UK government responds to consultation on implementation of Audio Visual Services Directive

February 14, 2020

The UK government has issued its response to the consultation on the implementation of the 2018 Audio Visual Services Directive 2018/1808/EU .

The revised Directive introduces measures to strengthen the country of origin principle. Specifically, it provides more clarity on which member state’s rules apply and aligns the derogation procedures for both TV broadcasters and on-demand service providers, as well as possible derogations for public security concerns and serious risks to public health.

It increases protection of minors against harmful content on TV and video-on-demand. It also increases the protection of the general public from incitement to violence or hatred and public provocation to commit terrorist offences appearing on TV or video-on-demand services.

There are increased obligations to promote European works for on-demand services, which must have at least a 30% share of European content in their catalogue and must ensure the prominence of this content.

The Directive allows member states more flexibility in setting rules for television advertising minutage, although it does not require it. Instead of the current maximum of 12 minutes per hour, Member States can allow broadcasters to choose more freely when to show advertisements throughout the day. An overall limit of 20% of broadcasting time is maintained between 6am to 6pm, and the same share allowed during prime time (from 6pm to midnight).

Certain audiovisual rules will also extend to video sharing platforms: services such as YouTube, as well as audiovisual content shared on social media services, such as Facebook, are covered by the revised Directive. Video sharing platforms are also required to take appropriate measures to protect people from incitement to violence or hatred and content constituting criminal offences. The revised Directive also extends the obligation to protect minors to providers of video-sharing platforms, which now need to put in place appropriate measures. Video sharing platforms will also have an obligation to ensure that users uploading content that contains commercial communications onto their platforms declare the nature of it, so that it is transparent to viewers when audiovisual material contains commercial communications.

Finally, the independence of audiovisual regulators is reinforced in EU law by ensuring that they are legally distinct from their government and functionally independent from the government and any other public or private body.

The government intends to implement the video sharing provisions via its Online Harms legislation but will take interim measures to meet the implementation date of 19 September 2020. 

In relation to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, after the transition period, the measures in the Directive will become retained UK law, and the UK government will assess in due course this legislation in light of the future relationship with the EU.

The government will take forward measures outlined in its response, confirming a largely copy-out approach except where this may create a competitive disadvantage for UK businesses. In line with government policy, the intention is that the required changes to the law come into effect on time, by the deadline for implementing the Directive on 19 September 2020.