Last December, the European Parliament approved the new Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD), a set of rules and regulations for the electronic media that replaces the previous Television Without Frontiers. The new legislation differs from its predecessor in many significant ways. And, as member states begin the process of integrating the directive into their national law, VideoAge examines what this might mean for Europe's audiovisual industry.
The biggest single difference between the new and old directives is that, as its title suggested, Television Without Frontiers was concerned only with television. On the other hand, its replacement, as its name
suggests, is concerned with all audiovisual media. Although as Mara Rossini of the University of Amsterdam's Institute for Information Law pointed out, "this includes neither services where the provision of audiovisual content is merely incidental to the service, and not their principal purpose, nor the press in printed or electronic form." Translated in plain language, this means that websites containing audiovisual material in an ancillary manner only, such as animated graphical elements, short advertising spots of information related to products and non-audiovisual services are excluded, as are online games, gambling and search engines. But the new directive most emphatically does include 'on-demand' services.
Having established the new, broader, scope of the AVMSD, "the next big questions," said director general of the Brussels-based Association of Commercial Television (ACT), Ross Biggam, "are over the timing and nature of what is implemented by each member state." Member states have a legal requirement to introduce the minimum provisions of the directive by December 2009. But with 27 states and 23 languages, it is, said Biggam, "an open question as to exactly what we will end up with and where and when we will end up with it."
An example of the way in which provisions may vary from country to country, is the question of the extent to which new media should be required to support local production. Despite a great deal of debate on the point (very much led by France), the European Parliament decided that it was too early to impose minimum quotas for European content on these emerging new media. Instead, the directive imposes a non-binding requirement that member states look at ways in which new media might support local production. While the French seem set to introduce a levy on...