The European Commission has proposed an update of EU audiovisual rules to create a fairer environment for all players, promote European films, protect children and tackle hate speech better, as well as presenting a new approach to online platforms. The proposals are part of a three-pronged plan to boost e-commerce by tackling geoblocking, making cross-border parcel delivery more affordable and efficient and promoting customer trust through better protection and enforcement, which the EC describes as “an important step” towards a Digital Single Market.
Andrus Ansip, Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, said: “All too often people are blocked from accessing the best offers when shopping online or decide not to buy cross-border because the delivery prices are too high or they are worried about how to claim their rights if something goes wrong. We want to solve the problems that are preventing consumers and businesses from fully enjoying the opportunities of buying and selling products and services online. We also want online platforms and the audiovisual and creative sectors to be powerhouses in the digital economy, not weigh them down with unnecessary rules. They need the certainty of a modern and fair legal environment: that is what we are providing today.”
In presenting an updated Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD); the common rules which have governed audiovisual media, ensured cultural diversity and the free circulation of content in the EU for almost 30 years, the EC notes that nowadays, viewers do not only watch video content via their TV channels but also increasingly via video-on-demand services (such as Netflix and MUBI) and video-sharing platforms (such as YouTube and Dailymotion). This is why the Commission wants to achieve a better balance of the rules which today apply to traditional broadcasters, video-on-demand providers and video-sharing platforms, especially when it comes to protecting children. The revised AVMSD also strengthens the promotion of European cultural diversity, ensures the independence of audiovisual regulators and gives more flexibility to broadcasters over advertising.
This proposal reflects the new approach of the Commission towards online platforms – like online marketplaces, search engines, payment systems, social media, video and content-sharing sites. Since the launch of the Digital Single Market strategy in May 2015, the Commission has undertaken a comprehensive assessment of the social and economic role of these new players. Today the Commission concluded that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach was not appropriate for consumers to benefit from the opportunities and for the rules to meet the different challenges posed by the very diverse types of online platforms. Based on this approach, the Commission will look at each area where it can act, from telecoms to copyright rules, to address any specific problems in a future-proof way for all market players.
Ansip said: “I want online platforms and the audiovisual and creative sectors to be powerhouses in the digital economy, not weigh them down with unnecessary rules. They need the certainty of a modern and fair legal environment: that is what we are providing today. This means not changing existing rules that work, such as those related to the liability of online service providers. It also means deregulating where necessary for traditional sectors like broadcasting, or extending certain obligations to platforms and other digital players to improve user protection and to reach a level-playing field.”
Günther H. Oettinger, Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society, said: “The way we watch TV or videos may have changed, but our values don’t. With these new rules, we will uphold media pluralism, the independence of audiovisual regulators and will make sure incitement to hatred will have no room on video-sharing platforms. We also want to ensure a level-playing field, responsible behaviour, trust and fairness in the online platforms environment, our today’s Communication sets out our vision for that.”
A media framework for the 21st century
The Commission has conducted an evaluation of the 2010 Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) and, on this basis, proposed:
These different measures are expected to have a positive economic impact for media service providers – mainly TV broadcasters – and increase their capacity to invest in audiovisual content. This is important for the competitiveness of the EU audiovisual industry.
Online platforms: opportunities and challenges for Europe
Online platforms play a key role in innovation and growth in the Digital Single Market. They have revolutionised access to information and have connected buyers and sellers in a better and more efficient way. EU action is needed to set the right environment to attract, retain and grow new online platforms innovators.
The Commission outlined a targeted, principles-based approach, to fix problems flagged by respondents to the Commission’s public consultation during its year-long assessment of platforms. The Commission will support industry and stakeholder efforts for self- and co-regulation to ensure this approach remains flexible and up-to-date. The action areas include:
In its forthcoming European agenda for the collaborative economy, the Commission will also provide guidance on applicable EU legislation and make recommendations for Member States.