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Tech Firms, Don't Fence Us In 98

Vitaly Friedman writes "A proposed broadcasting law by the European Commission that would regulate emerging media formats in the same way as traditional broadcasting companies draws fire from the companies who say they will be hurt by a one-size-fits-all mentality. From the article 'An alliance of companies, including ITV, Yahoo, Vodafone, Intel and Cisco Systems, warned that a European Commission proposal to impose rules for traditional broadcasters on new media providers could have "unintended consequences" and hurt investment.'"
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Tech Firms, Don't Fence Us In

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  • Business week carrying this story [businessweek.com]. But it has a couple of snippets missing from the wired report:

    1) Its not An alliance of companies, including ITV, Yahoo, Vodafone, Intel and Cisco Systems, warned that...., its an alliance of British companies (and British subsiduries of US companies)

    2) The wired article makes no mention of what the actual rules are. From business week: Those rules include limits on hate speech, advertising and the kind of content that can be broadcast to children.

    I'm not a big fan of censorship by any stretch of the imagination & I don't particularly support these rules - but I do find wired's reporting of this situation a little skewed (I wonder if wired thinks they'll be effected by this?)
    • Tsk. I read and re-read your comment, but I STILL can't see the words 'frist p0st!' in it anywhere... ;)

      -Jar.
    • Commercials directed at children are an example of what would (hopefully) be banned. It's already illegal here in Sweden, but the commercial stations have solved that by broadcasting from the UK (to us) instead. Other than that, I'm entirely against any form of censorship.
    • The big problem, as I understand it, is that it will make internet providers, ISPs, content providers etc. responsible for ensuring that content they deliver does not breach any laws applied to broadcast companies. For example it is easy for Channel 4 (in the UK) to ensure that any programme broadcast before the watershed is suitable for children or for a Scandanvian TV channel to ensure that no adverts targetted at kids are shown during hours when they may be watching TV.

      When you make content available ov
  • This just seems to be a puff piece with no detail on what is proposed at all.
  • by JanneM ( 7445 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @06:41AM (#15155944) Homepage
    As far as I understand it, the proposed rules simply say that any advertising, hate speech or other content rules already applied today for other media in Europe would apply for the same media when online. Where's the problem?

    • by Anonymous Coward
      It looks like the problem may be one of enforcement. If these rules were in place, many of the companies listed would be responsible for policing content from bloggers or websites that they host, or be forced to implement age-verification systems around their own published content. None of this would be simple or cost-free, and I can see how it could potentially create a barrier for non-traditional media producers to publish their works: I'm sure that many ISPs would make things simple for themselves and
    • by Psion ( 2244 )
      Why is it even necessary? I mean, other than to give already bloated bureaucracies an excuse to help themselves to another bite of intrusive power....
      • Why is it even necessary? I mean, other than to give already bloated bureaucracies an excuse to help themselves to another bite of intrusive power....

        Um? This is a simplification. Why have separate rules for different transports?

        Or, if you mean why are any rules at all necessary, then can you name any place that doesn't have them (can you say "nipple incident"? I knew you could!)?

        This just says that if a commercial would not be allowed in print in Europe, it would not be allowed on a Eurpoean media site eit
        • ...consuming more bandwidth over a greater area. Print is not broadcast.

          • The parent poster's point is valid across media. Most of the EU has fairly strict regulations on what type of content can be broadcast, or when certain kinds of content is allowed. What the proposed rules state is that if you don't allow hate speech on radio or TV, it shouldn't be allowed on any broadcast, just because it is on a phone and IP instead of a portable TV receiver shouldn't make a difference. Or, if adult content is limited to broadcast after 10 p.m. to avoid children seeing it, a similar re
            • The question of the parent post was: Why have separate rules for different transports? with the follow-up, why are any rules at all necessary?
            • "I do have a problem sitting beside you with my son on the subway while you run playboy channel with the sound turned up. At any time of the day."

              Well, there's nothing preventing same gentleman in your example from looking at a porn magazine or even a Playboy (hardly a porn mag) in public beside you, in full view of you and your child. It is perfectly legal today....so, what is the difference between what is legal today with a magazine vs watching it on a phone or iPod or something? (I'm ignoring the audi


              • Actually, you are correct about there being no difference. However, we have passed laws banning the open display of such materials at point-of-sale. Everywhere you go now that has adult content for sale in areas open to minors is required to have them in black bags, or some such. But there is no law about someone sitting down with a playboy on the subway or bus. And I have just as much concern about it. I actually rode the subway (light-rail) into downtown last week and there was a guy (18-20 y.o. kid
    • I don't see how such regulations can be enforceable, if they are talking about regulating content that audiences recieve, as opposed to content that European broadcasters can put out. In the latter case, well, it would have to be carefully formulated so as not to result in silly results, and probably wouldn't bring any advantages in any case.
    • by Shivetya ( 243324 )
      That is the problem. Hate speech is the catch-all that can be used to shut down any speech which someone or some government entity determines to be offensive.

