News Corp.’s Sun Wins Appeal: Video On News Sites Won’t Be Regulated As VOD

More scrutiny of News Corporation’s UK tabloids by Ofcom… but this time with a good result for the media company. The UK communications regulator has ruled in favor of The Sun newspaper and determined that video on the news site should not be regulated as video-on-demand. The decision is wide-ranging in that it will apply to video on other newspaper sites — an area of growing coverage for publications like the Guardian, Telegraph and others.

Ofcom decision today was based on the fact that the Sun publishes more content than just video on its website: “Too much focus was placed on the ‘Sun Video’ section of The Sun’s website,” it noted in that decision.

Essentially, Ofcom said that only sites whose primary purpose is to show the kind of video that one would find on regular television should be subject to ATVOD’s regulations.

This should come as some relief to magazine and newspaper publishers in the UK, who are increasingly looking to their digital content, including video, as a route to generating more revenues in the future as those from traditional printed products continue to decline. On the Sun’s own site, video is definitely not the only feature, but it is a prominent one: the feature is second in line after the home button, appearing before links to news pages.

Back in Februrary 2011, the Association of TV On Demand (ATVOD) had determined that news sites that also ran video should be regulated in the same category as sites that offer video on demand, such as those offered by broadcasters: 4oD from Channel 4, or iPlayer from BBC.

The Sun had been appealing the VOD description, with support from its own umbrella organization, the Newspaper Society.

If Ofcom had ruled in ATVOD’s favor, apart from actual regulatory requirements around what kind of video content the site published, the newspaper (and others like it) would have been liable for up to £10,350 per year in fees, in a sliding scale based on annual revenues.

In addition to The Sun, the ATVOD had named Sunday Times Video Library, Telegraph TV, the Independent Video, FT Video, Guardian Video, Guardian YouTube (NSDQ: GOOG), News of the World TV and Elle TV among those that would have been subject to the same regulation. The newspapers, and others like it, will now be in the clear.