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Commission establishes European Regulators Group for Audiovisual Media Services

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AVMSDThe European Commission has formally established a group of EU Regulatory Authorities in the field of Audiovisual Media Services. The group brings together heads or high level representatives of national independent regulatory bodies in the field of audiovisual services, to advise the Commission in implementing the EU's Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) in a converged media age.

Europe's broadcast and audiovisual landscape is changing: content is increasingly distributed and viewed across borders and created, distributed and viewed online (see IP/13/358). This creates special regulatory challenges and makes it crucial to guarantee closer and more regular cooperation between the independent regulatory bodies of member states and the Commission.

The European Regulators Group for Audiovisual Media Services will advise and assist the Commission in its work to ensure consistent implementation of the AVMSD and other related fields in which the Commission can act. It will facilitate cooperation between regulatory bodies in the EU, and will also allow for an exchange of experience and good practice.

European Commission Vice-President Neelie Kroes said: "This group is a win-win outcome for audiovisual regulators and for the Commission: their independence is strengthened and everyone will work better together at a crucial time when we will be reviewing EU audiovisual rules in 2015."

In its 2013 report, the independent High Level Group (HLG) on Media Freedom and Pluralism recommended the formalisation of cooperation between regulatory bodies in the field of audiovisual media services to share common good practice and setting quality standards. Moreover, the majority of respondents to the public consultation on the independence of audiovisual regulatory bodies believed that cooperation between regulatory bodies is crucial in the convergent environment. They also supported the legally mandated gathering of these authorities at European level. The European Council November 2013 also invited member states to ensure the independence of their audiovisual regulatory bodies and Commission to strengthen cooperation between regulatory authorities in the field of audiovisual media services.

The Group is due to meet for the first time on 4 March, and during the meeting the chair of the group for the first 12 months will be chosen among the members.

Background

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.

The formal group of EU Regulatory Authorities in the field of Audiovisual Media Services will complement the work of the Contact Committee which was established by Article 29 AVMSD. The Contact Committee is chaired by the Commission and composed of representatives of the authorities of the Member States. It may be convened at the request of any of the delegations. The Contact Committee was established to monitor the implementation of the Directive and the developments in the sector and as a forum for the exchange of views. It deals not only with the existing audiovisual policy but also with the relevant developments arising in this sector.

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Audiovisual Media Services Directive

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Audiovisual

#AudiovisualMedia - MEPs approve new rules fit for a digital age

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New rules on audiovisual media aim to better protect viewers, encourage innovation and promote European content. MEPs approved them on 2 October.

The internet has dramatically changed how we watch films, videos and television shows. On 2 October MEPs vpted in favour of legislation for audiovisual media services that has been updated to keep up with these developments.

The revised legislation would not only apply to traditional broadcasters, but also to video-on-demand and video-sharing platforms, such as Netflix, YouTube or Facebook, as well as to live streaming on video-sharing platforms.

Protecting viewers

As watching videos is one of children's favourite activities on the internet, the new legislation includes proposals to better protect them, including reducing their exposure to publicity on unhealthy food and beverages and banning advertising and product placement for tobacco, electronic cigarettes and alcohol in children’s TV programmes and video-sharing platforms.

The new rules would also prohibit any content inciting violence, hatred and terrorism, while gratuitous violence and pornography would be subject to the strictest rules. Video-sharing platforms would also be responsible for reacting quickly when content is reported or flagged as harmful by users.

“It will be possible for adults to implement filtering software on the content of their children and also to have age verification software on content that may be harmful,” said German EPP member Sabine Verheyen, one of the MEPs responsible for steering these proposals through Parliament.

Advertising limits

The new rules would set limits for a maximum of 20% of advertising for the daily broadcasting period between 6.00 and 18.00, giving the broadcaster the flexibility to adjust their advertising periods.

European content

In order to increase cultural diversity and promote European content, the new legislation proposes that 30% of content of TV channels and VOD platforms would have to be European. This would mean EU productions and co-productions with European countries that have signed the European Convention on Transfrontier television.