      When promoting hate speech rules the people behind them will always use the most extreme examples of speech they can find. Yet when applied it never ceases to amaze me what gets branded under the category. You will also see groups label the speech of others as "hate speech". With the help of their sister groups they can repeat this claim enough to
      • Your critique is about the existing rules, such as they are, not about having the same set of rules regardless of medium. Those are two separate questions, and it is the one you're not adressing that is in focus here.

        • I believe what my esteemed colleague is trying to say is that, when evaluating whether to apply an existing set of rules to a new medium, perhaps we should first consider the validity of the existing rule set. Failure to do so is a dangerous overestimation of our own competence as a people.

          Just my $0.02.
        • I believe that if you go back to the reasoning behind the existing rules, you'll find that the cornerstone is something about the "greater good" that legacy broadcasters are supposed to serve in exchange for getting exclusive access to the public radio spectrum.

          The Internet does not work that way. What I watch on my video stream has no effect on your ability to watch your video stream/browse the web etc. It all rests solely on agreements between individual "broadcasters" and individual members of the audi
      • When promoting hate speech rules the people behind them will always use the most extreme examples of speech they can find. Yet when applied it never ceases to amaze me what gets branded under the category.

        It's just as significent what doesn't get called "hate speach". People (and organisations) rarely attempt to censor positions they agree with, no matter how extreme. Another thing that can happen is that such terms are used to attempt to bar certain speakers regardless of what they are actually saying.
    • The Goverment is trying to force regulations/censorship on companies who don't have the power to regulate all their content. Censoring the internet is next to impossible there's too much crap out there, all that will happen is now companies will become liable when little Jonney stumbles on something he shouldn't because mom/dad is passed out drunk/high and couldn't monitor their son's activities. Are elections in europe comming, because this sounds like an election year proposial so politicians can say I p
      • elections happen in individual countries in europe, not for an overall super-party as far as I know (I'm Scottish, hence european, though I dont much care for politics). I dont think issues like this are going to affect europe as a whole, more likely individual countries (until such time as european law is consolidated into one, which won't happen if law in the States is anything to go by).
    • The problem is, why host your media in Europe and face all sorts of stifling regulation, when you can host your media over seas and not have to deal with the arrgoant government facists? Europeans will still be able to access the information just as easily (they probably won't even know the site isn't in Europe, for the most part).

      So, net result:

      1. Less investment in Europe.
      2. Sites continue their advertising, hate speech, or whatever unabated.
    • "As far as I understand it, the proposed rules simply say that any advertising, hate speech or other content rules already applied today for other media in Europe would apply for the same media when online."

      Why in Europe do you ban 'hate speech'? I mean, I know in general what you're talking about as what hate speech is...but, then again, who gets to decide what 'hate speech' is? Seems difficult to even criticise something or someone or some group, that might be deserving of it...but, you're speech

      • In the US at least, there is no 'freedom from hearing'

        But there is. The US, too, has similar restrictions on speech as Europe does. I think US people get hung up on the "hate speech" term since they don't use it themselves in a legal context, and the term has connotations there of affirmative action and other civil rights issues.

        "hate speech" (the term differs per country) is of course well defined, legally. And for the inevitable gray areas, well, thet's what we have courts for - just like for any other la
  • ... to make sure that no signal crosses the French-German border!
  • by LaughingCoder ( 914424 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @06:53AM (#15155973)
    Media and technology companies warned Tuesday that new European Union broadcasting rules could restrict the growth of emerging media formats such as video broadcasts through the internet and mobile phones.

    This discussion is somewhat reminiscent of the development and standardization of GSM cell phones in Europe back in the 80's and early 90's. I'm sure many of the same arguments were made on both sides of the issue. Of course in the US it was decided to let the market sort out the best cell phone technology. Now here we are in the US with multiple competing mobile formats. It is a complicated undertaking for a consumer to decide which mobile operator to choose -- there are coverage maps, different network capabilities, non-overlapping phone models. Add to that the fact that despite all this "competition" the cost to the consumer is fairly high compared to Europe.

