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Günther Oettinger, the European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, has revealed that the EC is currently assessing the functioning of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) in the context of traditional and new media converging into a larger, predominantly-digital media environment as well as the fact that physical boundaries – including among national media markets – are becoming less relevant, thanks to mobile technologies.
Speaking at the DW Global Media Forum on ‘The role of traditional and new media in the digital age – the EU view’, Oettinger said that regulation in this domain has a significant impact on the EU’s economy and on citizens’ everyday life, noting that the EU Digital Single Market strategy announces the creation of ‘A media framework for the 21st century’.
“With this goal in mind, the Commission is now assessing the functioning of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD). This process is called REFIT (regulatory fitness) evaluation and will be followed by a proposal for the modernisation of the Directive in 2016,” he advised.
“My vision is that businesses should be empowered to innovate and compete in the digital world. The EU’s creativity and rich cultural diversity should be promoted just as much as EU values and consumer protection. The Directive has fostered unhindered cross-border transmission of audiovisual media services within Europe. Just consider that at the end 2013 about 23 per cent of TV channels established in the EU targeted foreign markets (either EU or extra EU),” he said.
“We want to offer to all stakeholders the opportunity to genuinely contribute to the modernisation of the law. A Public consultation will be launched in the coming weeks. I strongly encourage all of you to participate,” he declared.
According to Oettinger, some of the main items the Commission is looking at are that the current law applies to television broadcasts. “It also applies to audiovisual media services offered online when the provider has control over the content. Services like Netflix are therefore already regulated by the Directive. We will now assess whether other types of online services, not regulated in this Directive, should be also regulated,” he said.
“If we conclude in this direction, we will need to analyse what is the right legislative or non-legislative instrument to deal with this. This debate is important. We need to be sure that our regulatory environment is fair and fit-for-purpose in the digital age,” he confirmed.
“Also, the existing law applies a set of important ‘societal values’ rules to all audiovisual media services but offers lighter touch regulation to on-demand services where the users decide on the content and the time of viewing. We will look closely at whether this system is working well and, if not, what are the right tools to address any shortcomings. For example:
Oettinger said that copyright was another key domain which would be subject to modernisation, announcing that legislative proposals would be presented by the end of 2015. “In this area, I want to make sure that we find a good balance between the interests of the consumer and the creative sector, especially for the film industry. For this reason, we are looking closely at ways consumer can access online services they have paid in another EU country, when they are on holidays and at how we can achieve harmonised copyright exceptions in fields such as research and education,” he explained.
“We aim to modernise cross-border enforcement of copyright and we intend to obtain a clear picture on how copyright-protected works are used by online intermediaries,” he added.