New EC Enquiry on AVMS Implementation

On 1st September the European Commission sent a second round of letters to eight EU Member States to request information about their implementation of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMS). The replies from Austria, Cyprus, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Luxembourg are due within 10 weeks.

The AVMS Directive ensures a Single Market and legal certainty for Europe’s TV and audiovisual industry by creating a level playing field for both broadcast and on-demand audiovisual media services across frontiers while preserving cultural diversity, protecting children and consumers, safeguarding media pluralism and combating racial and religious hatred. The Directive is based on the “country of origin” principle, whereby audiovisual media service providers are subject to the regulations in their country of origin only and cannot be subject to regulation in the destination country except in very limited circumstances (eg, incitement to hatred). EU Member States agreed to implement the AVMS Directive into their national law by 19 December 2009.

The fact-finding letters are part of the Commission’s efforts to ensure that the national media laws of all Member States correctly implement all aspects of the AVMS rules. The issues raised vary from one Member State to the other. The requests for information do not imply that the Directive has been incorrectly implemented by the Member States concerned but simply that, at this stage, the Commission has some outstanding questions concerning their implementation of the Directive.

The Commission sent a first round of letters to 16 Member States in March 2011 (Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Malta, The Netherlands, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Slovakia and the United Kingdom).

Slovenia has not notified to the Commission any measures to implement the AVMS Directive into its national law and Poland has only partially notified some measures. These two Member States are currently subject to infringement procedures. The Commission is still analysing the measures notified by Portugal.

The following wide range of issues related to the implementation of the Directive have been raised in the requests for clarification:

  • the country of origin principle and jurisdiction issues concerning audiovisual services
  • audiovisual commercial communications (including product placement and sponsorship television advertising and teleshopping)
  • basic obligations under the Directive (such as identification requirements, rules on incitement to hatred, on accessibility, balanced coverage obligations, registration of on-demand services)
  • the protection of minors
  • promoting European works
  • events of major importance to be broadcast on free to air television and short news extracts
  • cooperation between regulators.

For more information about the implications of AVMS for VOD providers in Europe, please contact us.