The European Commission has just launched its public consultation on the Audiovisual Media Service Directive as part of its Digital Single Market Strategy, which was announced on 6 May. The results of the consultation will feed into the REFIT exercise, where the Commission seeks to evaluate whether the directive is working as intended by its legislators. The results will also form the basis for the upcoming legislative proposal in the summer of 2016.
Adopted in 2010, the current directive sets out a minimum set of rules on issues as different as protection of minors, advertising, and prohibition of hate speech and discrimination, while also seeking to promote European audiovisual content.
Public and private broadcasters, pay TV aggregators, video on demand operators, cable operators, including telcos, Internet-Protocol TV companies, Internet Service Providers, regulators and trade associations now have the opportunity to have their say on the directive.
With an audiovisual market evolving towards convergence, the Commission wants to know more about the issues businesses and viewers encounter. In this debate, two key questions stand out.
One is the whether the graduated approach is still relevant. Non-linear service providers have to comply to less stringent rules on advertising and protection of minors because viewers of on-demand services can decide what and when to watch. The other is whether to extend the scope of the directive to other online audiovisual services. Market players from traditional sectors argue that they compete with online services in the same market which currently either benefit from a lighter touch regulation or are not regulated at all by the directive.
The Commission also asks for the views on other topics, such as consumer protection, user protection from hate speech and discrimination, protection of minors, promoting EU audiovisual content, strengthening media freedom and pluralism, access to information and accessibility to content for people with disabilities.
On each topic, the Commission provides different policy alternatives for stakeholders to choose from. This enables the Commission get a better sense of the expectations from the different market players, consumers, regulators and trade associations.
The next steps for the Commission on the AVMS directive will include a roundtable with a selected number of stakeholders a few weeks before the end of the consultation on 30 September. The results of the consultation and the REFIT exercise will be then reviewed by the end of 2015 by the regulatory scrutiny board. After the approval from the board, the Commission will present a legislative proposal in the summer of 2016.
Marzena Rembowski is a Director at FTI Consulting Brussels and Jan Hueckmann is a Consultant at FTI Consulting Brussels.