EU works on a new Audiovisual Media Services Directive to address changes in the media landscape in Europe. The EU’s Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) governs EU-wide coordination of national legislation on all audiovisual media, both traditional TV broadcasts and on-demand services. It contributes to the fairer regulatory environment for all audiovisual media players across the EU. Also it ensures a better protection of viewers when accessing audiovisual media content, including online.
In addition, it extends certain EU rules to video-sharing platforms, including some social media and other services where an ‘essential functionality’ of these services is to provide audiovisual content. These services are required to take measures to protect their users from illegal and harmful content. It includes reinforced obligations to promote European works for on-demand services, which need to ensure at least a 30% share of European content in their catalogues and give prominence to such content.
Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD)
The content and media sector plays a key economic, social and cultural role in Europe. The European Commission’s role is to put in place the ideal conditions and regulations to create a single market for audiovisual media services.
The Directive requires the Commission to provide, where necessary, guidelines on the practical application of the “essential functionality” criterion in the definition of video-sharing platforms. EU needs essential functionality on the calculation of the share of European works as well as the definition of low audience and low turnover for applying the related exemptions. Two sets of guidelines were therefore issued, following consultation with relevant representatives of the EU Member States (so-called Contact Committee). The views of stakeholders, especially with regard to specific technical issues, were collected during a targeted public consultation in February and March 2020.
The Commission adopted guidelines to help Member States implement the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive. The guidelines will offer a practical tool to ensure the promotion of European works in media content. They support cultural diversity and greater choice for European consumers. They will also help better protect users of video-on-demand and video-sharing platforms, particularly minors, against hate speech and harmful content.
The revised audiovisual rules will be a tool to safeguard users against harmful content. They will also enable European companies, films and other media ventures to create and promote European produced content, for consumers to enjoy cultural diversity and a more varied choice of products and services.
Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President for A Europe Fit for the Digital Age
We are making the most of our vibrant audiovisual media sector for us all – citizens, businesses, creators and authors – by transforming our media industry towards more innovative services, promoting our European culture in on-demand catalogues, and protecting our children and other vulnerable users from illegal and harmful online content.
Thierry Breton, Commissioner for Internal Market
EU Member States had until 19 September 2020 to transpose the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive into national law. The guidelines, while not binding, will contribute to its harmonised implementation and enforcement. They provide the Commission’s views on how specific concepts apply in order to ensure a consistent implementation of the media rules across Member States.
Social Media – Online platforms
The guidelines are part of the EU broader work to define responsibilities and accountability for social media and online platforms. These are complementary to the upcoming Digital Services Act package, on which a public consultation is ongoing.
Content industries are not only crucial to cultural diversity; they are also of paramount importance for the economy of the European Union. For instance, the audiovisual sector alone directly employs over one million people in the EU.
With the internet, media content, be it made of images, sound or written words can be distributed and accessed in a variety of ways and EU policy is evolving to reflect this new situation.
The development of online/digital publications concerns all sub-sectors of the publishing industry, like books, newspapers, magazines or even databases. eBooks for instance are taking a growing importance even if some factors such as interoperability, portability and cross-border availability still limit their consumption in Europe.
The role of the European Union is to create a single European market for audiovisual media services. It is also required to take cultural aspects into account in all its policies.
EU common Guidelines
The Commission adopted two sets of guidelines:
Guidelines on European Audiovisual works
The Audiovisual Media Services Directive has reinforced the obligations to promote European films and TV shows in on-demand services. EU needs them to ensure at least a 30% share of European content. It also allows Member States to require media service providers that are established in another Member State, but target audiences in their territories, to contribute financially to the production of European works.
The guidelines also include a recommended methodology for the calculation of the 30% share of European content in each national catalogue. This catalogue has on the titles of films and seasons of television series. They also clarify the definition of ‘low audience’ and ‘low turnover’. This focus in view of exempting smaller providers from the obligations concerning the promotion of European works and, thus, not undermining market development nor inhibiting the entry of new market players.
Guidelines on video-sharing platforms
The revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive extends EU standards on illegal and harmful content to video-sharing platforms. It includes also social media where the provision of audiovisual content is not the principal purpose of the service. It still constitutes an essential functionality thereof. As a result, online players will have to ensure, in a similar way to traditional media players, that users are protected against hate speech and that minors are protected from harmful content. Online platforms must take action against flagged content. This harmful content incites violence, hatred and terrorism, and ensure appropriate advertising and product placement in children’s programmes.
European media framework
In this context, the guidelines provide a toolkit for Member States. It helps them assess which online services should fall under the scope of the European media framework. They also identify a list of relevant indicators. Member States can use them when evaluating whether audiovisual content is an essential, and not only a minor or ancillary, part of the online platform. Moreover, they take into consideration the dynamic nature of the online platform environment and aim to ensure flexibility.
Today we can watch our favourite programmes from all over Europe not just on TV, but also via the internet or on our mobile devices. Like other goods and services, the audiovisual media are subject to the rules of the single European market.
European Audiovisual Observatory
The Commission also participates in the European Audiovisual Observatory. The observatory aims to improve the transfer of information within the audiovisual industry. Also it promotes a clearer view of the market and a greater transparency among players.
Goals of EU Audiovisual coordination
- providing rules to shape technological developments
- creating a level playing field for emerging audiovisual media
- preserving cultural diversity
- protecting children and consumers
- safeguarding media pluralism
- combating racial and religious hatred
- guaranteeing the independence of national media regulators.
- Areas of EU coordination
The AVMSD governs EU-wide coordination of national legislation in the following areas:
- General principles
- Incitement to hatred
- Accessibility for people with disabilities
- Principles of Jurisdiction
- Major Events
- Promotion and distribution of European works
- Commercial communications
- Protection of minors
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