Future Policy for Connected TV

With television and Internet becoming increasingly converged into an integrated set of services, the European Commission sees a necessity to ask whether a policy response is required, and if so, what.

Broadcasting rights and responsibilities, consumer protection, and an optimal policy environment for development of new businesses are among the concerns. 

The Commission has therefore launched a public consultation that seeks to examine citizen and other stakeholder views on this topic. Citizens and business can submit their opinions until the end of August 2013.

Market Considerations

Premium content - major sport events, recently released films - generates high demand and significant revenue in the audio-visual sector.

The Commission wants to know what factors affect the availability of premium content, and whether current practices affect market access and sustainable business operations. If so, what is the impact on consumers? The Commission also wants feedback on possible obstacles requiring regulatory action on access to platforms.

EU competition rules are used at national and European level to address possible abuses of market power. The Commission has intervened on several occasions to ensure competition in the joint selling of sports media rights.  Competition-related considerations also arise with regard to the financing of public service broadcasters.

The Commission would therefore like to know whether there is a need for regulatory intervention beyond the application of existing competition rules.

Financing Models

Member States have developed various ways of promoting European works, including diverse ways of facilitating their production, financing and distribution to a wider audience. The Audio-visual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) sets mandatory percentages of European and independent works to be broadcast by EU broadcasters.

For non-linear audio-visual media services, the obligation to promote European works is formulated more flexibly with the possibility to require financial contributions from broadcasters and on-demand service providers in order to support the production of European works.

The trend for Video on Demand (VoD) platforms to invest in original content shows that these new players are potential new investors in audiovisual content. Internet-based new players directly involved in the content exploitation might contribute to its financing too.

The Commission wants to know whether the current AVMSD requirements provide the best way to promote the creation, distribution, availability and market appeal of European works. The Commission also asks for feedback on how convergence and changing consumer behaviour could influence the current system of content financing, and how different actors in the new value chain are contributing to financing.

Interoperability of Connected TV

Connected TV devices and services depend on a variety of standards in the broadcasting, IT and telecom sectors.  Some manufacturers may configure their devices to limit the range of services and applications that can be accessed.

Some Member States have developed national specifications, and applications following them are not fully compatible with devices in other countries. For application developers, different standards mean that they need to re-author their products to different devices.

The Commission wants feedback on the need for EU action to overcome actual or potential fragmentation and ensure interoperability across borders, and on the need to develop new or updated standards in the market.

Infrastructure and Spectrum

The Commission wants feedback on the differences between individual platforms delivering content (e.g. terrestrial and satellite broadcasting, wired broadband including cable, mobile broadband) in terms of consumer experience and of public interest obligations.

It also asks about the frequency allocation and sharing models that can facilitate development opportunities for broadcasting, mobile broadband and other applications (such as programme-making equipment) carried in the same frequency bands; and about the specific research needs with regard to spectrum that have to be addressed to facilitate such development.

Values

The Commission aims to foster respect for freedom of expression and media pluralism, promotion of cultural diversity, protection of personal data and protection of consumers.

The AVMSD makes a distinction between linear (television broadcasts) and non-linear (on-demand) services, based on the much higher degree of consumer control in on-demand services, justifying less stringent regulation in certain areas.

The Commission wants to know whether there is evidence of market distortion caused by the regulatory differentiation between linear and non-linear services. If this is the case, what is the best way to tackle these distortions, while protecting the values underpinning the EU regulatory framework for audio-visual media services?

Furthermore, AVMSD rules apply only to media service providers under EU jurisdiction. Those rules do not extend to content delivered over the internet from countries outside the EU, even when targeting the EU.

The Commission is therefore considering adapting the definition of AVMS providers and/or the scope of the AVMSD, in order to make those currently outside subject to part or all of the obligations of the AVMSD, and asks about other ways to protect values.

Given the global and complex nature of the internet, self-regulation seems an appropriate complement to the regulatory approach. The Commission is considering giving emphasis to self/co-regulation in certain areas.

The main rationale for the regulation of audio-visual media services at EU level has been the internal market, with the country of origin principle at its core. The Commission asks for feedback on the possible impact of a change of the audio-visual regulatory approach on the country of origin principle and therefore on the single market.

The provision of non-linear services is also subject to the E-Commerce Directive. In a converging environment, the relationship between this Directive and the AVMSD is much stronger. The Commission therefore wants feedback on the effects of increased convergence in the relationship of these Directives.

Finally, the Commission is considering new initiatives to improve the level of media literacy - the ability to access media, to understand and to critically evaluate different aspects of the media - across Europe.

Media Freedom and Pluralism

Platform providers – such as online companies – may determine what content is accessible, and can in this way impact choices for citizens. The availability of various platforms providing valuable content to users, as well as the openness of those platforms, is an important condition for a thriving media landscape.

The Commission would like to know whether the possibility of pre-defining choice through filtering mechanisms should be subject to public intervention at EU level.

Commercial Communications

The AVMSD sets limits in transmission time for broadcast advertising, such as 12 minutes per hour, and lays down criteria relating to the advertising of certain products as well as advertising in relation to minors. The Commission wants to know whether current AVMSD of the AVMSD will still be appropriate when a converged experience progressively becomes reality.

Indeed, there are certain concerns regarding commercial overlays over broadcasters’ linear services, and the question of whether this could challenge the essential purpose of advertising regulations. Disguised commercial communications in the online environment could also present challenges.

The Commission is considering regulatory instruments that could be most appropriate to address the rapidly changing advertising techniques, along with self/co-regulation. The consultation asks who should have the final say over whether or not to accept commercial overlays, or other novel techniques on screen.

Protection of Minors

The Commission wants to know whether current AVMSD rules are appropriate to address the challenges of protecting minors in a converging media world.

The Commission considers that, although being increasingly available on devices and platforms used to access content, take-up of parental control tools appears limited so far.

The consultation therefore asks for feedback on mechanisms to make parents aware of such tools, and asks about appropriate measures for the effective age verification of users of online audio-visual content.

The Commission asks for feedback on the complaint handling mechanisms concerning the different types of content.

Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities

The AVMSD already obliges Member States to encourage media service providers to make their services gradually accessible to people with visual or hearing disabilities. The implementation of this provision by Member States varies considerably, however.

The Commission wants to know whether additional standardisation efforts are needed in this field, and asks about possible incentives to be offered in order to encourage investment in innovative services for people with disabilities.