A report published today by the House of Lords European Union Committee criticises the Commission’s Audiovisual Media Services Directive for its attempt to introduce ‘burdensome and inappropriate’ regulation which could damage British industry.
The EU’s proposals would see ‘television-like’ new media services come under the same European regulatory framework as traditional broadcasting. The European Commission argued that these ‘new’ broadcasters are competing for audiences and advertising revenue with traditional broadcasters and so should be subject to the same rules.
The Lords Committee are firm in rejecting this position. They argue that is not the role of regulation to protect established broadcasters from new competition operating under different business models. The Committee suggest it would be preferable to liberalise the provisions on advertising for established broadcasters rather than seek to extend existing provisions to new media services.
As it now stands, the Directive would introduce a number of additional quantitative advertising restrictions on news and children’s programming. The Committee argue that these restrictions may have severely adverse consequences for the quality of “free to air” programming available, particularly children’s programming.
They point out that enforcement of the proposed Directive will be fraught with difficulties particularly as the range of new media continues to develop and expand, and the definition of the services covered may not offer sufficient legal certainty.
The Committee are particularly concerned that the EU’s proposals could force new media broadcasters to move their base of operations away from Europe and broadcast into the EU from a non-European base where they would be exempt from the Directive. This would be particularly damaging to the UK that has a thriving new media industry.
One of the revisions of the Directive did cause significant concern to the Committee. As in other recent single market legislation, the previously accepted basis of a Country of Origin approach to operating across 25 (now 27) Member States, which was contained in the original TVWF Directive, and the original draft AMS Directive, has been at best diluted, with a host of recipient country restrictions put in place. The Committee strongly defend the Country of Origin principle as the best approach for single market legislation.