This is not your parents’ TV
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The EU's Audiovisual Media Services Directive is due for a full review in 2016. Adam Gagen, WFA Director of Legal & Public Affairs, provides insight on how policymakers and advertisers should confront fundamental issues surrounding Europe's evolving audiovisual media landscape. The upcoming revision of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive could be seen by many as a traditional ‘Brussels bubble’ debate. There is the obligatory acronym (‘AVMS’, or for the puritans ‘AVMSD’), the faux debate (the EU Commission is running numerous studies to determine if anything needs to be changed despite having already decided something will) and a set of terminology that the average man on the street would have difficulty understanding (‘TV-like’ and ‘extra territorial application’ anyone). However, the reality is that it means revising the key law regulating the content we enjoy on traditional TV sets (referred to as ‘linear TV’) and from video on demand online services (referred to as ‘non-linear TV'), something that affects all EU citizens. Much has changed since the AVMS was originally adopted in 2007. The iPhone has been introduced and more than 700 million have been sold globally. Tablet usage has increased from 1-2% in core EU markets to more than 30% across the EU. People are spending more time with digital devices. Since 2010, taking the UK as a trend setting market, time spent watching traditional TV sets has stayed flat while time spent with digital devices has doubled (now representing 45% of all time spent consuming media). Clearly, things are changing and changing fast. The European Commission has launched a consultation that helps to outline some of the key questions EU policymakers will have to confront:
- Should the AVMS rules apply only to providers based in the EU, or should they apply to all providers that can be accessed by EU citizens (for example, online platforms based in other parts of the world)?
- Within the EU, should the detailed rules which apply be those in the country of origin (i.e. where content is controlled) or should providers have to make 28 different versions of their content or channels?
- Does it make sense to keep a two-tier system of regulation – placing different responsibilities on broadcasters of traditional TV and providers of ‘TV-like’ content through online systems?
- Does even the definition of ‘TV-like’ and differentiation with user-generated content make sense when the consumption of audio visual content is changing so rapidly – becoming shorter, more real-time and more dominated by professional user generated content (some YouTube stars reportedly receive $5m a year).
- How successful have the efforts of the Commission, Member States and industry been to use advertising standards to deliver on society’s expectations?