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Poland Introduces Video-on-Demand Regulations

20 September 2012
Almost three years after the expiry of the deadline set by the European Union, Poland is finally taking action to bring its laws into line with the EU’s Audio-visual Media Services Directive. To this end, last month the Polish government accepted the bill on amending the Act on Radio Broadcasting and Television which introduces into the Polish legal system the regulations concerning video-on-demand services. All previous attempts to regulate video-on-demand services in Poland have failed as a consequence of the controversial wording of the proposed bills. In particular, Polish internet users widely criticized the provision under which all persons providing video-on-demand services were to be registered with the Polish National Broadcasting Council. Consequently, up until the present, this issue has not been regulated by Polish law and, as a result, Poland was sued by the European Commission before the European Union Court of Justice because of the delay in implementing the Directive.

The bill on VOD services, accepted by the Polish government on 21 August 2012, is now no longer considered to be controversial. Poland has decided to follow the German, French and Danish examples to allow the provision of video-on-demand services without the need for any formal registration. Nevertheless, the National Broadcasting Council will have oversight over the VOD providers who will be obliged to provide the Council with yearly reports concerning their activities.

The bill defines VOD services as services rendered within the scope of a company's business activity and consisting in making audio-visual broadcasts based on the provider's catalogue publically available. The new regulation will therefore apply only to entities which provide video-on-demand services within their business activities. Private persons who do not engage in business activity, or companies that provide video-on-demand services only incidentally, for example to advertise their businesses, are excluded from the regulations on VOD services.

VOD providers will be required to comply with the same obligations as traditional TV broadcasters, in particular they will be prohibited from advertising alcohol and cigarettes, or from promoting hatred, or racial or sexual discrimination. Furthermore, they will be obliged to protect children from material that could be potentially harmful. Moreover, they will be required to promote European programs and at least 10% of their catalogue will have to be European productions.

The bill amending the Act on Radio Broadcasting and Television will now need to pass through the Polish parliament, and will come into force 30 days after it has been published in the Journal of Laws.

Aleksandra Kuc

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