Viviane Reding, European Commissioner responsible for Information Society and Media, Brussels, 12 July 2005 – 2005/07/12
“Cultural Diversity and Promotion of European and Independent Audiovisual Production” is one of the five issues papers which summaries the results of the discussions concerning the future legislative framework for audiovisual content services. They are subject to public consultation during summer 2005 in preparation of a major audiovisual conference co-organized by the European Commission and the UK Presidency of the E.U. in September 2005.
In fact, the European Commission made public today the preliminary conclusions drawn from the consultations of experts and stakeholders on the future E.U. rules for audiovisual content. These new rules would cover—in a manner adapted to the type of service—audiovisual content services, whether linear or non-linear, whatever the delivery platform (e.g. broadcast, high-speed broadband, third generation mobiles). The objective is to provide a pro-competitive and flexible framework for audiovisual content services in Europe. The others issue papers focus on the following topics: Rules applicable to Audiovisual Content Services; Rights to Information and Short; Extracts; Commercial Communications; Protection of Minors and Human Dignity, Right of Reply; Media Pluralism.
In this occasion, Viviane Reding, the Commissioner responsible for Information Society and Media, said “I want the new E.U. rules on audiovisual content to be an example of better regulation. My objective is to give Europe’s media industry the most modern and flexible rules in the world. The new rules should unfold the opportunities of the emerging multimedia world which will offer increased competition and consumer choice, while clearly spelling out general public interest objectives such as cultural diversity and protection of minors. Existing rules, which have been overtaken by technological and market developments, must be abolished.”
In an article in Les Echos, Enguerand Renault emphasized that “by launching the revision of the “Television Without Frontiers” directive, Ms. Reding “is taking on a dangerous crusade. She’ll have to avoid reigniting the quota battle while trying work in the consequences of media and telecoms coming together.” In 2003, Ms. Reding deemed it too dangerous to review this “Television Without Frontiers” directive, since the cultural diversity theme was still a source of friction between member countries, especially with regard to strengthening or loosening audiovisual quotas. But now that Europe has come to an agreement on the subject, the text can be reexamined. However, Ms. Reding continued, “changing the equilibrium of the current directive on the quota problem is out of the question. Since this thorny subject has been exhausted, the various countries and the European Commission can now take on a new problem: how to broaden the directive to encompass new “nonlinearized content” on demand.”
The journalist explained that the “Television Without Frontiers” directive, in effect since 1989 and revised in 1997, sets out a number of rules. But for the time being, these rules only apply to traditional audiovisual services, known as “linear,” i.e., made up of a coherent collection of programs in chorological order. As such, he wonders whether content “on demand” broadcast online and on ADSL networks or mobiles can continue to dodge these standard rules. He believes that in reviewing the “Television Without Frontiers” directive, it will become apparent to what extent the basic rules can be applied to this new content. The exercise will also provide a solution to ensuring “on-demand” program catalogues comply with European content quotas, because while it’s easy to require a classic TV channel to program European content, it’s very hard to make consumers choose these “on-demand” pieces. Another delicate question that must be addressed is whether Internet access, VOD platform, and mobile TV service providers will have to take part in financing the European audiovisual production industry, he stressed.
Interested parties now have the opportunity to submit comments by September 5. Following this final round of consultations, the Commission will present a proposal for the new E.U. rules, which will replace the Television Without Frontiers Directive of 1989. [05-24]