Better regulation for Europe’s media industry: The Commission’s approach
Par Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for Information Society and Media
Audiovisual Conference Between Culture and Commerce - Liverpool, 22 September 2005
I see three main options as for the future legal framework for audiovisual content. Option one is, not to change anything. It says: let’s consider that the rules adopted for the audiovisual landscape of 1989 will remain valid in the converged audiovisual landscape of 2010. Option two is to tidy up the 1989 Directive as we already did in 1997. Option three is to propose a new directive, future-oriented towards the needs of both the industry and the consumers in the near future. Such a new audiovisual content directive would:
1/ reaffirm the values we share as Europeans
2/ adopt a “light touch” for new audiovisual services, while giving them the opportunity to take advantage of the country of origin principle.
3/ modernise and simplify rules in the field of traditional television
It is obvious that a Directive can only provide high-level objectives and principles. It does not replace implementation by national Governments and Regulators, and co- and self-regulation with industry and other stakeholders. This last point is very important: whilst it remains desirable to pursue some key public policy objectives like the protection of values, this must be achieved in the on-demand environment by encouraging the industry to take ownership and responsibility.
What I want to present now is my assessment and my conclusions with regard to the various contributions the Commission received on some of the issues at stake, and in particular on the scope of the directive, advertising rules and values.
Let me begin with some remarks on the scope of the future legal framework for audiovisual services. It seems to me that nearly everyone agrees that ensuring a level playing field among platforms delivering similar audiovisual content falls into the remit of the European lawmaker. In any case, technological change and convergence lead to a multiplication of services. It is necessary to have a technologically neutral regulatory approach, taking into account the degree of choice and control of the consumer. That is why we make a clear distinction between linear and non-linear services and I am glad to see that many of you support this approach. We will of course have to test this against the reality of a complex and fast-moving market and refine the legal definitions in the coming weeks on the basis of the discussions we had here in Liverpool.
The Issues Paper on advertising addressed many different subjects and I want to deal with the most topical of them. The issue of product placement has been very controversial. My opinion on this issue is that one should be honest towards consumers. Product placement is a reality, but we lack clear rules. Consumers should have the right to know what kind of content they are watching. Our goal should be to increase consumer information, while acknowledging that product placement is a form of advertising, and that it should not interfere with editorial independence. Furthermore, having clear rules for product placement would secure new revenues for Europe’ s audiovisual industry, contribute to boost our creative economy and thus to reinforce cultural diversity.
While speaking about advertising, I want to insist again that this is an area where co- and self-regulation have made enormous progress in many of the EU member states. Look for example at the Charter put in place by the European Advertising Standards Alliance.
The increasing sense of responsibility of the industry could in my view lead to deregulation in the field of advertising. One possibility is a relaxation of the rules concerning insertion and daily advertising limits. I take note that member states which have expressed a view on the “issues paper” support the need to give more freedom to broadcasters in that respect.
Concerning protection of minors and incitement of hatred, there seems to be quite a broad consensus on the current balance foreseen in the TVWF Directive. Member State, public service broadcasters, religious organisations and consumers’ and viewers’ organisations have all expressed the view that these values should obviously apply to non-linear services as well, and not only to traditional television. But this does not impede Member States in adopting a co-regulation approach when implementing a possible new directive.
Least but far from the least, cultural diversity: You know how attached I am personally to the promotion of cultural diversity. Indeed, in my previous portfolio, I launched the process leading to a unified European position on the UNESCO Convention on cultural diversity which has every chance of being adopted next month. As regards the Directive, there is a broad consensus that the rules in place have provided a stable and flexible framework for the promotion of European and independent production. They represent a compromise which was reached after long and hard negotiations and reflect the interests of all parties concerned: of the content supply industry but also of the broadcasting sector and primarily the interests of the viewing public which depends – at least in a linear environment – on the offer of diverse and high quality scheduled programmes.
The issue of what to do in the non-linear environment is more controversial. While we can, I believe, agree on the objective of a vibrant European audiovisual production sector reflecting the diversity of our cultures, it is clear that transmission time quotas such as those in Article 4 – are not an option. On the other hand, it is clear that the Directive should provide for the free circulation of non-linear services in the internal market in a comprehensive way and needs to address this issue.
I am very grateful for your contributions – written and here at the conference. I will now report the results of this conference to my fellow commissioners and the Commission will come to a conclusion in the next few months. If we want to succeed in defining the right legal framework for our industry and our citizens, if we want to succeed in boosting Europe’s creative economy, Member States, industry and stakeholders must be ready to adopt realistic views and be prepared to compromise.
In any case, be sure that the future legal framework will be a flexible instrument, the best possible balance between the maximum freedom for our industry to take full advantage of the single market and general interest principles. Be sure that it will aim at increasing legal certainty and competitiveness of our telecom and audiovisual industries. Be sure that it will aim at creating the conditions for a wide distribution of rich digital content – reflecting our cultural diversity – on many platforms. Be sure that the future legal framework will help Europe to lead the world in this crucial field of culture and commerce.
Source : Speech /05/532, date 22/09/2005
27 Septembre 2005