changes as a "light touch" that represents a "chance" for the UK. The EC was not to blame for a "homemade" problem that stemmed from the UK's domestic Communications Act.

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff