[Updated and revised 25 March 2014] The Audiovisual media services directive (AVMSD) (2010/13/EU) allows audiovisual media services to circulate freely within the EU, while protecting important policy objectives. On some issues it harmonises rules (e.g. 12 minute-per-hour advertising spot, tobacco advertising ban), while on others it asks Member States to comply with requirements (e.g. non-discrimination; protecting children, etc.) by setting their own rules according to national circumstances.
It covers both traditional / linear AVMS (analogue and digital TV, live streaming, webcasting, near video-on-demand) and new on-demand / non-linear services addressed to the general public.
What is not in the scope of the AVMSD?
- Private websites for non-economic sharing and exchange within communities of interest;
- Private correspondence such as e-mails to a limited number of recipients;
- Audio transmission or radio services;
- Electronic versions of newspapers and magazines; lotteries; gambling services; online games and search engines.
The AVMS Directive amends the Television Without Frontiers (TWF) Directive . Its scope is extended to on-demand audiovisual media services. The rules on advertising are softened (member states can allow product placement in certain conditions and the maximum daily transmission time for advertising is removed) and broadcasters can access events of high interest to the public for short-news reporting.
On 4 May 2012 the Commission presented the First report on the implementation of the Directive during the period 2009-2010. CULT Committee’s report was adopted in Plenary on 22 May 2013 (Oeil procedure file 2012/2132(INI)). Previous reports on the implementation of the “Television without frontiers” directive can be found on the Commission website.
See also: Library briefing Application of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (May 2013).
For an overview of the AVMS Directive and EP’s role, see the Factsheet on Audiovisual and Media Policy on the EP website (last updated in February 2012).
The European Commission, via SCADPlus, also provides useful summaries of EU legislation. Here is the latest on audiovisual media services: Audiovisual Media Services (AMS) Directive, 14 June 2010. For information on the 2007 revision, see the summary on the previous version of the Directive (2007/65/EC), 14 January 2008.
European Commission’s Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology (DG CONNECT), on its Media Policies website, and particularly the page on the directive, summarises the objectives of the directive as follows:
- providing rules to shape technological developments;
- creating a level playing field for emerging audiovisual media;
- preserving cultural diversity;
- protecting children and consumers;
- safeguarding media pluralism;
- combating racial and religious hatred;
- guaranteeing the independence of national media regulators.
Implementation of the Directive and Commission’s Report
The report notes that the AVMSD is working well. 25 Member States informed the Commission that they have transposed it into national legislation (Poland and Belgium still need to complete the transposition).
The most problematic issues arising from the Directive:
- advertising breaks and product placement;
- gender stereotypes;
- broadcasting rights for events of major importance;
- insufficient promotion of European and independent works .
In addition, the audiovisual sector is undergoing rapid change in technology and business practices. The need for further guidance on Connected TV (internet-enabled TV) is one of the future challenges identified.
The following studies are the most recent evaluations. Since the AVMSD has a number of objectives and covers many diverse topics, most of the studies focus on one of these issues (handy overview of topics here).
Study on the provisions of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive concerning the promotion of European works in audiovisual media services conducted for the European Commission / December 2011 – The study analyses the implementation of the Directive from legal, economic, compliance and sufficiency perspective. Further information, as well as discussions on the topic can be found on the former Commission’s DG INFSO “Studies on Audiovisual Media Policy” page .
EU Media Futures Forum Report / September 2012 – The Report presents the conclusions and recommendations of the Forum . The experts have identified 8 bottlenecks (1. uncompleted Digital Single Market; 2. barriers to new business models based on personal data; 3. copyright and remuneration; 4. fragmented public support; 5. lighter regulations for non-EU “players”; 6. access to new markets; 7. consumers’ unequal access to content; 8. underinvestment in infrastructure), as well as ways to address them if EU is to become a world-leader in the digital revolution.