“What we are experiencing today with the internet, videos and films available online, up until now hasn’t been regulated. This is why we needed to update the directive,“ said German S&D member Petra Kammerevert, the other MEP in charge of Parliament's position on these proposals.

Next steps

The new legislation would still need to be approved by the Council as well before it can enter into force. After that EU countries would have 21 months after its entry into force to transpose the new rules into national legislation.

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Ending whack-a-mole: Why the way we tackle #IllegalStreaming isn’t working

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Whether they’re hunched over their laptops or down the local pub watching the match with a pint, wherever fans of the beautiful game are, you’ll likely find illegal streaming. Put off by what many see as prohibitive subscription costs, a significant number of fans of football and indeed many other sports now consume their football, boxing, rugby or cricket illegally, much to the consternation of those with the rights to broadcast – and the European Union.

Bolstered by a 2017 decision of the European Court of Justice, which found that illegal streaming breaches the 2001 Copyright Directive, the sports industry is fighting back. According to data compiled by professional services firm PPL, sports industry companies made up three of the top 10 companies with the most claims for copyright infringement last year, with the Football Association filing 36 cases, Sky filing 12 and BT filing 11.

In the Netherlands, the Premier League was successful in its court case against internet hosting provider Ecatel for what it saw as its facilitation of illegal streaming, with a Dutch district court in the Hague ordering the company to stop providing services that could be used for illegal streaming or face a €1.5 million fine. The technology used to facilitate illegal streaming has also come under the spotlight, and in particular the popular set-top media player, Kodi, which, though entirely legal itself, is often used for illegal streaming via a series of third-party add-ons, something John Whittingale, former UK Culture Secretary has blasted as being “tantamount to theft”.

But while the ECJ may have found unlicensed streaming to be illegal, just declaring that something is outside the law achieves little. Shutting down sites one-by-one has so far proven to be a game of whack-a-mole. The Pirate Bay, for example, has been going strong since 2003 – even if its founders have had to service a little jail time – by changing jurisdictions, URLs and enabling access through proxy (or mirror) websites.

And it’s not difficult to understand the owners’ incentive for staying one step ahead of the law. In the 2009 trial, the police estimated that the Pirate Bay made $1.4m per year through advertising. Where there’s money to be made, there will always be people ready to make a profit – legal or not – meaning current policy of trying to shut down individual providers is like taking down individual dealers to end the war on drugs. It just won’t work.

So rather than trying to tackle supply, perhaps it is time to address demand. Draconian strategies designed to terrify consumers into staying away from streaming sites – such as the UK’s new Digital Economy Act – do not appear to be having the desired result. However, disincentivizing illegal streaming in more behaviour-led ways might.

One strategy, for example, could be to emphasis the risk of malware infection by the use of illegal streaming sites. According to a joint study by KU Leuven University and Stony Brook University, half of the ads hosted on illegal sports streaming sites are malicious. Another way of tackling the issue could be for sports and entertainment industries to give the people what they want so that they don’t have to resort to illegal streaming by, for example, reducing the lag time between theatrical release of movies and their transfer to video-on-demand services and making it easier to access the content you want, legally.

But perhaps the best way of cracking down on illegal streaming would be by strangling the revenue streams that these sites rely on to finance their operations. The Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG), a collective of major companies involved in the media and advertising industry working against illegal streaming, have come together to ensure that legitimate businesses don’t support streaming through advertising. According to a study by Ernst & Young LLP, TAG’s anti-piracy steps have already reduced ad revenue for pirate sites by between 48% and 61%.

Even the smallest efforts can help: a few months back, we discovered that Unibet, the main brand of the Swedish gambling, online poker, horse-racing and sports betting company Kindred Group, was financing several illegal streaming sites (such as WatchSportOnline.cc, LiveSportStreams.net and MyFeed4U.net) through targeted advertising. According to the source code, the ads seemed to have been placed directly by Kindred, with no other advertising agency acting as the middleman. Contacted by EU Reporter, a company spokesman said they “had no knowledge” of any wrongdoings and pledged to contact said websites to make sure “any reference to Unibet would be deleted.”

