The revision of the AMS Directive divides members of the Council of the EU
by Thierry Leclercq
- European ministers responsible for audiovisual matters met on 22 November in Brussels, where a divergence of opinion became clear on the modernisation of the AMS Directive proposed by the Commission
Although Slovak Minister for Culture Marek Maďrič, who currently chairs the Council, reported that “considerable progress” has been made in recent months, there are still key issues that need to be resolved: the country of origin principle, quotas for European works, financial contributions for VOD services, advertising pressures, etc.
Dutch and Luxembourgish ministers have shown a strong attachment to the country of origin principle, describing it as “essential for guaranteeing legal certainty” within the single audiovisual market; they see the introduction of a levy on VOD services in the destination country as a threat which “will increase market fragmentation and slow the development of an essential growth sector”, according to Dutch Secretary of State for Culture Sander Dekker.
This is an opinion clearly not shared by French minister Audrey Azoulay, who is supported by her Irish, Spanish, Greek, Portuguese and Slovak colleagues in welcoming the inclusion of the target country in this regulation, providing financial contributions for VOD services even when they are established in another Member State; she would also like to go further with promoting European works “to demand the same requirements of all stakeholders looking to sell their works to French audiences, wherever they may be established”.
The quota for European works could even be as high as 40%, even 50% if the proposal put forward by Romanian minister Corina Suteu is followed, accompanied by supplementary measures to ensure they are given pride of place in catalogues.
Commissioner Günther Oettinger is nonetheless guaranteeing that “the country of origin principle will be preserved in its entirety”: financial contributions are like a tax, so they must be set by the Member States, “provided that they comply with EU law, in particular with rules on State aid”.
The delegations also had mixed reactions to the measures proposed to ensure the protection of minors and fight against the incitement of hate on video sharing services; the exclusion of social networks was called into question, most notably by the French delegation, amidst fears “that operators will come up with strategies to bypass these via countries with more advantageous regulations”.
Last but not least, the flexibility of quantitative rules on televised advertising, sponsorship and product placement gave rise to very diverging opinions. The setting of a daily (as opposed to hourly) limit for this of 20% of air time, and the frequency of ad breaks (every 20 minutes) divided delegations. The Commission, for its part, believes the market will regulate itself.
The debate will continue in the Council under the Maltese presidency, with the opinion of the European Parliament expected in February. According to Commissioner Oettinger, a trilogue could be set up between the institutions from as early as March, as, he explains “we need to act quickly if we don’t want to be overtaken by the evolution of the market and technology”.
(Translated from French)