European governments are gradually ceding control of national media to international organizations such as the EU. In light of this trend, European Media Governance investigates how the print, broadcast, film, and advertising industries lobby in Brussels. Contributors examine the work of the European Commission and the European Consumers’ Association as well as the roles played in media governance by such organizations as the Federation of European Film Directors. Offering a detailed analysis of media-related debates that will affect Europeans for decades to come, this volume is an essential read for media professionals and scholars.
About the Author
Georgios Terzis is chair of the Communications Department at Vesalius College, Vrije Universiteit Brussels.
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European Media Governance: The Brussels Dimension
By Georgios Terzis
Intellect LtdCopyright © 2008 Intellect Ltd
All rights reserved.
European Media Governance and the Role of the European Commission
This paper responds to the editor's request to describe the impact the work of the European Commission has on the European media with a focus on the audiovisual industry where the Communities activities have most direct effect.
Media governance possibly could cover a wide range of issues: everything from the selling of a book to the download of a music video to a portable telephone is somehow affected by Community Law. This is the reason why the Barroso Commission established a Media Task Force (see point 2). However, this contribution will focus on the audio-visual sector and its regulation and market and technological conditions.
Watching TV or surfing the Internet on your mobile phone, downloading the latest episode of your favourite TV soap to the desktop of your PC – technological convergence is a fast evolving reality. European policies are leading to concrete results: Traditionally separate Information and Communication Technology markets – such as telephony, television and Internet – are converging. Today a single network infrastructure can deliver the full range of multimedia content to both fixed and mobile devices. The regulatory framework has to respond to changed technological and market conditions:
Telecom and cable operators are moving into each other's markets offering 'triple-play' services (data, voice and video) – sometimes even extended to mobile services. Such trends lead to new partnerships between network operators, Internet service providers and content distributors. Audio-visual content is distributed on any of these platforms.
The device market has seen a sharp rise in sales of consumer electronics products that bridge the gaps between IT equipment on the one hand and consumer electronics on the other. MP3 player sales almost tripled in the past year with over 25 million units sold in 2005 in Western Europe alone. Sales of game consoles, now increasingly driven by online multi-user games, increased from 11.8 million units in 2004 to 16.3 million units in 2005.
There is evidence of both product convergence and the convergence of industries: IT companies and mobile phone producers both sell portable music devices and digital cameras on a large scale. Radio broadcasts received via WiFi Internet, media centre PCs, home cinema and hi-fi systems in the living room can all now be connected to the Internet. Mobile phones are using Voice over IP (VoIP) and are becoming integrated with home networks and wireless Internet hotspots.
The online content market is estimated to be worth 1.4bn – an amount expected to double by 2009. The largest segments of the market are games (26 per cent of the total), music (19 per cent) and publishing (19 per cent). Newly emerging markets for online film would give a further massive boost to growth in such services. Convergence is increasing competition and leading to rapid growth of the broadband market.
Broadband now reaches 12.8 per cent of the EU25 population (almost 59 million lines), a 21 per cent increase since 1 July 2005 (see chart above). In some Member States, more than half of fixed Internet access connections in households are broadband.
In October 2005, Europe overtook the USA in terms of the number of broadband lines. Broadband penetration rates in Europe are still behind the world's leader (Korea) but take-up is growing fast and the gap is narrowing.
Broadband growth is driven by increasing competition, with new entrants gaining just over 50 per cent of the broadband market in the EU25. Competition is driven by both facility-based competition and effective regulation.
Persons who have broadband Internet access at home are more likely to be regular Internet users: 81 per cent of residents in household with broadband use the Internet at least once per week compared to 63 per cent of narrowband household residents.
2. The role of the European Commission
The role assigned to the European Commission by the Treaties is to propose and implement Community Legislation; the Commission acts as 'guardian of the treaties'.
The European Commission is the only institution of the European Union with the right to propose legislative initiatives which then have to be adopted in most cases in co-decision procedure. It is Directorate General Information Society and Media which is within the Commission responsible in the area of media and audio-visual policies.
The development of new technologies, in particular satellite broadcasting, prompted initiatives to shape a Community audio-visual policy on the part of the Community institutions starting in 1984. The Commission presented then a Green Paper on the establishment of a Common market in broadcasting which finally led to the adoption of the Television Without Frontiers Directive (see 3.1). This was followed by the Green Paper on the Convergence of the Telecommunications, Media and Information Technology Sectors in 1997 and the Communication on Principles and Guidelines for the Community's Audiovisual Policy in the Digital Age in 1999.
