For a Fully Converged Audiovisual World in the EU
Internet on TV, TV on Internet
Millions of Europeans catch up with their favourite TV series on a smartphone on the way to work, watch online content on their living room TV, or put their own user-generated content online. There are more than 40.4 million "connected TVs" in Europe, and they could be in the majority of EU households by 2016. These changes are sweeping away traditional boundaries between consumers, broadcast media and the internet.
Convergence has been under way for many years, and is rapidly picking up pace. It opens up opportunities:
· Manufacturers and developers can serve a growing market with innovative, user-friendly, accessible devices.
· Internet network operators can see increasing demand for bandwidth, giving an incentive to invest in high-speed networks.
· Content creators can experiment with new ways to produce and offer content.
· Broadcasters and new players can offer content and added-value services to their consumers.
· Established and new broadcasters can find more platforms to distribute and enhance their shows, and make them interactive.
This new reality is already being discussed in several EU countries and in the European Parliament. Views differ on how to respond. Some parties call for immediate changes to rules and regulations; some remain satisfied with the status quo for the time being, while others point to self and co-regulation. On 24 April 2013, the European Commission launched a consultation on the rapidly converging audiovisual world. The Commission wants to explore what this convergence of technology and content could mean for Europe's economic growth and innovation, cultural diversity, and consumers (especially those that may need protection, such as children.) Neelie Kroes, European Commission Vice-President said: "Connected TV is the next big thing in the creative and digital worlds. Convergence between sectors means people can enjoy a wider choice of great content - but it also creates disruptions and challenges. We need a converged and EU-wide debate to help deal with these changes. To help business flourish, nurture creativity and protect our values".
The Green Paper adopted by the Commission, on 24 April, does not pre-suppose any action, but in following up, the Commission might explore regulatory and policy responses, including self-regulation [see section 10.1.1]. The Green Paper invites stakeholders and the wider public to share their views until the end of August 2013, on issues such as:
· The rules of the game. Fostering the right conditions for dynamic EU businesses to deal with international (especially US) competition; especially given that competing players may be subject to different rules;
· Protecting European values (including media freedom) and user interests (e.g. protecting children, accessibility for users with disabilities). Do people expect higher protection for TV programmes than for internet content; and where is the line to be drawn?
· Single market and standards. Seemingly, some devices do not work the same way across Member States. How can we promote the right technological environment?
· Financing. How will convergence and changing consumer behaviour influence how films, TV shows and other content is financed? How are different actors in the new value-chain contributing?
· Openness and media pluralism. Should pre-defined filtering mechanisms, for example in search engines, be subject to public intervention? Are the existing practices relating to premium content - for example, major sport events and successful recently released films - at wholesale level affecting market access and sustainable business operations? Are platforms sufficiently open?
The European legislation which may be affected by follow-up to this Green Paper is mainly the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) [Directive 2010/13], which aims to ensure a Single Market and legal certainty for Europe's TV and audiovisual industry, by creating a level playing field for broadcast and on-demand audiovisual media. As convergence with online services progresses, the Green Paper asks whether the current approach will also be appropriate in the future.
The Commission has also recently launched related public consultations on media freedom and pluralism, and in particular on the independence of audiovisual regulatory bodies (see IP/13/267).
QUESTIONS OF THE GREEN BOOK FOR PUBLIC CONSULTATION:
(1) What are the factors that enable US companies to establish a successful presence in the fragmented EU market despite language and cultural barriers, while many EU companies struggle? What are the factors hindering EU companies?
(2) What are the factors affecting the availability of premium content? Are there currently practices relating to premium content at wholesale level which affect market access and sustainable business operations? If so, what is the impact on consumers? Is there a need for regulatory intervention beyond the application of existing competition rules?
(3) Are there obstacles which require regulatory action on access to platforms?
(4) Do the current AVMSD requirements provide the best way to promote the creation, distribution, availability and market appeal of European works?
(5) How will convergence and changing consumer behaviour influence the current system of content financing? How are different actors in the new value chain contributing to financing?
(6) Is there a need for EU action to overcome actual or potential fragmentation and ensure interoperability across borders? Is there a need to develop new or updated standards in the market?
(7) How relevant are 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?
(8) What frequency allocation and sharing models can facilitate development opportunities for broadcasting, mobile broadband and other applications (such as programme-making equipment) carried in the same frequency bands?
(9) What specific research needs with regard to spectrum have to be addressed to facilitate such development?
(10) Given convergence between media, is there evidence of market distortion caused by the regulatory differentiation between linear and non-linear services? If yes, what would be the best way to tackle these distortions while protecting the values underpinning the EU regulatory framework for audiovisual media services?
(11) Is there a need to adapt 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 or are there other ways to protect values? In which areas could emphasis be given to self/co-regulation?
(12) What would be the impact of a change of the audiovisual regulatory approach on the country of origin principle and therefore on the single market?
(13) Does increased convergence in the audio-visual landscape test the relationship between the provisions of the AVMSD and the E-Commerce Directive in new ways and in which areas? Could you provide practical examples of that?
(14) What initiatives at European level could contribute to improve the level of media literacy across Europe?
(15) Should the possibility of pre-defining choice through filtering mechanisms, including in search facilities, be subject to public intervention at EU level?
(16) What should be the scope of existing regulation on access (art. 6 Access Directive) and universal service (art. 31 Universal Service Directive) in view of increasing convergence of linear and non-linear services on common platforms? In a convergent broadcast/broadband environment, are there specific needs to ensure the accessibility and the convenience to find and enjoy 'general interest content'?
(17) Will the current rules of the AVMSD regarding commercial communications still be appropriate when a converged experience progressively becomes reality? Could you provide some concrete example?
(18) What regulatory instruments would be most appropriate to address the rapidly changing advertising techniques? Is there more scope for self/co-regulation?
(19) Who should have the final say whether or not to accept commercial overlays or other novel techniques on screen?
(20) Are the current rules of the AVMSD appropriate to address the challenges of protecting minors in a converging media world?
(21) Although being increasingly available on devices and platforms used to access content, take-up of parental control tools appears limited so far. Which mechanisms would be desirable to make parents aware of such tools?
(22) What measures would be appropriate for the effective age verification of users of online audiovisual content?
(23) Should the AVMSD be modified to address, in particular, content rating, content classification and parental control across transmission channels?
(24) Should users be better informed and empowered as to where and how they can comment or complain concerning different types of content? Are current complaints handling mechanisms appropriate?
(25) Are the means by which complaints are handled (funding, regulatory or other means) appropriate to provide adequate feedback following reports about harmful or illegal content, in particular involving children? What should be the respective roles/ responsibilities of public authorities, NGO's and providers of products and services in making sure that adequate feed-back is properly delivered to people reporting harmful or illegal content and complaints?
(26) Do you think that additional standardisation efforts are needed in this field?
(27) What incentives could be offered to encourage investment in innovative services for people with disabilities?
See the details in:
GREEN PAPER, ''Preparing for a Fully Converged Audiovisual World: Growth, Creation and Values'', COM/2013/231.
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