The European Commission has published its first report on the application of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive in the European Union, examining the implementation of the Directive and the consequences of technological changes on regulation.
The AVMS Directive regulates all audiovisual media services, both traditional television and video-on-demand, and aims to create a ‘level-playing field’ for traditional TV-based and online broadcasters.
The directive also meets public policy objectives such as banning incitement to hatred, safeguarding the freedom of expression and protecting minors from harmful content and promoting European audiovisual works.
Too many advertisements
One of the things regulated by the AVMS directive is advertising, with ad and teleshopping spots shown on television not allowed to exceed 12 minutes per hour.
The report now shows that this rule is being regularly breached in several Member States. Attempts were even made to circumvent the 12 minute mark by creating new forms of advertisements which, it was claimed, could not be considered to be formal advertising spots. In the Spanish example, the European Court of Justice rejected such an interpretation and ruled that an advertising spot is any type of advertising broadcast between programmes or during breaks.
On the other hand the report showed that the Directive’s provisions on the protection of minors in advertising were seldom contravened. Five European states even prohibit advertising in children’s programmes, while four impose a partial ban or other restrictions on such advertising and seven prohibit the showing of sponsorship logos in children’s programmes.
Convergence of internet and traditional broadcasting
The report shows that access to television channels and choice of audiovisual services in the EU has increased significantly. In 2009, television viewing time increased in almost all Member States, with the daily average ranging from 145 to 265 minutes, while the number of video-on-demand services in the EU is estimated to be 251.
Marking a new phase in the convergence and regulation of audiovisual services is so-called Connected or Hybrid TV. By adding Internet connectivity to traditional TV sets it becomes possible for the user to choose titles from a programme library and additional on-demand services as well as internet content.
The Commission report indicates that Connected TV services currently exist in Germany and Italy and are about to be introduced in France and the UK. With more citizens having access to higher internet speeds, and the increase of connected devices and available content, it can be expected that Connected TV will grow relatively fast over the next few years.
This technological evolution might have as consequence that boundaries between broadcasting and over the top delivery of audiovisual content become blurred. The regulatory framework set will thus have to be tested against evolving viewing and delivery patterns. To this end, the European Commisson will by the end of 2012 launch a consultation process in view of a policy document on Connected TV.