Parliament's internal market and consumer protection (IMCO) committee opinion attracted great interest from the shadow rapporteurs and the wider MEP community, which is a testament to the importance of the audiovisual media services (AVMS) directive to industry and consumers as a whole.
This opinion was adopted in December by a strong majority and now we turn our attention to the culture and education committee with the hope that this opinion forms a major part of the thinking for the overall report. Below, I outline a number of the key political issues looked at in the opinion.
The country of origin principle was a critical priority for industries and as such, the initial confirmation from the Commission that this principle remained at the heart of the directive was important. This principle has worked well for the audiovisual sector across Europe and is something our content producers know well.
Any movement away from this would have created burdensome new regulation and ambiguity regarding the legal and editorial responsibility of the ownership of content.
The IMCO opinion has looked to ensure that the country of origin remains a key aspect of this directive by agreeing that any financial obligation levied by member states upon on-demand services can only occur within their domestic jurisdiction in line with the country of origin principle.
Imposing levies on foreign services would showcase that we in Europe are too negative and protectionist and simply do not trust the quality and innovative content of our producers to compete in the global digital marketplace.
If we are to trust this content, then we should ensure that it is given the chance to display its quality through a market-driven approach, as it currently does.
This argument also stands true for quotas. European works should be fairly promoted and distributed, but this should be where practical and by appropriate means. Any movement in favour of artificial prominence or discoverability of content would again show the world that we lack trust in the quality of our producer's works.
Similarly, no hard evidence has been presented to justify imposing levies or higher quotas when it comes to investment in quality content. Rather, investment is maximised when generated through competition. We must trust the quality of our content producers and acknowledge that the consumer will always choose what he or she wants to watch.
Most broadcasters welcome measures that look to introduce more flexibility and clarity and this is true for the AVMS segment focusing on commercial communications.
Within this, most broadcasters saw product placement being explicitly permitted in this directive as positive. They were also keen to see the removal of 'undue prominence' concerning product placement, which had led companies to avoid using product placement due to the legal ambiguity.
There had, however, been concern regarding the definition of 'programmes with a significant children's audience'. Due to the lack of clarification on what programmes this might include, it could have actually had a negative impact and extended to non-children's programmes, creating further confusion.
By reverting to simply 'children's programmes', this will ensure we continue to focus on what can be effectively implemented by national regulatory authorities and is clear for industry. Most importantly, by creating a clearer definition of 'children's programmes', we can most effectively ensure that children's audiences are best protected from the wrong type of adverts.
It is essential in reviewing this directive we look at what is working and what can be improved. It is important that it provides adequate regulation without stifling innovation or compromising quality.
There has been great cooperation between political groups, which has helped to create what I believe is a fair opinion that, on one side will provide a strong platform to ensure European works are fairly promoted, while also ensuring we acknowledge the needs of the consumer and understand the global marketplace as a whole.
It has also sought to clarify a number of aspects, which will simplify the process for industries throughout the supply chain, and we look forward to the final culture committee report.