EU Parliament approves new audiovisual services rules

Written by Martin Banks on 18 May 2017 in News

EU citizens with subscriptions for online films and TV may soon be able to access their content while temporarily in another EU country.

MEPs have approved new audiovisual services rules Photo credit: Creative Commons

The revised audiovisual media services directive (AVMS) was branded by the UK Tories as “confused and potentially harmful” but it was approved without amendment by MEPs in Strasbourg by 586 votes to 34 with 8 abstentions.

It means that EU citizens with subscriptions for online films and TV may soon be able to access their content while temporarily in another EU country.

The new broadcasting rules were approved by Parliament on Thursday having previously agreed with Council negotiators in February.


They will remove restrictions so that EU citizens can use online services such as Netflix, HBO Go, Amazon Prime, Spotify and Deezer while in another EU country for holidays, studies or business.

According to a Commission survey, in 2016, 64 per cent of Europeans used the internet to play or download games, images, films or music.

Many of them, says the Commission, expect to do so while they travel in the EU.

Their numbers are expected to grow as Europeans will pay less to access the internet on their mobile devices in other EU member states from 15 June 2017, when mobile roaming charges end in the EU.

Parliament’s rapporteur on the dossier, Jean-Marie Cavada, a French ALDE group deputy, said, “European citizens have been waiting for these new rules, which represent a step towards a common digital market. The news rules will increase mobility and successfully offer portability to users of European online content, without affecting copyright.”

Further comment came from German Greens deputy Helga Trüpel, a Vice-Chair of the culture committee and Green shadow rapporteur on the file.

She said, “The adoption of the Parliament's negotiating mandate for the AVMS directive is a positive step forward towards creating a fair level playing field of audiovisual media services.

“The negotiations will start on the basis of a text that includes considerable improvements regarding consumer rights, the protection of minors, the independence of national regulators and more effective protection against offensive or harmful content, while still ensuring freedom of expression.”

She added, “It is not infringing the eCommerce directive, because the proposed committee text only works with ex-post monitoring. Reopening the negotiations on the text as a whole in the next plenary session would have put at risk these achievements."

UK Conservative MEPs had joined several other political groups to try to stop the directive being sent straight to negotiations with the European Council and Commission without first being debated in Parliament.

However, the move was defeated today by 314 votes to 266.

Conservative culture and education spokesperson Andrew Lewer said, “We are obviously disappointed that sufficient members did not take the opportunity of the vote to open up the possibility to amend what is a confused, and potentially harmful, set of new rules on broadcasting.

"Not only is it bad news for broadcasters and viewers, the decision not to debate this report in Parliament prior to ratification by the European Council and Commission flies in the face of transparent decision making.”

He added, “Conservative MEPs will of course use all available diplomatic channels to try to achieve a sensible result in negotiations with the Council and Commission. However, this will be much harder now that the Parliament position is set in stone.”

Conservatives, he said, oppose proposals in the draft directive to scrap the current limit of 12 minutes per hour of advertising in favour of a daily limit.

Another concern, he said, is the decision to significantly extend the definition of incitement to hatred to bring it in line with Article 21 of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights.

This, said Lewer, goes beyond protecting people on accepted grounds such as disability, sex, race and religion to include a person or groups defined by a political or any other opinion.

“Conservatives believe this wider definition, which also covers online platforms such as YouTube, could give the green light to censorship and stop legitimate issues being discussed.”

The Tories are also unhappy at the proposal that 30 per cent of the content offered by video-on-demand companies such as Netflix must be European work.

Lewer commented, “Despite our best efforts to strike a sensible balance between supporting investment, protecting consumers and safeguarding free speech, we are left with a confused report that misses the mark in key areas, and in some cases may cause greater harm."

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter for the Parliament Magazine

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