Ofcom, the UK communications regulator, has issued a note clarifying the legal responsibility of broadcasters for interactive television content, including advertising.

The responsibility for interactive content is determined by the provisions of the Communications Act 2003, the Ofcom Broadcasting Code which came into effect in July 2005, and the TV Advertising Standards Code.

The Ofcom note effectively determines that interactive content falls under the ‘general control’ of the broadcaster providing the service and forms part of their licensed service. It is therefore subject to regulation under the relevant code.

The position clarifies the regulatory status of interactive television services. There had previously been suggestions that interactive services, including advertising, might fall outside existing regulations.

Ofcom states that “Television programmes (including advertisements) to which access is made available to viewers from within a licensed service are within the general control of the broadcaster providing that service. These programmes therefore form part of the licensed service, provided they are available by means of that service for reception by members of the public.”

Where access is provided to another licensed service, a broadcaster is only considered to have general control over the link to that service. Licensed services include those provided by the BBC.