Net Neutrality Issues and Digital Distribution & What Can Europe Do?

What Can Europe Do? was one of many excellent debates at the 2011 MEDIA Business School Marketing and Distribution Programme in Ronda, Spain. The discussion centred on EC wide issues and actions.

Philippe Kern of KEA gave an insight into the most recent research on VOD and related issues in europe and the follow up discussion quickly dismissed a European wide licensing arrangement. The territorial and window based business model of film exploitation simply cannot work with a single market for audiovisual material.

However, the EC could impactfully invest and legislate to enable the identification and exploitation of orphan works. Anecdotal evidence points towards a great deal of producers unaware as to the status of their rights sold or unsold in international territories. Access to an accurate catalogue of rights could enable digital exploitation of such rights and promote VOD adoption as well as company performance.

The question of who can best exploit these rights and how, is of course also linked to issues of regulation, often at the national level. Digital evangelists have consistently promoted the opportunity for original rights holders – producers, to pursue disintermediation strategies and go direct to audiences. Existing films with unexploited sales territories / windows are the ideal content type to be distributed digitally and directly, as financing considerations are removed from equation.

The idealistic conception of Youview would seem absolutely appropriate for this opportunity. The question of whether this exploitation of an open internet / net neutrality will suffer from ISPs treating their their own content traffic preferentially (given they paid for the infrastructure and there is no VPF for the internet) remains open.

These, and related issues are getting a lot of attention by internet studies researchers. Discussions with at the Oxford Internet Institute Summer Programme Trisha Meyer of the Institute for European Studies; Jules Mailland at USC Annenberg; and Jeremy Hunsinger of the Centre for Digital Discourse @Virginia Tech have been exceptionally helpful in, amongst other things, illustrating the strategic tactic of overeach.

In oversimplified terms US State dept pushes for an open internet to promote free market capitalism, not because it wants this or thinks it can achieve it, but because it wants to control a closed internet. Attention to the hidden positions of vested interests of pipeline and content controlers in the UK.

One potential result of the News Corp scandal and investigation may be the dilution of media conglomerate power in negotiating provision of access to online content and a more proactive stance by Ofcom and government in protecting democratic access.

This would benefit independent producers and distributors.

Michael Franklin
Research Associate, Creative Scotland

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