VIMN UK boss calls for equal regulation of broadcasters and digital players

James Currell, president of Viacom International Networks UK, has called for more equal regulation between broadcast and online media and increased partnership between British broadcasters, in a keynote address at the Oxford Media Convention.

While Viacom has made some major plays in the digital space as of late, including acquiring ad-supported platform Pluto TV for $340m, the VIMN UK boss says its purchase of UK pubcaster Channel 5 has also brought many benefits to business and that such networks should be supported in a shifting media environment.

Currell said that UK PSBs have “an unrivalled track record of creative innovation and talent discovery” and “a vital role in supporting our democratic institutions… and a more inclusive society”.

For this reason he said Viacom as a business believes that measures are required to equalise regulation between broadcast and online media.

“We believe digital video services must be responsible for applying and enforcing comparable advertising rules as those that currently apply to broadcasters,” he said.

“They should be held accountable through a clear structure of incentives and sanctions enforced by an effective regulatory system.”

Viacom is not arguing for a dilution of broadcast advertising regulation. But, Currell said it does urge an evidence-based approach to the introduction of further restrictions.

The business also believes that government must legislate to ensure PSB prominence rules evolve.

“These should apply across user-interfaces on all platforms, devices and services which are designed for the consumption of TV or TV-like content” Currell said.

“This will deliver a cultural dividend, ensuring that quality local PSB content remains prominent and findable for all UK citizens.”

Currell said that he welcomes that the UK’s Department for Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS) will conduct a review of the regulation of online advertising but emphasises that businesses should not rely too heavily on regulatory solution to market issues.

“We believe there is more local broadcasters can do collectively, as well as individually, to help themselves.

“We must persuade advertisers that they cannot continue to shift spend from TV to digital media and expect to be able to buy TV at the same discounted price as previously.”

Viacom is ready to partner to enhance the local content eco-system, according to Currell. It welcomes BrtiBox and the work ITV, Channel 4 and Sky do to work together and promote the benefits of TV to advertisers.

Currell’s comments arrive as the UK Parliament plans to launch an inquiry that investigates whether there is a future for public service broadcasting as the rise of video on demand services continues.