AGCOM, the Italian communications authority, has established a new, simple set of rules for the licensing of linear audiovisual and audio services on the Internet (ie, online television, Internet Protocol television and mobile television) and non-linear audiovisual media services - known as 'video on demand' - provided on any e-communications network. On the basis of Legislative Decree 44/2010, which implements the EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive (2010/13/EC), AGCOM has issued two resolutions. Resolution 606/10/CONS relates to linear services provided on the Internet and other platforms, but excludes terrestrial, satellite and cable television, while Resolution 607/10/CONS relates to video on demand.
Exemption for small operators
The new resolutions apply only to operators that compete with conventional television broadcasting - that is, operators with an annual revenue of over €100,000 deriving from typical television-related commercial activities (eg, advertising, sponsorship and contracts). They also exclude:
- any form of private correspondence, such as emails sent to a limited number of recipients;
- all services whose principal purpose is not the provision of programming (ie, services in which audiovisual content is incidental);
- linear services with a schedule of less than 24 hours a week and services that are unavailable to the general public - this includes corporate television services and cable television services in restricted areas, such as railway stations and airports;and
- on-demand catalogues that exclusively comprise programmes already offered on a linear basis (eg, catch-up television or archive services) and catalogues that are not independently available to the general public (eg, those available only as part of a larger package offered by a separate provider).
Rules for linear services and video on demand
Linear media service providers may start their activity 30 days after applying for an authorisation - they need not wait for a written response. However, AGCOM can refuse authorisation if the application form is incorrectly completed. Video-on-demand providers are automatically authorised on the day of their notification to AGCOM.
Both types of provider need only pay an application fee of €500 for audiovisual media services or €250 for audio services, payable with the application.
Authorised providers must apply to the Register of Communications Operators. If they are already registered for other reasons, they need only update their existing information. Providers that do not require authorisation under the resolutions need not register and may continue their activity without doing so.
Both linear and video-on-demand providers must comply with the legal obligations on media companies. For example, they are bound by the applicable provisions on
- copyright protection;
- advertising and commercial communications;
- European content quotas in respect of transmission and investment; and
- the protection of minors.
Video-on-demand providers must comply with provisions on the monthly compilation of the programme register. A simplified AGCOM form is available, but the appropriate resolution has not yet been issued.
Providers of linear services must comply with the provision on rectification under Article 32(5) of the Audiovisual Media Services Code (Legislative Decree 177/2005).
Websites that offer user-generated content are not subject to the resolution on linear services or video on demand unless they meet the €100,000 revenue requirement and bear editorial responsibility for their content (irrespective of how such responsibility is exercised).
The wording of the resolution's preamble and the terms of the resolution itself left open the question of what editorial responsibility means for the purpose of the resolution. However, the position has since been clarified: websites which cannot pre-select usergenerated content do not fall within the scope of the resolution, which is good news for aggregators of such content.
The resolution expressly states that on-demand audiovisual media service providers established in other EU member states may not obtain authorisation in Italy.
When AGCOM published the first draft of the resolutions and launched the consultations, many stakeholders argued that the proposed rules were too strict and could adversely affect the market. The regulator has clearly taken these concerns into account and the resulting framework is better than expected - it does not impose a complex authorisation process and could even encourage the further development of the online media sector.