Digital Britain Prompts Assessment Of TV Streaming Rules

Buried in the 245-page Digital Britain report (page 118), we found a little-mentioned section that may worry online services which re-transmit some live TV channels…

Public-service channels from BBC, ITV (LSE: ITV), C4, Five and S4C have not granted carriage deals to services like Zattoo and TVCatchUp. Instead, they operate under what they say is a loophole, Section 73 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, allowing them to re-air the stations without paying.

But Lord Carter devoted a whole section of Digital Britain to Section 73, concluding: “Section 73 only relates to cable operators, and does not provide any retransmission exemption for satellite or other platform operators.” That could prompt sites to consider their position, and whether they can realistically be described as “cable”.

Zattoo CEO Beat Knecht, who last week told paidContent:UK the service was totally legal, told me today on seeing the report: “The letter of the law allows for Zattoo, as long as we stick to the ‘qualifying services’ (ie. public service channels).”

Carter is intent on preserving Section 73; he rejected calls to replace it with a “must-offer” clause that would see cable operators pay to carry free-to-air channels. There’s no suggestion right now these sites are doing anything wrong – Zattoo’s carriage of commercial channels in the UK is by formal agreements, it says, and there may be only benefit in the others finding wider audience. But there does seem to be a small gap between the Act and the online reality that some are happy to leave open.