EU audiovisual rules
The media landscape has shifted dramatically in less than a decade. Instead of sitting in front of the family TV, millions of Europeans, especially young people, have changed their viewing behavior and consume content online, on demand and on the go.
Videos are expected to account for 82% of all internet traffic by 2022.
To respond to these new developments, the Commission proposed to review the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) in May 2016. The co-legislators adopted the revised text in November 2018 and Member States had until September 2020 to implement the new rules.
The reform of the EU’s audiovisual framework confirms and reinforces what works well, in particular the Country of origin principle. To ensure a functioning common European Market, audiovisual providers will continue to be subject only to the rules of the country where they are established.
At the same time, the reform extends EU content standards to online media players — so-called video-sharing platforms. As a result, the EU will be the first jurisdiction in the world where online players will have to ensure, in a similar way as to traditional media players, that users are protected against hate speech and minors protected from harmful content.
Finally, the new rules aim at ensuring a level playing field between all media players in the audiovisual markets. On-demand services will be subject to comparable obligations to promote European works as broadcasters. Broadcasters will benefit from lighter obligations in terms of advertising restrictions, while new online actors will need to abide by basic advertising standards.
A safer online environment and responsible behaviour of platforms
Under the new rules, Member States must ensure that video-sharing platforms put in place measures to:
- protect the general public from incitement to violence or hatred and content constituting criminal offences (public provocation to commit terrorist offences, child pornography and illegal racist hate speech);
- protect minors from harmful content (which may impair their physical, mental or moral development), access to which shall be restricted.
The reform also extends certain rules regarding commercial communications that have traditionally applied to broadcasters and on-demand services. As a consequence, video-sharing platforms and users uploading content will have to respect basic advertising obligations and transparency requirements.
The objective is to ensure that users benefit from a similar level of protection when consuming audiovisual content, whether via traditional audiovisual media services or online.
In practice, this means when kids watching their favourite YouTube channel may wish to follow the latest fashion trends, they (and their parents) will know whether fashion or lifestyle influencers they follow have been paid to promote a certain brand in their videos.
Similar rules for comparable services
The revised AVMSD creates a fairer regulatory environment for audiovisual players, that is, TV broadcasters, which have traditionally been regulated more strictly, and ondemand service providers.
The revised directive strikes the right balance between consumer protection and a more flexible system for TV broadcasters, taking into account new market realities.
In this regard, instead of the current 12 minutes per hour, broadcasters can choose more freely when to show ads throughout the day. An overall limit of 20% of broadcasting time is maintained, but this no longer applies on an hourly basis, but shall be calculated within two distinct time periods: 6:00 to 18:00 and during prime time (from 18:00 to midnight). This flexibility should improve the competitiveness of the EU audiovisual industry.
In addition, with the revised Directive, the co-legislators have agreed to strengthen the obligations for on-demand services as regards the promotion of European works.
Supporting cultural diversity
With the revised Directive, on-demand service providers, such as Netflix or Amazon, will be now obliged to offer at least a 30% share of European content in their catalogue and to ensure the prominence of this content.
This new framework also recognises the possibility for Member States to impose financial contributions (direct investments or levies payable to a fund) upon media service providers, including those established in a different Member State but targeting their national audiences. Such measures must be proportionate and not discriminatory.
The new rules include a mandatory exemption from such obligations for companies with a low turnover and low audience.
In practice, this means European VOD viewers will benefit from a broader and more diverse audiovisual offer and European creators are expected to benefit from more production opportunities.
Independence of audiovisual regulators
Member States will be required to ensure the existence of independent regulatory authorities for audiovisual media services which will have to fulfil specific criteria, such as the requirement to exercise their powers impartially and transparently and the prohibition to seek or take instructions from any other body in relation to the exercise of their tasks.
Member States will also have to set up transparent procedures for the appointment and dismissal of the head of a national regulatory authority or the members of the collegiate body who may be dismissed only if they no longer fulfil the conditions required for the performance of their duties. An appeal mechanism against the decision of a regulator on national level will also have to be provided.
Overall, thanks to this reform, the national audiovisual authorties will be in an even better postion to ensure that fair competition, cultural diversity and media freedom and pluralism are duly respected.
Promoting Media Freedom and Pluralism
In addition to establishing a modern regulatory framework, the Commission is active in protecting media freedom and pluralism, considered pillars of modern democracy and essential components of a democratic society.
What are we doing?
The Commission co-funds projects addressing violations of media freedom and pluralism in the EU Member States and Candidate Countries.
In the period 2021-2027, actions that monitor and assess risks to media pluralism and freedom are supported through the Creative Europe programme.
Currently, there are 10 projects dedicated to media freedom and pluralism, either ongoing or in preparation, representing over €12 million in EU funding.
- Independent monitoring of media pluralism: No EU country is immune from risks to media pluralism. The Commission co-funds the Media Pluralism Monitor, a scientific instrument, implemented in an independent manner, which identifies risks in each Member State.
- Providing support to journalists under threat: Investigative journalism can be a risky profession. The Commission supports the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), which provides legal help and shelter to journalists in need.
- Boosting European journalism: The Commission co-funds projects supporting crossborder investigative journalism via an independently-managed fund. The Commission also supports cross-border exchanges of young media professionals and provides funding for the modernisation of press councils.