Memorandum submitted by Video Networks
1. Video Networks is one of the world's
leading broadband television and video-on-demand companies. Video
Networks' HomeChoice service delivers films and programmes from
a central server down the telephone line to the television set
so that content can be watched at any time. Content can also be
paused, forwarded and re-wound like a video or DVD. Customers
order what they want via a remote control and the selection is
viewed instantly. HomeChoice provides customers with access to
over 1,000 pay-per-view film titles and a wide variety of television,
sports and music programmes via individual subscription services,
which can be purchased separately or as a complete package.
2. In partnership with dktv, HomeChoice
has enabled local authorities to bring information on public services
on-demand to local residents in a simple TV format.
3. HomeChoice also offers a fast Internet
service for a fixed monthly subscription fee.
4. Video Networks is supportive of the comments
in the submission by Intellect. We would also like to bring the
following points to the attention of the Joint Scrutiny Committee.
5. We support the creation of OFCOM as the
single regulatory body responsible for the communications sector
and believe that a "light touch" approach to its regulatory
responsibilities is appropriate.
6. Video Networks believes that OFCOM's
greatest responsibility will be to ensure that the market is competitively
fair and that organisations within its remit are able to compete
on a level playing field.
7. The regulation of access to BT's network
has not been wholly successful to date and OFCOM's powers need
to reflect this lack of success. It will be especially important
that OFCOM applies rigidly all competition rules relating to dominant
networks. We believe that the critical period will be the transition
from Oftel to OFCOM.
8. The changes relating to cross-media ownership
and proposed rules to allow non-European companies to acquire
ITV companies is supported by Video Networks. We are a small but
ambitious organisation that has been funded from private investment
and we believe that this move could help to make the UK market
more appealing to any potential US investors as there would be
the opportunity to take a strategic longer-term view about the
potential size of the market.
9. The draft Bill proposes to make video-on-demand
non-licensable (Clauses 154, 155 and 238). However, unless there
is an industry-wide binding code of conduct covering child protection
issues in place by the autumn of this year, the Secretary of State
could amend the definition of licensable through secondary legislation
(Clause 156) to include video-on-demand.
10. Whilst Video Networks is supportive
of all effective child protection measures, we believe that we
have a system already in place that is superior to a code of conduct.
All HomeChoice customers are given personal identification numbers
to prevent underage customers from watching unsuitable content.
11. Simon Hochhauser, 49, founded Video
Networks in 1992. He was responsible for the creation, in 1983,
and the development of the technology-focused St James's Venture
Capital Fund, part of the J Rothschild Group of Companies. While
there, he was instrumental in the start-up and development of
the software company Insignia Solutions Limited (now traded on
NASDAQ in the USA) and the successful cellular telephone retailer
Cellcom Limited. Simon previously worked at the New York investment
bank Lehman Brothers, specialising in corporate finance and mergers
and acquisitions with particular reference to technology companies.
He has a PhD in Physics from the University of London and performed
post-doctoral research in laser and fibre optic technology.