On Thursday 17 June, PICTFOR hosted their fourth event of the Year, focused on Digital Regulatory Cooperation: What are the immediate and long-term opportunities and challenges when it comes to digital regulatory cooperation?
We were delighted to be joined by CEO of Ofcom and Chair of the Digital Regulation Cooperation Forum (DRCF), Dame Melanie Dawes, Digital and Culture Minister, Caroline Dinenage MP, CEO of the British Board of Film Classification, David Austin and CEO of the Advertising Standards Agency, Guy Parker, alongside PICTFOR’s Treasurer, the Rt Hon Lord McNally who chaired the event.
Please see below for minutes of the session. You can catch up on the event in full, here.
- Dame Melanie Dawes began by focusing on the work Ofcom is currently doing to regulate video sharing platforms, before detailing the different ways in which the regulator is preparing to support the Government with the new online safety legislation. She explained that this includes using the tools at Ofcom’s disposal to help consumers, building up their tech and data capabilities, carrying out more research into consumer attitudes, expanding their operations and recruiting actively, and building stronger and deeper partnerships with government and other regulators. Dame Melanie said that this final preparation is best exemplified by the DRCF, which was formed because of a shared belief that issues faced by individual regulators cannot be solved without working with those outside of the markets they are regulating.
- The Minister focused on the importance of regulatory collaboration within DCMS, especially with regard to the upcoming Online Safety bill. The Minister recognised that the proposals within the legislation would need to work with a range of interest groups and that the Government had to ensure that they were aligned with wider regulatory measures. She closed by noting the important role that regulators have in seizing opportunities and managing risks, highlighting the DCRF as an important step in securing a more inclusive and cohesive landscape to support digital growth and innovation.
- Dave Austin noted the historical collaboration between regulators, detailing the joint work between the British Board of Film Classification and video on demand services, as well as with streaming platforms. The key issue he described was age ratings on these platforms, which he highlighted had come up often in Parliament, and which he said needed greater cooperation from streaming companies. He noted that while they had been working with Ofcom for several months, they had been regulating pornography for over forty years, and were keen to use this expertise to help ensure the efficacy of Ofcom’s regulatory regime. He closed by discussing the need for a ‘level regulatory playing field’, as companies that see their competitors being regulated in a similar manner will be less likely to try and find loopholes.
- Guy Parker talked about how advertising regulation had been transformed over the last few years. He dispelled the widespread view that online-advertising is not regulated, noting that nearly two-thirds of advertising regulation tackles online content. He described the ‘balancing act’ between protecting people and still allowing business to thrive, while also highlighting the challenge presented by the pace of technological innovation within the sector. He noted that while the Advertising Standards Agency had worked closely with willing social media platforms in the past, they were also exploring new ways to hold these companies to greater account. He closed by emphasising how important digital regulatory cooperation was to ensure that new statutory powers are carefully coordinated.
Panellists were then joined by representatives from the Digital Regulation Cooperation Forum, including Kate Davies, Director of Strategy & Policy, Ofcom, Simon McDougall, Deputy Commissioner – Regulatory Innovation and Technology, ICO, Catherine Batchelor, Director – Shadow Digital Markets Unit, CMA, and Kate Collyer, Chief Economist and Interim Director of Competition, FCA.
- Kate Davies said that Ofcom recognised the scale of the challenge presented by the Online Safety bill, and how this necessitated building partnerships with other regulators. She also stressed the importance of media literacy to Ofcom, but warned about the challenge that the online-space brings, commenting that responsibility cannot be placed squarely on users and that cooperation with industry was vital.
- Simon McDougall highlighted how working collaboratively with other regulators allowed the different partners to effectively balance competing aims such as stricter online regulation and a governmental desire for the deregulation of business. He added that the DCRF had been struck by the amount of international interest in their organisation, with many regulators worldwide watching closely to see how their partnership fares.
- Catherine Bachelor detailed the different mechanisms that the DCRF have proposed to ensure that one regulator cannot make a decision that will be at odds with another partner, and explained the different regimes that had been put in place to ensure that digital enforcement did not lead to interminable legal wrangles.