For the Ministry of Culture, the weightiest topic of the Estonian Presidency is the thorough renewal of regulation in the area of audiovisual media services, which has an impact on all member states. Read more about what amendments are in store and on the nature of the process in the Ministry of Culture’s info bulletin.
The Audiovisual Media Services Directive is a legislative act of the European Union that creates a framework for cross-border audiovisual media services (for example, television and video streaming). The first version of the Directive was created in the European Union 28 years ago, to ensure that television shows and programmes could be broadcast between Member States. Over the past decades, however, the media services market has significantly developed, and even though the Directive has been repeatedly amended, the rapid development of technology has brought about the need to tackle renewing the Directive once more.
A little more than a year ago, Slovakia started the work on renewing the Directive, and during the succeeding Malta Presidency, Member States reached the agreement on the bulk of the renewal proposal. During the Estonian Presidency, work will continue with this legal act in the next stage, which involves trilateral talks or trialogues between the Council of the European Union, the European Parliament and representatives from the European Commission. “We are hopeful that negotiations between the Council and the Parliament will be successful, because all parties understand the need for updating the legal framework of media services,” says Peeter Sookruus, Chair of the Estonian Presidency’s working group on audiovisual affairs. “Although it is a complicated and nuanced proposal, Estonia is hopeful that we can steer the Council of the European Union, the European Parliament and the European Commission towards a solution that satisfies all parties, and that it will culminate in the adoption of the Directive,” believes the deputy chair of the working group Mati Kaalep.
Part of the European Commission’s Digital Single Market strategy
Uniform rules for audiovisual media services are needed in the European Union to ensure conditions for fair competition and to strengthen the internal market in program production and distribution. Currently, traditional television services are burdened with stricter regulations compared to other audiovisual media service providers. That, however, creates an unfair position for actors on the market.
The main objective of updating the Directive is to create a clearer legal framework, more equal conditions for service development and distribution on the European Single Market, as part of the European Commission’s Digital Single Market strategy.
The updated Directive will take into account the changing environment
In order for market actors to be in a more equal position in the future, the aim is to expand the Directive’s impact in a way that it also applies to new media services. For example, at the moment regulations that protect minors and prohibit hate speech only apply to television and subscription based audiovisual media services (such as Netflix and Telia on-demand services). In the future, these requirements would also apply to video sharing platforms (such as Youtube), which mainly offer content created by users, for which the service providers do not take any editing responsibility. The same rules would also apply to video content on social media websites (such as Facebook, Instagram, etc.), if the provider also has video sharing platform capacities.
The cornerstone of the Directive was and will continue to be the country of origin principle, which means that the activities of the media service provider are regulated by the laws of the country of origin, and Member States generally have to ensure that services from other states can be received freely and without obstacles. Limitations are foreseen only in very limited cases. With the new Directive, Member States would gain the option to quickly bar the reception and diffusion of media services from other countries in exceptional cases and in case of serious infringement, if the services promote violence or hatered or if they constitute a threat to the society’s security or to national defence.
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