EU needs prudent approach to audiovisual media services directive

Audiovisual media services touch upon many aspects of people's lives, as is reflected in Parliament's report, writes Petra Kammerevert.

Petra Kammerevert | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual

By Petra Kammerevert

06 Feb 2017

Audiovisual media services and the revision of the directive touch upon many aspects of people's lives. As such, Sabine Verheyen and I, as co-rapporteurs, were not surprised at the 1500 amendments we received to the Commission's proposal. 

We now have to incorporate these into a coherent, quality proposal from the European Parliament by the end of the month, that puts us in a strong position to negotiate with Council. We hope we can reach an agreement by mid-2017.

Our aim is to come up with a legal text that preserves media diversity and freedom of expression, protects consumers and guarantees fair competition between media providers in the distribution of audiovisual media content, regardless of the way in which it is distributed. 


Admittedly, it is difficult to agree in the light of recent day-to-day political discussions on a text that will be in place for a long time. It is also difficult to reach the broadest possible consensus, first in Parliament, then with media industry professionals and, ultimately, come up with a text that will satisfy viewers. 

There is a heated debate in Europe on how to effectively protect human dignity in social media and how to combat hate speech, violence and racism, which are increasingly spread through audiovisual media. These are all difficult debates that push politicians to their limits. I believe a prudent approach will help us find solutions.

There are two aspects to this prudent approach. First, when in doubt, we must choose freedom without disrespect for interests that are worth protecting.

This means we must forego ex ante control over audiovisual content, as well as user-generated content, because otherwise we will be depriving ourselves of communicative freedoms.

In order to avoid any misunderstandings, I want to make something clear: applying a standard when protecting viewers from violent content does not mean checking all content for harmfulness.

This should be done seamlessly from the moment someone is made aware of dangerous content.

Increasing quotas for video-on-demand offers that are more common for classic television, does not necessarily stimulate production of new European audiovisual content. 

However, the discussions in Parliament have demonstrated that these quotas are perceived as a clear, EU-wide cultural policy signal that functions like a security network. They must be achievable and should not be an undue burden. At the same time they should be an incentive for European productions. As such, we have proposed a 30 per cent quota, which is a very comfortable midrange.

Additionally, national film funds help stimulate the production of new European works. Therefore, we want to enable member states to also grant such payments to video-on-demand platforms. We are currently trying to come up with wording that ensures that unjust double charges are avoided.

Lastly, a word on advertising. At the beginning of last year, Parliament urged the Commission to revise the directive, emphasising the need for more flexibility in advertising rules - at least on a quantitative level - in order to achieve a level playing field for all forms of dissemination. We did not do this out of love for advertising.

We did this because we realised that strict adherence to the existing 12-minute rule - especially in the case of private linear television - will in future become more unattractive.

This is because more appealing types of advertising - which are so far completely unregulated - have been developing online through personalisation.

If I expect high quality programming (with as few barriers as possible) from a private television provider, then I must also secure changes of refinancing and take into account the foreseeable development of media markets.

From a consumer protection perspective, it makes sense for the many applications, which require a greater degree of protection both quantitatively and qualitatively. 

Nevertheless, the principle must be that a legal product that can be sold without further restrictions may also be advertised. 

We want to make the rigid 12-minute regulation for linear television more flexible, without any more advertising flickering across the screen. At the same time, we want to introduce a few basic rules which apply equally to all ways of dissemination.

This includes the clear and unambiguous identification of advertising, sponsorship and product placement in all audiovisual works, regardless of the way they are distributed.

Finally, I believe that it is still worth fighting for a holistic solution. To me such a solution would be very general in the first place as to what an audiovisual media service should or should not be allowed to do. Furthermore, general rules should apply to different forms of advertising. 

I would also like to allow self-regulation as far as possible, but always with a strong state in the background, which only takes action when self-regulation is ineffective.

In this case, governments must be able to draw up and implement effective rules.


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