Report of the High Level Group on Media Freedom and Pluralism “A free and pluralistic media to sustain European democracy” / January 2013 – The report presents the main findings and recommendations of the group on the respect, protection, support and promotion of pluralism and freedom of the media in Europe – one of the objectives of the AVMSD. It contains concrete recommendations with regards to the AVMSD such as adoption of minimum harmonisation rules covering cross-border media activities on areas like libel laws or data protection.
Indicators for the audiovisual media services directive study, Hans Bredow Institute for Media Research et. al. / February 2011. The study assesses the independence of national AVMS regulatory bodies in the Member States, in candidate and potential candidate countries of the European Union and the EFTA countries, as well as four non-European countries; and seeks to provide regulators, Member States and the European institutions with a tool for self-assessment of independence and efficient functioning. All the related documents to this study including the annexes and ranking tool can be found on the project website.
Advertising rules and their effects under the new Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMS), Study for the European Parliament / KEA for IPOL Department B, 2009. This short study conducted by KEA European Affairs for the European Parliament examines the issue of advertising in the new Directive and assesses the role of product placement in the light of decreasing role of television advertising, as well as the effects of advertising on children in this context. It also looks at the probable effectiveness of self-regulation (codes of conduct) on advertising aimed at children.
The new frontier – the Audiovisual Media Services Directive / Hannah Wardale in European Intellectual Property Review 2009, 31(6), 336-341. Legislative Comment on the AVMS Directive.
Audiovisual media services directive: Europe’s modernisation of broadcast services regulations, Vance Little / Journal of Law, Technology and Policy 2008 – This academic article looks at the background of the AVMS legislation beginning with the TVWF Directive, which addressed some of the market changes at the time, but failed to adequately address the developing technology of online audiovisual services. The AVMS Directive is explored in detail to see what impact it will have on audiovisual media service providers today.
The Commission has announced a public consultation on Connected TV by the end of 2012 (MEMO/12/306) but it has not been launched yet. However, some stakeholders have made initial contributions to the discussion:
Cable delivers “Connected TV”, 7 June 2012 / The document sheds light on the Connected TV services currently being provided by cable operators. It emphasises that from a regulatory and policy perspective Connected TV brings up many interrelated aspects, all of which should be an element of the future European discussion on the subject. To drive innovation, a competitive, market-driven approach should prevail and promotion of a single technology or platform should be avoided.
The most recent related consultations in which you can find relevant stakeholders’ point of views are:
the consultation on the independence of the audiovisual regulatory bodies organised in 2013. Contributions are available here.
the Consultation on the Green Paper on the online distribution of audiovisual works in the European Union: opportunities and challenges towards a digital single market organised in 2011. Contributions by individual citizens, public authorities and organisations are available here.
The European Commission High-level group on nutrition and physical activity has done a Presentation on the Audiovisual Media Services Directive implementation report focusing on the provisions for advertising of alcohol and sweet, fatty or salty foods or drinks and advertising targeted at minors / June 2012.
On 3 February 2014, the European Commission adopted a Decision setting the objectives for the European Regulators Group for Audiovisual Media Services:
- to advise and assist the Commission in its work, to ensure a consistent implementation of the AVMSD as well as in any other matters related to audiovisual media services within the Commission’s competence.
- to facilitate cooperation between the regulatory bodies in the EU, as provided for in the directive regulating audiovisual media services.
- to allow for an exchange of experience and good practices.
The first meeting of the Group took place on 4 March 2014, in Brussels.
Council of Europe
European Convention on Transfrontier Television, May 1989, amended 2002 – This Convention is the first international treaty creating minimum common rules for the free circulation of transfrontier television programmes in Europe (see Summary and Explanatory Report). The revision of the Convention initiated in 2010, was discontinued in February 2011, because the European Union under the AVMSD has exclusive competence for the issues covered by the draft revised Convention and EU member States are not allowed to become party to the Convention on their own.
