European Commission adopts Guidelines on the new Audiovisual Media Services Directive

The Commission says that the Guidelines will offer “a practical tool to ensure the promotion of European works in media content, thereby supporting cultural diversity and greater choice for European consumers”. They will also “help better protect users of video-on-demand and video-sharing platforms, particularly minors, against hate speech and harmful content”.

EU Member States have until 19 September 2020 to transpose the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive into national law. The Guidelines, while not binding, are expected to contribute to its harmonised implementation and enforcement. They provide the Commission’s views on how specific concepts should be applied in order to ensure a consistent implementation of the media rules across Member States. The Commission says that the Guidelines are part of its broader work to define clearer responsibilities and accountability for social media and online platforms, and are complementary to the upcoming Digital Services Act package, on which a public consultation is ongoing.

The Guidelines on the Directive are divided into two: Guidelines on European works; and Guidelines on Video-sharing Platforms.

The Guidelines on European Works cover the obligations in the Directive on promoting European films and TV shows in on-demand services. Such services must ensure at least a 30% share of European content in their catalogues and give prominence to such content. The Directive 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 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 relation to the exemption for smaller providers from the obligations on the promotion of European works, thereby not undermining market development nor inhibiting the entry of new market players.

The Guidelines on video-sharing platforms cover the extension under the revised Directive of EU standards on illegal and harmful content to video-sharing platforms, including social media where the provision of audiovisual content is not the principal purpose of the service, but still constitutes an essential functionality thereof. Under the revised Directive, 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 that incites violence, hatred and terrorism, and ensure appropriate advertising and product placement in children’s programmes.

The Guidelines provide a toolkit for Member States to help them assess which online services fall under the scope of the Directive. They also identify a list of relevant indicators that Member States can use when evaluating whether audiovisual content is an essential, and not minor or ancillary, part of the online platform. They take into consideration the dynamic nature of the online platform environment and aim to ensure flexibility in this area. To access the Guidelines, click here.