EU TV rule changes

26 May 2016

On 25 May, the European Commission published plans to amend the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (2010 AVMS Directive), formally TV without frontiers. EU's law regulating TV, TV-like and on-demand services. Its aim is to bring the regulatory framework in line with evolving media landscapes; and simplify the current rules, including advertising. The proposal is part of a package of proposals under the Digital Single Market Strategy.  

Key proposals/developments for advertisers:

  • TV advertising flexibility: The quantitative limit for advertising on broadcast TV (which limited the total volume of advertising on TV to 20% of each hour, or 12 minutes) is proposed to be significantly relaxed. The hourly limit will be replaced by a daily limit of 20% of advertising between 07:00 and 23:00. This will allow broadcasters more freedom to allocate more advertising around peak viewing periods, potentially increasing revenue in the short term (though risking a negative impact on audience experience and effectiveness of advertising in the medium term).
  • Video-sharing platforms will not attract new advertising rules
  • Scope of AVMS has been clarified to include a number of online services video-sharing platforms (VOD, catch-up TV…), they are seen to be already well regulated by the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive.
  • Minimum harmonisation approach is kept.
  • Product placement is liberalized and authorised by default, except for certain programmes, including programmes with a significant children’s audience (not further defined). The aim is to significantly increase broadcasters’ revenues. But - Member States may still prohibit the practice under certain conditions.
  • Self-regulation is supported: self/co-regulatory codes “have proved to be well designed” in particular alcoholic beverages and for foods high in fat, sugar and salt.
  • HFSS foods and nutrient profiling is mentioned in the recital but not the proposed legislative text as well as a reference to the WHO EURO criteria. 
  • Independent monitoring of codes is called for. The proposal also stresses codes should be monitored independently and provide for effective enforcement, including with proportionate sanctions (reflecting the reality of the systems developed since 2010).
  • EU wide codes of conduct should be approved by a new regulators’ group (a Union Code of Conduct for commercial communications is referenced).   European Regulators Group for Audio Visual Media services (ERGA, including Ofcom) would get a significantly upgraded role.
  • Country of Origin Principle is retained, ensuring legal certainty and simplicity for media owners and brands.  
  • Protection of minors against inappropriate content is seen as a priority. 
  • Promotion of European works will still be required. 

Key Watchout:
Quantitative limits liberalisation reflects some broadcaster’s demands, not those of ISBA or WFA. The proposal removes controls on the volume of advertising people will experience in peak viewing periods and affects the effectiveness of TV advertising. However, EU Member States can continue to maintain stricter limits.  In opposing this provision we will be supported by consumer groups, and likely, large elements of the European Parliament. 

Finally, ISBA and WFA welcome this as an overall positive result, following our input into policy discussions. The strong recognition and endorsement for self/co-regulation systems for advertising, including sensitive sectors, is good news.  The lack of disproportionate legislative controls on volume, time, content, is also good news. The recognition of the high level of protection developed in the EU on commercial communications and the credibility with which they are seen by the EU Commission and key Member States.  

Amendments in Parliament may well result in significant changes to the proposal. It will be examined by Members of the Committee of Culture and Education (CULT), with likely support from a few other Committees. Exceptionally, two rapporteurs are expected to be appointed, one for each of the largest parliamentary groups. MEPs Petra Kammerevert (S&D, Germany) and Sabine Verheyen (EPP, Germany), are poised to be in charge of the dossier.  ISBA, through the WFA will continue to engage with the Commission, Member States and Parliament.

Ian Twinn

Director of Public Affairs, ISBA

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