The Audiovisual Media Services Directive's general approach of a system of graduated regulation also applies to the protection of minors. The less control a viewer has and the more harmful specific content could be, the more restrictions apply. The rules in this Directive are supplemented by the 1998 Recommendation and 2006 Recommendation on the protection of minors and human dignity.
The AVMSD takes into account that the protection of minors has to always be balanced with other important values of a democratic society like freedom of expression and cannot work without parental responsibility.
The Commission has also published a specific communication on video games.
Protection of minors in television broadcasting or linear services
|Content type||Restrictions||Further details|
|Content which might impair minors||Total ban|
|only available in a way minors will not normally hear or see such content (Article 12)|
|Content which is likely to impair minors||No restrictions||ensure that minors in the area of transmission will not normally hear or see such broadcasts through encryption or other measures (Article 27 (2),(3))|
Content which might seriously impair minors
- Content that might seriously impair minors must not be included in any programme, signifying a total ban.
- Programmes which "might seriously impair" the development of minors containing pornography or gratuitous violence are prohibited.
- Programmes which might simply be "harmful" to minors can only be transmitted when it is ensured that minors will not normally hear or see them. This can be done by selecting the time of the broadcast or by any technical measure such as e.g. encryption
- When harmful programmes are not encrypted, they must be preceded by an acoustic warning or by means of a clearly identifiable visual symbol throughout their duration.
Content which is likely to impair minors
Such content must be ensured, by selecting the time of the broadcast or by any technical measure (e.g. encryption), that minors in the area of transmission will not normally hear or see such broadcasts.
Protection of minors in on-demand or non-linear services
Programmes which "might seriously impair" the development of minors are allowed in on-demand services, but they may only be made available in such a way that minors will not normally hear or see them. This could be done by the use of PIN codes or other, more sophisticated age verification systems. There are no restrictions for programmes which might simply be "harmful".
How to complain about a programme ?
The European Commission does not monitor programmes on an individual basis but rather the performance of Member States in general. Therefore, the media regulator(s) of the Member State having jurisdiction is competent for following up individual complaints. If it is not clear which Member State has jurisdiction or a citizen does not speak the language of the competent Member State, she or he may also contact the media regulator of their own Member State directly. Regulators are obliged to cooperate one with each other, especially in cross-border cases.
The Directive obliged the Commission to submit a study of the advantages and disadvantages of other measures to facilitate parents' control of broadcasts watched by their children such as filters and rating systems.
The AVMSD is complemented by the 1998 Recommendations which was the first legal instrument concerning the content of online audiovisual and information services and the 2006 Recommendations on the protection of minors and human dignity.