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Broadcasters warn against EC Directive changes

A grouping of Europe’s commercial broadcasters has warned that proposed changes to the AVMS Directive are a step backwards that risks damaging growth, audience choice and investment in European content, instead of delivering the Commission’s stated aim of fostering Europe’s digital economy.

When the European Commission embarked on the current review, vice president Andrus Ansip pledged to enable audiovisual companies “to be the powerhouses in the digital economy, not weigh them down with unnecessary rules”. But instead of deregulation, the broadcasters’ grouping contends that the current proposals will increase restrictions – jeopardising investment in European content, increasing unfair competition with online players, and undermining the freedom to broadcast.

European broadcasters are already responsible for the majority of commercial investment in European content, pay significant taxes and provide highly regulated services that are subject to robust audience protections, particularly for minors. The review of the AVMS Directive is a once-in-a-decade opportunity to promote media plurality and diversity in the broadcasting sector; to help European broadcasters compete with less regulated global online players and to innovate in response to changing audience demands; and to maximise their investment in European content and the creation of European jobs. However, it is instead set to represent a step backwards.

Specifically, they suggest the proposed amendments would:

  • Limit broadcasters’ freedom to provide channels to EU audiences by undermining common rules that apply irrespective of where a channel is based and creating unnecessary uncertainty in establishment criteria. This risks damaging choice and plurality especially in smaller markets and all but destroying the Country of Origin principle on a practical level (Articles 2, 3, 4, 9).
  • Restrict the main revenue source for broadcasting companies by introducing new advertising constraints while maintaining outdated legacy provisions. This will limit broadcasters’ ability to react to consumer demand for high-quality content and effectively compete with less regulated global online players (Articles 9, 10, 11, 19, 20, 23).
  • Introduce strict financial requirements such as levies on broadcasters’ linear and non-linear services. This will apply to broadcasters who are already among the biggest investors in European content, and prevent channels from taking an innovative approach to funding content in response to changing audience demand (Article 13).

“Europe’s broadcasting sector has been a success story over the ten-year lifetime of the current AVMS Directive, steadily increasing investment in European content, jobs and the number of channels that EU citizens can choose from,” they declare. “As European broadcasting associations with members across the EU, we urge politicians and policy makers to ensure our sector’s competitive strength in the long term by delivering on the original stated aim of this review ‘to create a fairer environment for all players’,” they conclude.

The grouping comprises the Association of Commercial Television in Europe (ACT); the Commercial Broadcasters Association (COBA); Confindustria Radio Televisioni (CRTV); the European association of Television and Radio Sales houses (egta) and VPRT.

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