The 1999 Communication outlined the five principles for regulatory intervention in the sector. Regulatory intervention should be the minimum necessary to achieve a clearly defined policy goal, guaranteeing legal certainty and technological neutrality, and enforced as closely as possible to the operators concerned.
The Communication on the future of European regulatory audiovisual policy (COM (2003)784 final) is the result of the 2003 consultation process on revision of the "Television Without Frontiers Directive". Two series of public hearings were organized and interested parties were invited to transmit their written contributions. Most contributions in the consultation agreed that the directive has provided a flexible and adequate framework for regulation by Member States and supported the Commission's pragmatic approach. Overall, the directive has made a positive contribution to enabling free movement of broadcasting services within the EU. But the contributions also highlighted where further thinking is needed, which the Commission decided to address in a two-step approach:
To provide more legal certainty in the short-term an interpretative Communication on television advertising was adopted by the Commission on 23 April 2004: Commission interpretative Communication on certain Aspects of the Provisions on televised Advertising in the "Television Without Frontiers" Directive (COM (2004)1450). The Communication explains under which conditions new forms of advertising, like split-screen advertising or virtual advertising, would be admissible in the current framework.
With regard to a review of the directive, the Commission identified a number of issues that needed further thought and discussion. For these issues the advice of experts was sought in focus groups on regulation of audio-visual content, advertising and the right to information and through independent studies (on the impact of advertising regulation, the impact of measures concerning the promotion of the distribution and production of TV programmes and on co-regulation in the media).
The results of the focus groups were published in issues papers that were submitted to a second public consultation in the run up to the major stakeholder conference in Liverpool that preceded the adoption on the directive by the Commission.
Within Directorate General Information Society and Media the Media Task Force acts as a sounding board for other Commission services by prescreening policy proposals at the conception stage. This helps to establish whether they will affect the editorial freedom of the media or have unintended or policy initiatives affecting the economy of the media industry. The Media Task Force is also committed to observing and protecting Media Pluralism in the EU as an essential pillar of the rights to information and freedom of press. At the Liverpool Audiovisual Conference, it was agreed that the Commission should step up its monitoring effort on media pluralism. A three-step plan was launched on 16 January 2007 with the publication of a Commission Staff Working Paper on Media Pluralism in the Member States of the EU. In this plan, the notion of media pluralism is much broader than media ownership; it covers access to varied information so that citizens can form opinions without being influenced by one dominant source. A study will be tendered in order to establish concrete and objective indicators for assessing Media Pluralism. The Media Task Force is also developing an economic research role in order to prime media policy. The first priority is to develop the Commission's understanding of publishing to the same level as for audio-visual media. A Commission Staff Working Paper on "Strengthening the competitiveness of the EU Publishing Sector – The role of media policy" was published in September 2005 and followed by a Consultation on future policy orientations for publishing to gather reactions from the various stakeholders. In addition, the Media Task Force is engaged in a fruitful dialogue with the Publishing Industries in order to reflect on the adaptation of this industry to the digital age and especially the shaping of new business models.
Besides the regulatory activities the Commission also runs a support program for the audio-visual sector. The MEDIA Programme aims at strengthening the competitiveness of the European audio-visual industry with a series of support measures. MEDIA cofinances training initiatives for audio-visual industry professionals, the development of production projects (feature films, television drama, documentaries, animation and new media), as well as the distribution and promotion of European audio-visual works.
Directorate General Information Society and Media supports the development and use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for the benefit of all citizens. Its mission is to develop the competitiveness of European audio-visual services by promoting national frameworks that ensure the comparable and effective protection of minors and respect of human dignity. It ensures a good functioning and development of a common market for television and other audiovisual services while ensuring the protection of general interests and cultural diversity. The role of DG Information Society and Media as a whole is to:
Support innovation and competitiveness in Europe through excellence in ICT research and development.
Define and implement a regulatory environment that enables rapid development of services based on information, communication and audio-visual technologies, so fostering competition that supports investment, growth and jobs.
Encourage the widespread availability and accessibility of ICT-based services, especially those that have the greatest impact on the quality of life of the citizens.
Foster the growth of content industries drawing on Europe's cultural diversity.
