Planned EU quotas for on-demand services anger broadcasters

Written by Martin Banks on 19 May 2016 in News

Controversial EU plans for a big shakeup of Europe's online video sector are set to prove a turn off for some broadcasters.

Battle lines are already being drawn as the European Commission prepares to unveil details of a revision of its media services directive.

The revision is expected to include a requirement for Netflix and other on-demand services to devote at least 20 percent of their content to European works.

Next week's publication follows a public consultation which garnered the views of interested parties on how to make Europe's audiovisual media landscape 'fit for purpose' in the digital age.


UK broadcasters BBC and Channel 4 and industry bodies FIAPF and EFADs are among more than 400 organisations and private individuals who responded to the consultation exercise.

The UK was the member state generating the most written contributions to the consultation's questionnaire with 49 responses, followed by Germany (31), Belgium (29) and France and Italy (24 each).

Details of the revision, together with the outcome of the consultation, which took place from July to September 2015, will be announced next week.

However, ahead of this, the European Conservatives and Reformists group has accused the Commission of "digital protectionism" and called on it to "think twice" before enacting provisions for the promotion of European works.

ECR group MEP Daniel Dalton, his party's consumer affairs spokesperson, said: "The Commission has yet again failed to understand how the digital world works. Subscription services like Netflix and Amazon should consider only one thing when placing content on their platforms: what their viewers want to watch.

"There have been some incredible shows made in Europe without the need for a quota. Introducing a quota risks online platforms investing small amounts in poor content just to meet the quota, at the expense of blockbuster content.

"Rather than working with online video services to break down barriers to their investment in Europe, we are dictating to them the content that they must produce."

Dalton added, "The Commission needs to stop this digital protectionism. This is not a case of Europe versus America, where American success comes at Europe's expense. Digital markets are global in nature and we all benefit by being more open." 

On the thorny question of regulating the promotion of European/domestic content, the UK government noted that "such a supply side intervention is more successful rather than intervening on the demand side through quotas."

The UK producers' association PACT says it supports the principle "that, where possible, it is better for the market to be left to evolve and adapt solutions to the opportunities and issues raised by convergence rather than for regulation to be introduced as they might have a negative impact on growth."

Channel 4, meanwhile, argues that "a policy appraisal should not see a radical change for its own sake."

Elsewhere, the Brussels-based Society of Audiovisual Authors (SAA) has suggested that there was a need for "clarification of the application of the directive to most services offering audiovisual works."

The Swedish Film Distributors Association, meanwhile, points out that the regulatory framework is "currently being jeopardised by the growing illegal and unfair competition in the form of download and streaming services of pirated films and television shows."

A Commission source said a survey of the responses identified a "convergence of views" regarding the need for possible changes to the rules on the scope of the directive's application.

He said there was "support for maintaining the status quo" concerning such issues as the country of origin principle but "no clear consensus", for example, on the directive's provisions for the promotion of European works.


About the author

Martin Banks is a journalist for the Parliament Magazine

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