European Commission adopts guidelines to help implement the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive

July 2, 2020

The European Commission has adopted guidelines to help member states implement the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive. The guidelines aim to provide a practical tool to ensure the promotion of European works in media content, thereby supporting cultural diversity and greater choice for European consumers. They also aim to help better protect users of video-on-demand and video-sharing platforms, particularly minors, against hate speech and harmful content.

The deadline for EU member states to transpose the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive (EU) 2018/1808 into national law is 19 September 2020. The guidelines, while not binding, are expected to contribute to its harmonised implementation and enforcement. They provide the Commission’s views on how specific concepts should be applied to ensure a consistent implementation of the media rules across member states.

The guidelines are part of the Commission’s broader work to define clearer responsibilities and accountability for social media and online platforms, and are complementary to the proposed Digital Services Act package, on which a public consultation is currently taking place.

The Commission has adopted two sets of guidelines on European works and on video-sharing platforms.

Guidelines on European works

The updated AMSD has reinforced the obligations to promote European films and TV shows in on-demand services, which need to ensure at least a 30% share of European content in their catalogues and give prominence to such content. It also allows member states, under certain conditions, to require media service providers that are established in another member state, but target audiences in their territories, to contribute financially to the production of European works.

The guidelines also include a recommended methodology for the calculation of the 30% share of European content in each national catalogue, based on the titles of films and seasons of television series. They also clarify the definition of ‘low audience’ and ‘low turnover’, in view of exempting smaller providers from the obligations concerning the promotion of European works and, so neither undermining market development nor inhibiting the entry of new market players.

Guidelines on video-sharing platforms

The revised AMSD extends EU standards on illegal and harmful content to video-sharing platforms, including services like social media where the provision of audiovisual content is not the principal purpose of the service, but it still forms some of its essential functionality. As a result, online players will have to ensure, in a similar way to traditional media players, that users are protected against hate speech and that minors are protected from harmful content. Online platforms must take action against flagged content, which incites violence, hatred and terrorism, and ensure appropriate advertising and product placement in children’s programmes.

In this context, the guidelines provide a toolkit for member states to help them assess which online services should fall under the scope of the European media framework. They also identify a list of relevant indicators that member states can use when evaluating whether audiovisual content is an essential, and not only a minor or ancillary, part of the online platform. Further, they take into consideration the dynamic nature of the online platform environment and therefore aim to ensure flexibility in this area.