Industry Report: European Policy
The European Commission adopts a proposal to revise the Audiovisual Media Services Directive
by Paraskevi Karageorgu
- On 25 May, the European Commission proposed an update of its Audiovisual Media Services Directive, which was adopted in 2010 as a way of ensuring a fair environment for all market players, promotion of European films, protection of children from harmful content and hate-speech prevention.
The Audiovisual sector has been a challenge for the Commission's Digital Single Market strategy presented in 2015, and many stakeholders have expressed their concerns over the ways in which video-on-demand platforms could affect the film industry. In order to take all of them into account, the current proposal has abandoned the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, and ensured that it complies with both principles of subsidiarity and proportionality and addresses the outcomes of the Commission’s public consultation from July to September 2015, which sought all interested parties’ opinions on how to make Europe's audiovisual media landscape fit for purpose in the digital age (see the Q&A).
Some of the key proposals for the amended Directive include:
Fostering European creativity – TV broadcasters are to continue to dedicate at least half of their screen-time to European works and will oblige on-demand providers to ensure a minimum 20% share for European content in their catalogues;
Member States are able to ask for financial contributions for European works from on-demand services available in their country;
Broadcasters receive more flexibility as to when ads can be shown – the overall 20% of broadcasting time between 7am and 11pm is maintained, but instead of the current hourly limit of 12 minutes, broadcasters will have more freedom to choose when to show ads throughout the day;
Ensuring minors are protected from harmful content and all citizens are protected from hate speech, as part of which the Commission invites all video-sharing platforms to work with the Alliance to better protect minors online;
Securing a stronger role for audiovisual regulators, as part of which the regulatory authorities are independent from governments and the industry (here an important role is given to the European Regulators Group for audiovisual Media Services (ERGA), established in 2014).
The document recognises the growing impact that internet and on-demand distribution services have had, to the point where even TV channels are becoming more international, as, at the end of 2013, 5,141 TV channels were established in the EU and, of these, almost 1,989 are targetting foreign markets. This share increased from 28% in 2009 to 38% in 2013. The data for video-on-demand services show a similar trend: on average, 31% of the video-on-demand services available in any particular Member State are established in another EU country.
Andrus Ansip, Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, stated: "I want online platforms and the audiovisual and creative sectors to be powerhouses in the digital economy, not weigh them down with unnecessary rules. They need the certainty of a modern and fair legal environment: that is what we are providing today”. The adopted document was met with positive feedback, with The Association of the European Film Agency Directors, which brings together the Directors of European Film Agencies in 31 countries in Europe, defining it as a “positive first step towards creating an environment which would promote a sustainable European film and TV industry, benefit European audiences and strengthen European cultural diversity”.