VSP Regulation: Ofcom publishes final guidance on advertising

posted on 13 December, 2021   (public)

Two final guidance documents for both controlled and non-controlled advertising on video-sharing platforms

On 7 December 2021, Ofcom published its statement and final guidance on the regulation of advertising on video-sharing platforms (VSPs). Aimed at providing video-sharing-platforms' support to understand their new legal requirements introduced in November 2020*, this final guidance completes the previous statement and guidance on regulatory requirements and measures to protect users from harmful material published in October 2021.  

Within the new legal framework, VSP providers are required to take appropriate measures to "ensure the protection of minors from restricted material, and the protection of the general public from relevant harmful material, in all videos, as well as advertising, regardless of whether it is under the control of the VSP provider". Additional measures are also specifically required for non-VSP-controlled advertising.

Following the results of the consultation launched in May - outlined in more details in the Ofcom Statement -, Ofcom has released two guidance documents, completing its guidance on harmful material and providing specific advice and best practices examples for the issue of advertising on VSPs.

♦ Guidance for advertising non-directly controlled by the VSP (advertising that is not marketed, sold or arranged by the VSP provider):

  • Terms and conditions of the provider's service must comply with the legal requirements and be clearly communicated to users, using a user-friendly summary and simple language
--> VSP providers are encouraged to put in place a specific advertising-related section within their terms and conditions for these requirements, including a clear explanation - and examples - of what material constitutes advertising.
  • Transparency of advertising shall be ensured:
--> VSPs should give the possibility for users-generated videos (and strongly prompt them) to declare that the video contain advertising and provide information about the advertiser. 
--> The presence of advertising in a video shall be clearly and directly announced to the viewers, in a clear and consistent way across the platform.

♦ Guidance for advertising controlled by the VSP (advertising that is marketed, sold or arranged by the VSP provider):

Taking into account the concerns raised by the stakeholders regarding the definition of such advertising, Ofcom has opted for a "platform- and technology-neutral" approach: Advertising is said marketed, sold or arranged by the VSP provider when the latter is "involved in making the advertising available on the platform, which may include (but is not limited to): enabling advertisers to buy advertising on their platform, either directly or via a third-party; and/or providing tools that enable advertisers to target or optimise the reach of their advert served on the provider’s platform".
Therefore, in addition to the transparency obligation regarding viewers:
  • VSPs are responsible for ensuring that the advertisers they engage with are aware of the legal requirements and providing relevant tools to allow advertisers to comply with the legal requirements when using their services.
  • VSPs are required to take "prompt action to remove or edit advertising that may contravene the requirements and take steps to prevent the recurrence of any issues identified with advertising" on their platform.

For the VSP-controlled advertising, Ofcom has also designated the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)  as a co-regulator.

Ofcom's regulation scheme for advertising on VSPs

Credits: Ofcom

* The UK Government has transposed the legal framework of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive related to the video-sharing platforms (VSPs) further into Part 4B of the Communications Act 2003. The provisions will remain in place until the adoption of the upcoming new Online Harms regime.

Source: Ofcom