Audiovisual Media Services Directive – European Commission adopts guidelines on video-sharing platforms and the promotion of European works

Published on 02 November 2020

What can be learned from the European Commission’s new guidelines on the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD)?

The key takeaway

The European Commission has provided two sets of guidelines to help Member States implement the revised AVMSD into national law. The guidelines focus on (1) European works and (2) video-sharing platforms. 

The background

The European Commission has released guidelines on the interpretation of some aspects of the AVMSD, which are an interesting insight on how the European Commission evaluates the scope and application of the AVMS Directive. One of its core purposes is to regulate illegal and harmful online content and it extends these rules to cover certain social media platforms, if the provision of programmes and user-generated videos constitutes an “essential functionality” of these services. The guidelines provide a list of relevant indicators that can be used to assess the essential character of the audiovisual functionality of a platform.

The guidance

Guidelines on European works 

The revised AVMSD has reinforced the obligations to promote European films and TV shows in on-demand services, which need to ensure at least a 30% share of European content in their catalogues and give prominence to such content. It also allows Member States, under certain conditions, to require media service providers that are established in another Member State, but target audiences in their territories, to contribute financially to the production of European works.

The guidelines also include a recommended methodology for the calculation of the 30% share of European content in each national catalogue, based on the titles of films and seasons of television series. They also clarify the definition of “low audience” and “low turnover”, in view of exempting smaller providers from the obligations concerning the promotion of European works. So, neither undermining market development nor inhibiting the entry of new market players.

Guidelines on video sharing platforms 

The revised AVMSD extends EU standards on illegal and harmful content to video-sharing platforms, including services like social media where the provision of audiovisual content is not the principal purpose of the service, but it still forms some of its essential functionality. As a result, online players will have to ensure, in a similar way to traditional media players, that users are protected against hate speech and that minors are protected from harmful content. Online platforms must take action against flagged content, which incites violence, hatred and terrorism, and ensure appropriate advertising and product placement in children’s programmes.

In this context, the guidelines provide a toolkit for Member States to help them assess which online services should fall under the scope of the European media framework. They also identify a list of relevant indicators that Member States can use when evaluating whether audiovisual content is an essential, and not only a minor or ancillary, part of the online platform. Further, they take into consideration the dynamic nature of the online platform environment and therefore aim to ensure flexibility in this area.

Why is this important?

The guidelines aim to provide a practical tool to help ensure the promotion of European works in media content, thereby supporting cultural diversity and greater choice for European consumers. They also aim to help better protect users of video on-demand and video-sharing platforms, particularly minors, against hate speech and harmful content.

The guidelines are part of the Commission’s broader work to define clearer responsibilities and accountability for social media and online platforms, and are complementary to the proposed Digital Services Act package, on which a public consultation is currently taking place.

Any practical tips?

The deadline for EU member states to transpose the revised AVMSD into national law was 19 September 2020. The guidelines are expected to contribute to its harmonised implementation and enforcement. They provide the Commission’s views on how specific concepts should be applied to ensure a consistent implementation of the media rules across Member States. They are non-binding, so it remains to be seen to what extent the Member States will comply with them and how the European Commission will react on the Member States’ respective practices.

Autumn 2020

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