The European Commission has published its first report on implementation of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (the AVMSD). The AVMSD enables the free circulation of audiovisual content and meets important public policy goals such as banning incitement to hatred, protecting minors from harmful content and promoting European audiovisual works.
The first part of the report looks retrospectively at the implementation of the Directive, including questions about the effectiveness of qualitative advertising rules in a sector where the offer and individuals' response to advertising are changing. The second part addresses in a prospective way the influence of important technological changes on the regulatory framework as traditional broadcasting and internet rapidly converge.
The key issues covered in the report are advertising practices and the need for further guidance on Connected TV (which is internet-enabled TV).
As a result, the Commission will:
- Launch a public consultation on Connected TV (second half 2012),
- Update its guidance on televised advertising in 2013.
The AVMSD was transposed into UK law by The Audiovisual Media Services Regulations 2009. These were amended the following year to include product placement which had been left out due to ongoing disagreements.
Implementation of the AVMSD
25 EU Member States have notified complete transposition of the AVMSD into their national legislation. Two Member States – Poland and Belgium - still need to adapt their legislation.
Advertising and teleshopping spots on television may not exceed 12 minutes per hour. The report reveals that the application of this rule gave rise to different formats of advertisements. For example, in Spain different types of television advertising were introduced, but were not considered advertising spots by the Spanish authorities. The Court held, however, that these types constituted advertising spots and therefore had to be counted under the 12-minute rule.
The Commission monitored advertising practices in eight Member States during the reference period. In a number of Member States the 12-minute limit of advertising spots is regularly breached. On the basis of these findings, administrative letters were sent to the respective Member States and discussions are still ongoing. The Commission says it will continue to monitor Member States' compliance with the advertising rules and, if necessary, initiate infringement procedures.
In the monitored Member States alcohol advertising represents between 0.8 % and 3 % of overall advertising activity on audiovisual media services based on the total number of spots broadcast over the monitored period. No clear infringements were found.
In implementing the AVMSD requirements on alcohol advertising, 22 Member States have put in place somewhat stricter rules for alcohol advertising involving channels, advertised products or time slots.
According to the AVMSD, audiovisual commercial communications must not cause physical or moral harm to minors. This means that they must not: directly exhort minors to buy or hire a product or service by exploiting their inexperience or credulity; directly encourage minors to persuade their parents or others to purchase the goods or services being advertised; exploit the special trust minors place in parents, teachers or other persons; or unreasonably show minors in dangerous situations.
Content analysis of the 100 most frequently broadcast advertising spots shows that the Directive's provisions on the protection of minors in advertising were seldom contravened. As with alcohol advertising, because of the detailed wording of the relevant provisions, there are few infringements of the AVMSD. Nevertheless, it does appear that advertising techniques geared towards minors are frequently used in television advertising.
Five Member States prohibit advertising in children's programmes. Four Member States impose a partial ban or other restrictions on advertising in children's programmes, either during specific time slots or for specific products, and seven Member States prohibit the showing of sponsorship logos in children's programmes.
The report also analyses the sex discrimination and gender stereotypes in the 100 most frequently broadcast advertising spots in eight Member States. Stereotyped representation of gender roles was found in 21 % to 36 % of the spots analysed. However, in some Member States a number of positions, professions or products are more systematically associated with a specific gender than in other Member States. The report revealed that none of the countries surveyed is immune to such stereotyped representations.
In view of the above, the Commission promises to further monitor the implementation of advertising rules in the Member States and will update its interpretative Communication on certain aspects of the provisions on televised advertising in 2013.
Connected or Hybrid TV marks a new phase in the process known as 'convergence', which brings together internet and broadcasting. By adding Internet connectivity to traditional TV sets it becomes possible for the user to choose titles from a programme library and additional on-demand services as well as internet content.
Connected TV services currently exist in Germany and Italy and are about to be introduced in France and the UK. Although many of the TV sets sold now are connectable, only 20% to 30 % are actually online. 47 million active connected in-home devices including connected TV sets, games consoles, standalone TV set-top boxes, Blu-ray disc players and pay-TV set-top boxes are currently in Europe. With more citizens having access to higher internet speeds, and the increase of connected devices and available content, it can be expected that Connected TV will grow relatively fast over the next few years.
To ensure that European citizens take full advantage of this new services and enjoy quality access to audiovisual works through connected devices while being adequately protected, the Commission will launch a public consultation on this issue by the end 2012.
Article 33 of the AVMSD invites the Commission to submit regularly a report on the application of the Directive to the European Parliament, the Council and the European Economic and Social Committee. This is the first application report on the AVMSD and covers the period 2009-2010.
The first part of the report looks retrospectively at the implementation of the Directive, including questions about the effectiveness of qualitative advertising rules in a sector where the offer and individuals' response to advertising are changing.
Where the assessment identifies room for improvement, this does not weaken the intervention logic of the AVMSD but calls for more effective means. The report thus serves as a building block to strengthen the evidence base towards that end.
The second part addresses in a prospective way the influence of important technological changes on the regulatory framework as traditional broadcasting and internet rapidly converge.