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Shaping Europe’s digital future

Content and distribution rules in the AVMSD

The Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) works to ensure that media services in Member States’ jurisdictions contribute to equality and accessibility.

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Attractive content and services

Attractive content and services should be made available in an interoperable and borderless online environment.

We are witnessing an explosion of ways creative content is delivered and used, from e-books, to music streaming sites, to video-sharing platforms and more. Nevertheless, there are important challenges to be addressed, such as the cross-border availability of services or the ability of smaller European players to fully benefit from online distribution.

One element of the EU's content and media policies is to improve the environment for online creative content services through policy analysis and development, as well as through research and innovation funding.

In this context, the Commission is contributing to finding solutions to the following issues:

  • the evolution of copyright and its management in the connected world;
  • the role of ICT in content management, including the improvement of availability of accessible creative content online and across borders;
  • the simplification of licensing processes and its transparency through the use of databases, metadata and standards.

Prohibition of incitement to hatred

Within the EU

The authorities in every EU country must ensure that audiovisual media services do not contain any incitement to hatred based on race, sex, religion or nationality. This is an issue, for instance, with channels that endorse violence as the solution to social or political conflicts.

Banning a television channel outright must remain a last resort, as it is a radical move that should be balanced against the democratic right to free speech. In addition to corresponding national broadcasters, authorities in EU Member States are required to act against:

Outside the EU

EU authorities have no power under AVMSD to act against hate speech channels from outside the EU, such as outside satellite channels that can be picked up in parts of the EU. The Commission regularly raises the issue of hate speech broadcasters in its political dialogue with the countries concerned, particularly those where the broadcasters are based.

Accessibility for people with disabilities

Member States should guarantee accessibility of media services to people with visual or hearing disabilities.

Sight- and hearing-impaired persons as well as elderly people should be able to participate in the social and cultural life of the EU. Therefore, they shall have access to audiovisual media services. Governments must encourage media companies under their jurisdiction to do this by sign language, subtitling, audio-description or easily understandable menu navigation.

Read more about measures concerning access of visually and hearing-impaired people to television programmes in the Member States before the adoption of the AVMSD.

Major events

The AVMSD lays down framework conditions to prevent major events from being monopolised by pay-TV. This framework enables Member States to ensure that broadcasters under its jurisdiction do not broadcast events of major importance for society on an exclusive basis, as it would deprive the possibility for a majority of the public to follow them.

The events concerned may be national or other, such as the Olympic Games, the Football World Cup, the European Football Championship, an inauguration, marriage or burial of a king, queen or head of state, or an important cultural event.

Each Member State is entitled to draw up a list of events which are seen as being of major importance for society. According to Article 14 of the AVMSD, Member States shall notify the Commission of the measures they take, or intend to take, concerning the exercise of exclusive broadcasting rights to major events. Member States must also ensure that broadcasters under their jurisdiction respect the lists of other Member States which notified them to the Commission, on the basis of the principle of mutual recognition.

The Commission must seek the opinion of the AVMSD contact committee pursuant to Article 29 of the Directive, and it must assess the compatibility of the national measures with EU Law. In case of a positive outcome of this evaluation process, the measures are published in the Official Journal of the EU.

Find out more about the measures taken by the different Member States in this area.

Read the Judgement of the Court of First Instance of 15 December 2005.

Short extracts

Member States must ensure that any broadcaster established in the EU has access to short extracts of events of high interest to the public which are transmitted on an exclusive basis. These short extracts can only be used for general news programmes and must be provided on a fair, reasonable and non discriminatory basis.

This right to access should apply on a cross-border basis only when it is necessary, such as when no broadcaster established in the same Member State as the broadcaster seeking access to the extracts has acquired the rights. 

Member States may define the modalities and conditions regarding the provision of short extracts. However, where compensation is provided for, it may not exceed the additional costs directly incurred in providing access.

Latest News

Audiovisual media: Commission calls on Member States to fully transpose EU rules on audiovisual content

The European Commission has sent this week a reasoned opinion to Czechia, Estonia, Ireland, Spain, Croatia, Italy, Cyprus, Slovenia and Slovakia for failing to provide information about the implementation of the EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) into their national laws. The new rules apply on all audiovisual media, both traditional TV broadcasts and on-demand services, as well as video-sharing platforms. They aim to create a regulatory framework fit for the digital age, leading to a safer, fairer and more diverse audiovisual landscape.

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See Also

Contact Committee Meetings

The Contact Committee monitors the implementation of the AVMSD and developments in the sector, and is a forum for exchange of views.

Audiovisual Regulators

You will find on this page a list of European Union regulators in the field of audiovisual media services.

Protection of minors in the AVMSD

The Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) contains specific rules to protect minors from inappropriate on-demand media audiovisual services.

Audiovisual Commercial Communications

The Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) regulates commercial communications such as the promotion of goods and services in the audiovisual world.