    So, which is the best way to go? Mandate these sorts of things early on, or let the market evolve? As a died-in-the-wool capitalist I like the idea of letting the market choose the winner. Unfortunately sometimes you end up with what we have in today's US cell phone market - no clear winner and confusion for the consumers.
    • Now here we are in the US with multiple competing mobile formats. It is a complicated undertaking for a consumer to decide which mobile operator to choose -- there are coverage maps, different network capabilities, non-overlapping phone models. Add to that the fact that despite all this "competition" the cost to the consumer is fairly high compared to Europe.

      I don't think this is because there wasn't a government mandate to use GSM or another standardized technology. One thing a lot of people forget whe

      • I don't think this is because there wasn't a government mandate to use GSM or another standardized technology. One thing a lot of people forget when trying to compare Europe to the US is population density and size. Europe is much more centered around it's cities (which is part of the reason why they have much better public transit). Whereas in the US, we tend to spread out (the majority still being in cities, but there is a lot of the population who live very far away from cities).


        GSM is a great technology

        • And here you are running into another reason why GSM is unfeasible for the US. Finland, overall is a heck of a lot smaller for rolling out a nationwide cellular network.

          US: 9,161,923 sq km, 298mln pop, approx 33 people/sq km, would require 2381 GSM base stations (CIA factbook)
          Europe: 9,938,000 sq km, 727mln pop, 73.15 people/sq km, would require 2582 GSM base stations (worldatlas.com)
          Finland: 338,145 sq km, 5mln pop, approx 15 people/sq km, would require 88 GSM base stations (CIA factbook)

          So while Finland
          • Here's interesting point, there is far more people in United States, so the bigger area doesn't matter. Its only slowing down slightly if the telecom needs to grow inorder to afford putting those base stations everywhere. In Finland its more probably that the original companies had to compete with coverage and put pretty complete coverage to get as much customers as possible.

            I know some people who chooce their operators based on coverage on the areas where they go hunting. Then there is incentive for people
            • There is such a thing called pre-purchase research and asking around the areas that you need it.

              Personally I have used Verizon and Sprint (about 6 years ago), Verizon has worked anywhere I needed it, and with Sprint, short of in the middle of no where on US Highway Whoknows I had digital coverage, and roaming coverage in the middle no where. That was 6 years ago I assume that Sprint has covered some of the more popular middle of no where highways.

              GSM is nice and all, but CDMA covers the US quite well, a

      • I don't think this is because there wasn't a government mandate to use GSM or another standardized technology. One thing a lot of people forget when trying to compare Europe to the US is population density and size. Europe is much more centered around it's cities (which is part of the reason why they have much better public transit). Whereas in the US, we tend to spread out (the majority still being in cities, but there is a lot of the population who live very far away from cities).

        Funny that.

        Countries in n

        • I don't know where you got a US population density of 80/sq km.

          Mostly copied from my post above:

          US: 9,161,923 sq km, 298mln pop, approx 33 people/sq km, would require 2381 GSM base stations (CIA factbook)
          Europe: 9,938,000 sq km, 727mln pop, 73.15 people/sq km, would require 2582 GSM base stations (worldatlas.com)
          Sweden: 449,964 sq km, 9mln pop, approx 20 people/sq km, would require 117 GSM base stations (CIA factbook)

          So while Sweden's population density is lower than the US, it's not lower by much, but the
          • So while Sweden's population density is lower than the US, it's not lower by much, but the area of the US (which is going to add to the cost of rolling out a network very quickly) is 20 times that of Sweden.

            Which would explain why you get crappy reception out in Bumfuck, Nowhere, but not why reception is bad even in large, metropolitan areas.
          • I got the figure from Wikipaedia actually. When it gets online again (I had to use a Google cache) I guess it's time to revise it a bit. ;-) Now that I look at the cache again I see that the US measures was naturally square miles. Perhaps it's time for Wiki to go metric/SI.

            Other than that, you don't roll out in the entire country. Only in the parts where there actually are people. Here in Sweden we have quite a few different operators with their own nets. (I believe most semi crowded areas have coverage fro
        • We already do get coverage in all the parts where people actually are.

          Okay, well, not all parts. I can drive roads in Alpine county where there is no coverage. But Alpine county has a population density of less than 1 person per km^2.

          There is some kind of massive misunderstanding being perpetuated here. We have plenty of cell phone coverage in the US. All the 3 major operators service over 98% of the population. The reason maps or other numbers make it look like we don't have coverage here is because Wyomin
          • I wasn't making a statement about cell coverage in the US. I have actually never attempted to use a GSM phone in the states so I have no clue about it. (Friends who have been there have not had a problem though.)