Represent the European Commission in international dialogue and negotiations in these fields, and promote international cooperation in ICT research and development.
A comprehensive strategy for the Information Society 2005–2010
The "i2010 – A European Information Society for growth and employment" initiative was launched by the Commission on 1 June 2005 as a framework for addressing the main challenges and developments in the Information Society and media sectors up to 2010. It promotes an open and competitive digital economy and emphasizes ICT as a driver of inclusion and quality of life. The initiative contains a range of EU policy instruments to encourage the development of the digital economy such as regulatory instruments, research and partnerships with stakeholders.
i2010 – the first substantial initiative taken under the renewed Lisbon Agenda – seeks to boost efficiency throughout the economy through wider use of ICTs. i2010 rests on three pillars:
1. Creating the single European Information Space, which promotes an open and competitive internal market for information society and media services.
This pillar combines regulatory and other instruments at the Commission's disposal to create a modern, market-oriented regulatory framework for the digital economy.
2. Increasing investment in innovation and research in ICT.
This pillar focuses on the EU's research and development instruments and sets priorities for cooperation with the private sector to promote innovation and technological leadership.
The objective is to reach world class performance in research and innovation in ICT by closing the gap with Europe's leading competitors (see graphic below). i2010 calls for Europe to increase investment in ICT research by 80 per cent.
3. Fostering inclusion, better public services and quality of life through the use of ICT.
The third pillar seeks to promote, with the tools available to the Commission, an inclusive European Information Society, supported by efficient and user-friendly ICT enabled public services.
3. EU regulations relevant to the audio-visual industry
The European Information Society sector has grown partly due to European initiatives such as the creation of the Single Market, the Television Without Frontiers Directive, the adoption of harmonized standards such as GSM, and the liberalization of the telecommunications sector. Today, there are two main areas of regulation in the Information Society sector: transmission and content. Theses areas of "hard law" regulation are complemented by soft law initiatives, a support programme for theaudio-visual industry – the MEDIA Programme – and the Community's activities in intentional fora.
Regarding transmission, a new electronic communications regulatory framework, launched in July 2003, provides a world-class legal framework for continuing the development of the industry, stimulating competition, creating growth and safeguarding public and user interests (see, for example, the spotlight on spam).
The new framework covers, among other things, the management of scarce resources essential to communications. One particularly important resource is radio spectrum, through which all wireless communications travel, so the EU's new radio spectrum policy was launched as part of the new framework. While the framework focuses on communications networks and services, radio spectrum policy covers all areas where spectrum is an issue, from mobile telephony to television broadcasting, from satellite positioning systems to scientific research, and much more.
These regulatory areas are also coordinated with the Radio Equipment and Telecommunications Terminal Equipment (RTTE) Directive, which regulates the telecommunications equipment market. By replacing over 1000 national approval regulations, the directive has created a framework for regulating what is now a European single market worth 30 billion Euro.
In the field of content, European audio-visual regulation aims to ensure the free provision of services and to fulfil objectives of public interest such as access to information and protection of users in areas such as commercial communication, protection of minors and human dignity. The main instrument here is the "Television Without Frontiers Directive", which promotes the European broadcasting industry by ensuring the free movement of television broadcasting services throughout the EU.
This "hard law" instrument is supplemented by a number of soft law instruments; the most important of which is the Recommendation on the Protection of Minors and Human Dignity and on the Right of Reply.
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Table of Contents
European Journalism Centre: 1992-2007
European Media Governance and the Role of the European Commission
Jean-Eric De Cockborne and Harald Trettenbrein
The European Union's Media Policy: The Role of the European Parliament
European Broadcasting Union
European Media Governance and the Private Radio Industry
Film Directors and European Media Governance
European Media Governance and the Newspaper Industry
European Media Governance and the Magazine Industry
Books and the European Union, Mutual Understanding?
Celine D'Ambrosio, Olga Martin Sancho & Anne Bergman-tahon
The Digital Revolution - What Does It Mean for Advertising?
Advertising, the Audio-visual Industry and European Media Governance
Journalism & Scriptwriting
European Journalists Press Case for Media Rights for All
Screenwriters and European Media Governance
Television Without Frontiers - Advertising Without Limits
Conclusions: Media Policy of the European Union - Trends and Developments
Inventory of EU Measures Affecting the Media