Media and telecoms players unite against new AV Directive

Media and telecoms players unite against new AV Directive


A unique alliance from across the broadcasting, telecoms, technology, new media and advertising sectors is voicing its concerns about the draft Audiovisual Media Services (AMS) Directive that is currently under discussion in Brussels. The UK government has serious concerns about the draft Directive and is currently discussing these with other Member States.

The draft Directive proposes substantial changes to the existing Television without Frontiers Directive (TVWF), which has governed broadcasting regulation in the EU since 1989. While moves to liberalise some of the advertising restrictions currently placed on broadcasters have been largely welcomed, the draft Directive also suggests extending regulation to cover a broad range of new and emerging audiovisual media services, something which has been met with fierce criticism in the UK.

The group, led by Intellect and the Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG), agrees with the objectives of the proposed Directive, including consumer protection and the promotion of a strong European economy, but is concerned that the proposed text will have an opposite and damaging effect. It is feared that in its current form, the draft Directive will:

  • Deter new and existing new media players from the market and divert investment and innovation away from the EU
  • Not protect consumers as effectively as possible, by undermining existing legislation and self-regulatory schemes, which already operate successfully in this area.

At the heart of the problem is the proposal to extend regulation designed for traditional scheduled broadcast television to a new and as yet unformed ‘on-demand’ market, despite the fact that there is already adequate EU level regulation and self-regulation.

“We are not arguing that new ‘on-demand’ services should be exempt from legal standards” said John Higgins, Director General of Intellect, the ICT trade association and one of the leading groups in the coalition, “but this is not the most effective way either to protect consumers or to create a healthy media sector in Europe.”

Antony Walker, BSG CEO argues, “As currently drafted, this Directive is likely to confuse businesses, overwhelm regulators and let down consumers. The proposed scope is too broad and the definitions used too vague. The result could be an all-encompassing regulatory framework that takes five years to implement, undermines existing safeguards and proves largely unenforceable.

The group’s paper and website be published this week, and signatories will be lobbying MEPs throughout the year.

About the Television without Frontiers Directive: The TVWF directive (TVWF) was originally devised in 1989 by the European Commission, was reviewed in mid 1990s, and is now under review again. The original aim was to create a single market for broadcasting by preventing broadcasters from being subject to double regulation (in country where content is produced and then again in country where it is broadcast). Under the directive, content is only regulated in its ‘country of origin’, as all countries within the single market have agreed minimum broadcast standards to ensure consistency across EU.

Why are changes being suggested? Technology has changed the way that television services are consumed. The advertising model that has sustained non-publicly funded television for many decades is increasingly being challenged, and new funding streams are needed to allow quality programming to continue. At the same time, new services where programmes are delivered ‘on-demand’ to consumers such as IPTV (television delivered over the internet) or mobile TV are just beginning to emerge.

What changes are being proposed? The draft Directive proposes extending regulation to cover not just traditional scheduled broadcast services, but all ‘audiovisual media services’. It divides these services into ‘linear’ or scheduled and ‘non-linear’ or on demand, with a so-called ‘lighter’ range of obligations being placed on the latter. It also proposes liberalising advertising provisions within the current scope, although the group fears the proposals do not go far enough.

Full list of signatories: ATVOD (Association for Television On-Demand), British Screen Advisory Council, Broadband Stakeholder Group, BT Group plc, Channel 4, Cinema Exhibitors’ Association, Cisco Systems Ltd, Communications Management Association, European Publishers Council, Five (Channel 5 Broadcasting Ltd), Global Village Limited, H3G UK Ltd, Homechoice, Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, Intellect, Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA), ITV plc, Newspaper Publishers Association, NTL, PACT (Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television), Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL), Satellite & Cable Broadcasters’ Group, T-Mobile UK, Video Performance Limited (VPL), Vodafone, Wanadoo UK, Yahoo!