            I think the interesting statement that started this was that in the US it was believed that the invisible hand of the free market would fix everything wrt different cell phone technologies. Turns out it didn't work very well. While it's nice that GSM (and other techs) coverage is good now in the US
            • GSM is outmoded, and the only thing it is doing better for the customer here is providing choice of phones. It doesn't provide as good coverage, as much bandwidth for data users and it's tougher for operators to run!

              Having had all 3 major systems here in the US in the last 3 years, I don't see a problem with any of them. I don't know what you heard, but our systems work well. And they have been working well (including my own phone) since before GSM even existed.

              The invisible hand has driven out the systems
              • Well I'd say 3 years is a very short period of time. 3 years ago the rest of the world (well the parts using GSM as well as Japan) bagan moving to 3G systems. (Still using parts of the GSM system but over new and faster carrier systems.)

                Now it was some time since I was studying mobile phone systems at a basic level. What I feel was the greatest benefit of GSM was that it specified not only the radio layer but all of the funtions needed on the phone. It's kind of comparing only the physical carrier (CDMA, TD
                • Sprint rolled out 3G 3 years ago also, and successfully, unlike the early Japan 3G rollout which was aborted and undone.

                  You're mistakenly putting the US in some kind of phone ghetto.

                  Yes, I do agree about the what GSM makes it possible not only technically, but in a market fashion to sell phones that have additional features. It really leads the way in this. It's why I use GSM, because I like fancy phones. But for people like my father who don't care about fancy phones, it gets them zero.

                  I would say that alt
                  • That was certainly a long and well thought out response, thanks! Always fun to get discussions going. :-)

                    You're right that I've missed the boat a bit on the capacity of the different networks. Particularly wrt 3G in the US. I really never grasped that EVDO was a 3G technology, it seemed more like GPRS or EDGE seen here in Europe. Probably my mistake is that I only hear about it from techies who only use it for data transfer for their computers.

                    Now when you talk about IS-136 and AMPS at the same time as "Lap
                    • Again, because GSM was made to be incompatible, and then enforced by law (plus some other, more positive things), the EU forced their system out there. This would have been fine if it were compatible, US companies would have switched to GSM in 1995 simply for the capacity. Most of their customers were on AMPS, not IS-136, so they could have made the digital solution GSM. Except GSM was incompatible, so they had to choose between their current customer and GSM, a system that provided more capacity and more f
    • I really don't think its that confusing, especialy if you talk with friends who have different plans at different companies. All you have to do is select the features that fit you best, and pay an arm and a leg. Thats one price of "freedom" (like US citizens really have it, and I know I can't spell), but the price for true freedom is never too high.
    • For starters, cell phone usage is cheaper in the US. Even before you consider what you get in terms of free roaming nationwide.

      I just checked Orange UK. Let's see, I'd like 200 minutes and 100 texts. That's 25 Pounds. That's about US$40.

      Now, let's go to Cingular. Cingular not even being one of the cheaper plans. Let's see what I get for US$40. I get 450 minutes, with lots of night/weekend minutes too! To get that on Orange would cost 40 pounds. And don't forget, if you call a cellular phone in Europe, you h
      • For starters, cell phone usage is cheaper in the US.

        No, it's not. While the advertized rate may be cheaper than your plan, every cell company that I've seen in the U.S. has so many fees that your $40 a month plan starts to look more like $50 when you pay your bill.

        And don't forget the ludicrously high cost of phones if you don't sign up for their two year agreements. They seem to have the same business model as Nike: make your product cheap in Asia, then ship it over here and increase the price by at lea
        • You're right about the fees. Is the US the only location with fees all of a sudden? And again, you're getting a lot more stuff bundled in in the US due to the way incoming calls are billed.

          The high cost of phones isn't much different anywhere. Phones cost a lot. They are cheaper everywhere when subsidized, not just in the US. I personally don't like two year contracts, so I don't sign them. My last phone cost $40 with a 1-year cingular contract (which is now expired and I am month to month). You maybe shoul
          • They are cheaper everywhere when subsidized, not just in the US.

            The problem with the U.S., is that you are subsidizing phones when you sign up with a carrier, reguardless of wether you get one or not, so you might as well get one. i.e. Sprint will still charge you the same $45 a month if you get a phone with the plan or bring your own and go month to month. This effectivly kills the market for independant cell phones in the States, making them much more expensive.

            I have no idea what you mean about how it'
    • As a 'died (dyed?)-in-the-wool' capitalist as well, I have to point out a couple of things.