And that was, indeed, the case. After being alerted by EuReporter, the online betting company pulled its ads from the sites mentioned. “We have been in contact with the partners mentioned and requested that all Unibet references are taken off the sites”, and all ads had indeed disappeared from the three websites,” the spokesman said, dealing a critical blow to the illegal streamers.

If policy makers and activists can find a way of starving the sites of this income, they will inevitably fold. Consumers and the businesses that advertise are the two groups that need to be disincentivised from supporting these platforms - anything else is just like a very expensive, and ultimately entirely futile, game of whack-a-mole.

 

 

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The dire unintended consequences of restricting #data-driven ads

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Obstructing the collection and use of data in digital advertising would have serious and unintended consequences for the EU economy, for Europe’s independent media, and for the accessibility of the internet itself. These are the findings of new research exploring the likely impact of the ePrivacy Regulation proposed earlier this year by the European Commission as the next iteration of the infamous cookie law (Directive 2002/58/EC).

Digital advertising’s disappearing economic contribution

New analysis from the independent financial research company IHS Markit shows digital advertising contributing to €526 billion of the EU’s annual GDP, both directly and through the growth it enables for EU businesses[1]. However, up to half of the digital advertising market could disappear if proposed restrictions on the use of data in advertising came into force.

The IHS Markit analysis reveals that 66% of current digital advertising spend depends on data, and that the use of data drives 90% of annual growth in the digital advertising market. Data-driven advertising is over 500% more effective than advertising without data and is crucial for providing advertisers with transparency on who sees their ads. Because of this, advertisers will slash their investment in digital advertising if data can no longer be used.

Impoverishment of the media landscape

A halving of digital advertising spend would have serious consequences for the EU economy, and equally serious consequences for Europe’s media. Data-driven advertising increases the value of online advertising units by 300%, and the increase in value is particularly significant for smaller publishers, which would otherwise struggle to access digital advertising revenues[2]. IHS Markit’s econometric analysis predicts that the impact of restricting data in advertising would be 5x greater on smaller, independent publishers.

In its survey of 11,000 internet users in 11 EU countries, the market research company GfK explored attitudes to digital advertising, to sharing data, and to the prospect of paying for content[3]. It found that only 30% of Europeans are prepared to pay for content to replace digital advertising revenues, and the average amount they are prepared to pay (€3.8 per month) is far below the amount that news sites need to fund their journalism. With digital advertising spend plummeting and audiences refusing to pay, the outlook for publishers looks bleak. Restrictions on collection of data crucial for generating advertising revenues that fund journalism would reduce the ability of media organisations to deliver high quality content and services, which could have serious unintended consequences for the social and political landscape in Europe.

An internet that’s no longer accessible to all

The GfK study also revealed the likely impact of a decline in digital advertising revenues on the accessibility of the internet itself. More than two-thirds of Europeans (68%) have never paid for any of the online content or services that they use. When asked how their internet use would change if required to pay, 88% said that they would significantly reduce the amount of time that they spend online. In contrast, 69% said they were willing for their browsing data to be used in advertising, in order to access free content. Overall, 80% said that they prefer free content with advertising to paid-for content.

The unintended consequences of restricting data-driven advertising

“These findings should give MEPs very significant cause for concern as they consider the proposed ePrivacy Regulation,” said Townsend Feehan, CEO of IAB Europe. “The alternative to data-driven advertising isn’t just less targeted advertising – it’s a digital ad industry half the size that it is today. That has huge consequences for Europeans’ experience of the internet, for the EU economy and for the existence of a free and balanced media. The latest research shows that the appetite for paying for online content simply doesn’t exist to a viable degree amongst EU citizens. Ignoring this fact is a recipe for economic, social and political disaster.”

Full reports are available online: www.datadrivenadvertising.eu

Research co-funded by the European Interactive Digital Advertising Alliance (EDAA) and the Interactive Advertising Bureau Europe (IAB Europe).

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