ATVOD names Johnson as CEO, outlines mission

The new UK regulator for the video-on-demand services, ATVOD (The Association for Television On Demand) has announced a series of senior appointments as it takes on its new role.

ATVOD’s change in status from an industry association with a code of practice to a statutory co-regulator of VOD services (along with Ofcom) has come about because of the introduction of new laws in the UK that will see consumer protection standards implemented in line with Europe-wide regulations. On Thursday, Ofcom designated statutory powers to ATVOD, whose board now includes a majority of independent members.

The regulator will be led by a newly appointed independent chair Ruth Evans, previously chair of the Bar Standards Board, the regulator for barristers, deputy chair of the Ofcom  Consumer Panel, and chief executive of the National Consumer Council for seven years. ATVOD has also appointed Pete Johnson as its first full time CEO. Johnson was previously head of policy and business development at the British Board of Film Classification, where he was responsible for regulatory policy and research, and the development of new classification services for packaged media and VOD providers.

Under the new regime, ATVOD will act as co-regulator with powers delegated to it by Ofcom. It will be funded by fees charged to the services which fall within the scope of the new regulations. Existing providers of VOD services must notify the regulator by April 30, while those intending to launch new services from now on must notify ATVOD in advance.

“This is the first move in a developing industry,” said Johnson. “Business models are being developed and changed and it was thought that it would be much easier to keep track of those changes if there was an industry contribution to the regulatory regime.” In addition, he said, Ofcom’s creation of an arms-length regulator could enable ATVOD “to do voluntary things as well, but that’s not been decided yet”. Johnson said that the statutory regulations that ATVOD will apply will be less stringent than the previous voluntary code of practice, which only applied to the “old” ATVOD’s founder members.

The new rules apply to “TV-like” services delivered on-demand. Complaints about Video On Demand services being in breach of the new rules should be directed to the provider of the Video On Demand service in the first instance. If the complaint is not resolved satisfactorily by the service provider, the complainant may refer the complaint to ATVOD.

VOD service providers who meet the statutory criteria are required to notify ATVOD of their services and pay a fee based on the overall cost of regulating the sector. To notify, VOD providers must visit where they can download a notification form. The regime is intended to be self-financing.

ATVOD will have a board comprising five independent members – Sara Nathan (former Channel 4 News editor and founder member of Ofcom Board), Tim Lefroy (CEO of The Advertising Association), Nigel Walmsley (former broadcasting executive and member of the ASA Council) and Ian McBride (broadcast compliance specialist and current affairs executive) alongside Evans. Four industry members, Daniel Austin, Simon Milner, Simon Hunt and Chris Loweth, have also been appointed with the role of providing a general industry perspective. These members are currently employed by BSkyB, BT, Virgin Media and Five.

Johnson will be speaking at The IPTV World Forum in London next Thursday Thursday, and will outline the new ATVOD regulations, who they apply to and explain how the new regulator will operate.