      First, it may seem like it's been a long time since mobile phones were pervasive in the US, but when you're talking about something with as massive an impact on our communications structure and the telecom business as a whole - obviously a major part of our economy - you'll have to be a little more patient, in waiting for those market forces. It's going to take a while for the dust to settle - possibly to the tune o

  • by PatrickThomson ( 712694 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @07:24AM (#15156054)
    An alliance of companies ... warned that a European Commission proposal to impose rules for traditional broadcasters on new media providers could ... hurt investments.

    In other news, Hannibal Lector complains that anti-cannibalism laws unfairly restrict his choice of dishes.

    • In other news, Hannibal Lector complains that anti-cannibalism laws unfairly restrict his choice of dishes.

      No, it is more like trapped victims telling Hannibal Lector that a vegetarian diet reduces heartburn.
  • Creating a new media format is like, well... like creating a new way to order your shoes. Having a law AGAINST, or even RELATED with it is "Law Fiction", or more accurate "Law Comedy".

    I for one wellcome our European Union Law's Comedians!.
  • Consumer protection (Score:3, Informative)

    by Aceticon ( 140883 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @07:49AM (#15156148)
    Europe has a much more deeper level of product regulations than the US. This is done for consumer protection.

    Typically the extra rules you see in place in Europe are intended to either:
    - Minimize or eliminate the possible damage to consumers caused by long term exposure to something which is contained in a product.
    - Make sure that the consumer is informed of the possible negative long term effects of something contained in a product so that the consumer can do an informed choice.

    Although things that harm you immediatly are forbidden in products in both Europe and the US, the difference of regulations in both places makes it so that for things that (might) harm you in the longer run, in Europe one or more of the following will happen:
    - Its outright forbidden to sell products that contain it.
    - Its outright forbidden to sell products that contain it to certain age groups (typically children).
    - Manufacturers are mandated by law to inform the consumers of the possible negative side-effects of their products.

    The law in the US is much more lax when it comes to both controlling access to products with possible negative long term effects and making sure that consumers know of those risks before actually buying a product.

    Thus for example, there is a very well defined set of which chemical additives which are allowed on processed food products.

    Another example is that (non-encrypted) public televisions broadcasters cannot broadcast "young adult" content before a specific hour and/or have to rate their content according to a standard "appropriated for age" table and provide those ratings when advertising that content and immediately before broadcasting it.
    (Rules for subscription and/or cable broadcasters are usually less strict)

    Which brings us to the OP:
    - European legislators want to apply to all kinds of public broadcasters the same consumer protection rules already in place for those broadcasters that openly broadcast television by means of radio waves.

    Thus things like providing timelly and appropriated information about the adequacy of their content to be viewed by kids.

    What's the problem with that?

    They're still perfectly free to setup direct-to-consumer online shops that show porn or whatever - consenting adults still have access to whatever they want to see while those parents that don't want their kids to see porn shows can more easilly know what to let or not their kids see.

    PS: Note that for all the "regulations" in Europe versus "self-policing" in the US, there was still no problem whatsover with seing Janet Jackson's tittie on the tele around here (compared with some shows one can see after a certain hour of the day, seing JJ's breast in the open was positivelly mild) while in the US most broadcasters self-censured themselfs. No treats for anyone which guesses which place is in practice more open ...
  • Say it isn't so (Score:3, Insightful)

    by $RANDOMLUSER ( 804576 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @07:50AM (#15156155)
    I like the notion that a law could have "unintended consequences" and that this is somehow a novel concept. All laws have unintended consequences, it's the nature of the beast.
  • Regulations by the government have nothing to do with protecting the consumers or enabling the market to produce a quality product. All regulations are created to do is protect the favored companies (paternalism) and created an artificially high barrier to entry (protectionism).

    In this situation, of course the government wants to regulate new media -- it will let them tax it, censor it, and prevent it from pushing the pro-State media companies into oblivion, where they should go.

    Don't be surprised if every
    • Wow ..... and all this time, regardless of how imperfect any political system is, I was under the apparently mistaken impression that *some* people actually ran for elected office because they were GOOD people.

      New flash .... everything isn't an evil plot. Sometimes, people really *are* trying to do something good for somebody.
  • If we had free speech, we would be able to explain how tyrannical our govt was, then we would all listen to each other's copmlaints and realize that we are not alone, then we'd all get togeather and shoot the bastards.

    So you see, it's impossible for them to allow free speech. Only terrorists want free speech.

    lockin' & loadin',
    Andy Out!

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