Video-sharing platform services in UK jurisdiction to notify Ofcom from 6 April - 6 May 2021

Ofcom has published a statement announcing a month-long notification period for video-sharing platform services (VSPs) in UK jurisdiction. In between 6 April and 6 May 2021, UK based VSPs will be legally obliged to submit a formal notice of their service to Ofcom.

This announcement provides a timeline for providers to make their own assessment of whether their service meets the statutory criteria, and whether they will need notify Ofcom. The guidance 'Video-sharing platforms: who needs to notify Ofcom' is designed to help providers understand if they are in scope, and also includes a detailed breakdown of how they should go about notifying Ofcom. 

Do I need to notify Ofcom from 6th April 2021?

If your service meets the following criteria and you have considered purpose and functionality, you will need to notify Ofcom during the month-long window:

  • your service, as a whole or a ‘dissociable section’, has the principal purpose of providing videos to the public.
  • your service has the essential functionality of providing videos to the public.
  • the service is provided via an electronic communications network.
  • the service is provided on a commercial basis.
  • the service is provided by a person who has general control over the organisation of videos, but not over what videos are available to users.
  • the provider of the service is within UK jurisdiction.

Providers will need to closely consider whether the provision of videos to the public is:

  • the ‘principal purpose’ (i.e. the main activity or objective) of the platform as a whole or of a ‘dissociable section’ of it (i.e. a part of the platform that is sufficiently distinct from the rest of it).
  • an ‘essential functionality’ of the service as a whole (i.e. where the provision of videos contributes significantly to the commercial and functional value of their service).

Providers should also consider whether they have control over what videos are available on their service, and if they do have control, this would suggest they need to notify it as an on-demand programme service, rather than a VSP.

If you have any questions about the final notification or scope requirements, providers can email Ofcom at [email protected].  

Are you part of the UK jurisdiction?

Providers will need to determine whether they have the required connection with the United Kingdom to be in UK jurisdiction by considering the type of economic activity they are pursuing in the UK and their centre of activities regarding the VSP service, as compared to any other establishments in the European Economic Area (EEA). Where a VSP service provider is not itself present in the UK or EEA, it may be relevant to consider the establishment of other entities within the same group.

How does this link to the upcoming Online Safety Bill?

New regulations applying to UK established VSP services came into force from 1 November 2020. In December 2020, the Government’s full response to the Online Harms White Paper confirmed the intention for the ‘regulation of the UK VSPs to be part of the online harms regime’.

The Government’s full response also highlighted how the alignment between the two regimes offers the opportunity for early engagement with stakeholders and for testing regulatory processes ahead of the online harms’ legislation coming into force.

Next steps and engagement

As part of the development of the VSP regime, Ofcom has launched a consultation on regulatory requirements and measures to protect users from harmful content. techUK is working closely with Ofcom on the development of the VSP and online harms regimes and will be responding to this consultation before the deadline of 2nd June 2021. If you would like further information on this, please feel free to get in touch.