The European Audiovisual Observatory (EAO), operating within the legal framework of the Council of Europe gathers and circulates information on the audiovisual industry in Europe. It publishes the IRIS Special/Plus issues, available in EP Library:
- The Regulation of On-demand Audiovisual Services: Chaos or Coherence?, December 2011. S 32.20.14 EUR 11. Press release;
- Ready, set…. go?: the audiovisual media services directive, December 2009. S 32.20.14 REA 09. Press release;
- Protection of minors and audiovisual content on-demand special – IRIS Plus2012-6. 32.20.14 EUR 12 – available in the EP Library, extract available online: the issue analyses the protection of minors in the field of on-demand audiovisual content. It examines the position of the EU on this subject as well as the basic principles and specific rules contained in the different national systems;
- Product Placement in European Audiovisual Productions – IRIS Plus2010-3. 32.20.14 EUR 10 – available in the EP Library, extract is available online.
Special Eurobarometer survey 336 Building the Digital Single Market – Cross Border Demand for Content Services (19/11/12). In the context of complaints from the public with regard to the territorial limitations of content offers, received by the Commission, the objective of this survey, conducted among a representative sample of the general public across the EU, is to gain a better understanding of the market for content distributed across borders in the European Union, including, in particular, the extent of use and interest in such content and the reason for the use and interest.
The regulation of video-on-demand: consumer views on what makes audiovisual services “TV-Like” – a qualitative research report conducted for Ofcom by Essential Research / December 2009 – In 2007 the scope of the AVMS Directive was extended to video-on-demand services, defined as “television-like”. Carried out in anticipation of the implementation of the new rules, this study seeks to understand what consumers consider to be ”TV-like” material and what their expectations are in terms of the key characteristics of such material.
Bureau Européen des Unions de Consommateurs BEUC (The European Consumers’ Organisation) published an updated position paper on Audiovisual media services in 2007.
European Broadcasting Union, Initial EBU Contribution To The First Reading of the then draft Audiovisual media services directive, April 2006
Federation of European Film Directors, Recommendations for the implementation of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive, November 2007
In 2008 the UK Department for Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS) launched a Consultation [ARCHIVED] on UK Government’s proposals for implementing the Audiovisual Media Services Directive in the UK. The positions of stakeholders can be found here. In 2009 another consultation was conducted on Product placement in the context of the changes that the Directive makes in this field, with Summary and A-Z of responses also here.
A handy overview of the reactions of main stakeholders’ representatives to the adoption of the AVMS Directive in 2007 is available in an EurActiv Media dossier.
The Commission Report proposes two main initiatives:
- Launch a public consultation on Connected TV (as mentioned above it was foreseen for the second half 2012);
- Update its guidance on televised advertising in 2013 (interpretative communication) on the basis of experience gained around the EU Platform on Nutrition and the Alcohol Health Forum, as well as consultation with stakeholders.
Joint Response by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Office of Communications (Ofcom), in response to the planned update of the Commission’s interpretative communication on certain aspects of the ‘Television without Frontiers’ Directive, September 2012.
Among the Council priorities in Audiovisual policy for the next 18 months (1 January 2013 – 30 June 2014) is a new recommendation on the digitisation of cinemas and film heritage and on new platforms for distributing audiovisual material and film. The Commission is due to present the proposal at the beginning of 2013 (see 18 month programme of the Council, point 324).
For further sources also do a search on the Library website.
 The “Television without frontiers” Directive was last substantially revised in 2007 (Oeil procedure file 2005/0260(COD)) and was renamed Audiovisual Media Services Directive. In 2010 the Directive was codified – re-numbering articles and consolidating recitals (i.e. no changes of substance). Codification is necessary for rules that have frequently been amended to clarify and simplify the scattered and numerous amendments (Oeil procedure file 2009/0056(COD)).
 The reports on “Promotion and distribution of EU works and independent production (Articles 13, 16 and 17 of the AVMSD)” can be found here.