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Procedure : 2000/2087(COS)
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Document selected : A5-0209/2000

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Wednesday, 6 September 2000 - Strasbourg
Community audiovisual policy in the digital age

European Parliament resolution on the Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions "Principles and guidelines for the Community's audiovisual policy in the digital age" (COM(1999) 657 - C5-0144/2000 - 2000/2087(COS) )

The European Parliament,

-  having regard to the Commission communication (COM(1999) 657 - C5-0144/2000 ),

-  having regard to Articles 157 and 151 of the Treaty and the Protocol on the system of public broadcasting in the Member States annexed to the EC Treaty,

-  having regard to the Council Conclusions of 27 September 1999 concerning the results of the public consultation on the Convergence Green Paper (in particular the aspects relating to the media and the audiovisual sector)(1) ,

-  having regard to the Council Conclusions of 16 May 2000 on the principles and guidelines for audiovisual policy,

-  having regard to Rule 47(1) of its Rules of Procedure,

-  having regard to the report of the Committee on Culture, Youth, Education, the Media and Sport and the opinions of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs and the Committee on Legal Affairs and the Internal Market (A5-0209/2000 ),

A.  whereas the issues relating to the audiovisual sector have already been comprehensively addressed and discussed over the last few years, at the Birmingham Conference in 1998, following on from the consultation on the Convergence Green Paper (COM(1997) 623 ), and alongside the revision of the directives on telecommunications,

B.  whereas the audiovisual sector, in addition to being one of the most important sources of new jobs, will continue to play a fundamental role in upholding democracy, freedom of thought and pluralism, as well as safeguarding and promoting cultural and linguistic diversity in Europe; whereas it is more important to promote European content than to protect it artificially in a global context which makes this impossible,

C.  whereas, in view of the development of digital technology, the existing Community rules governing the audiovisual sector should swiftly be amended in order to achieve the correct balance between the application of the basic principles which are currently in force and the technological and market changes which are taking place,

D.  whereas vigilance will be needed to ensure that the regulatory separation between infrastructure and content takes place in such a way that the technological and market aspects do not predominate to such an extent that they post a threat to pluralism and cultural diversity,

E.  whereas European rules relating to the audiovisual sector do not cover global dissemination systems such as the Internet, nor do they cover the transmission of the same or similar content by means of different technological platforms,

F.  whereas the public must be guaranteed access to audiovisual services in accordance with the criteria of universality, affordability and non-discrimination,

G.  whereas the introduction of a European forum on content might create worthwhile synergies between the Commission, the relevant national authorities, operators and users,

H.  whereas competition policy must be able to constitute an appropriate, effective instrument for preventing the emergence of dominant positions, as regards both the concentration of media ownership in the new digital environment and the safeguarding of pluralism, but must not lead to a situation where the development of a competitive and varied supply of European audiovisual content is frustrated by restrictions on state aid to such productions,

I.  whereas coordination between the Commission and the relevant national authorities seems to be particularly desirable in the audiovisual sector,

J.  whereas, as stated in the above Protocol, public service broadcasting plays a central part in safeguarding pluralism, and whereas, however, it is for the Member States to determine how public service broadcasting is funded; whereas the legitimate functions of public service broadcasting should include not only experimental work and research but also the potentially unrestricted use of new technical resources and forms of marketing in order to give public service broadcasting the prospect of competing on the market on an equal footing,

K.  whereas rules on content in respect of programme and supply responsibility should apply equally to public service and private or commercial operators,

L.  whereas the Member States are gradually preparing the instruments for the move to digital terrestrial television,

M.  whereas the specific characteristics of the medium of radio must be safeguarded and the move to digital broadcasting must be facilitated,

N.  whereas the European film industry is in need of massive funding and a marketing and distribution structure capable of meeting the challenge of the global market and supporting cultural diversity; whereas the Media programme is a useful, but inadequate, instrument for the hoped-for growth of the European audiovisual sector and in particular independent art cinema,

O.  whereas compliance with the principle of separation between advertising and artistic, editorial or entertainment content must be assured in the new multimedia environment,

P.  whereas copyright, the effectiveness of which is in jeopardy in the digital environment, must be protected; whereas respect for intellectual property is a source of vitality in the audiovisual and cinematographic sector and the proposal for a directive on copyright and associated rights in the information society must therefore be speedily adopted, both to protect created works and to ensure that they are accessible and can circulate freely,

Q.  whereas, on the international scene, the distinction between medium and content must be safeguarded, so as to avoid the latter being equated in every respect with any other service which may be sold on line; whereas the local dimension and cultural diversity are key elements in international negotiations on audiovisual services,

1.  Endorses, in general terms, the Commission's guidelines for audiovisual policy in the digital age and notes that the timetable for action covering the next five years does not include any major innovations by comparison with what is envisaged in current legislation;

Revision of the "Television without Frontiers" Directive

2.  Calls on the Commission to ensure that, in order to take account of technological developments and of the services offered by digitalisation, the work leading up to the revision of Directive 89/552/EEC (2) should nonetheless enable the formal revision thereof to be implemented in the course of 2002;

3.  Calls on the Commission to ensure that, as part of the revision of the legislation on audiovisual services, a core of key principles for all audiovisual services, irrespective of the method of transmission to users, is identified, or that directives (or, at least, specific regulatory instruments) are drawn up for the purpose of laying down general rules for each type of audiovisual service, irrespective of transmission or broadcasting technique;

4.  Considers that the data-collection and assessment criteria and methods used for the purpose of drawing up reports on the application of Articles 4 and 5 of Directive 89/552/EEC must be standardised so that comparable, accurate and objective analyses can be produced;

5.  Calls on the Commission, the Council and the Member States to ensure that the rules governing the new digital services offered via convergent networks reaffirm the specific nature of audiovisual services by comparison with all the services of the information society;

6.  Agrees with the Commission's aim of providing operators in the audiovisual sector with a clear and predictable policy environment; takes the view that the introduction of digital technologies in the audiovisual sector will call for adjustment of the regulatory framework, in which priority should be given to a differentiated and flexible approach, on the basis of existing law; considers that when introducing new provisions or adjusting existing ones, their impact on employment and growth needs bearing in mind;

The principles to be safeguarded and the regulatory arrangements for the new digital services

7.  Endorses the principle of separate legislation for transmission and content, and reiterates the principle that, in the information society, users should effectively be guaranteed the right of access to networks under infrastructure regulation in accordance with the criteria of universality and affordability, and access to their content under content regulation in accordance with criteria of universality, affordability, non-discrimination and transparency;

8.  Maintains that regulation must be confined to what is strictly essential and must be applied only where competition is inadequate; such regulation must always be minimal, clear, simple, predictable and consistent and enable the market in the Member States to operate in accordance with the competition rules;

9.  Reiterates that some specific technical aspects concerning consumer access to content (electronic programme guides and conditional access, and any technical system interposed between access to the medium and choice of content, including both television and interactive services) require appropriate rules for ensuring pluralism and cultural and linguistic diversity and for protecting users' freedom of choice;

10.  Calls on the Commission to recognise the importance of universal service as a means of preventing social exclusion by ensuring that consumers have affordable access to communications services;

11.  Reaffirms that the protection of minors and human dignity in audiovisual and information services is essential in order to promote harmonious personal development and ensure an appropriate social balance, as well as being essential in order to create the climate of trust needed in a sector where the number of programmes on offer is increasingly large;

12.  Calls on the Commission, the Member States, public broadcasting services, private broadcasters and all major operators in the audiovisual sector to step up experiments with systems for filtering programmes and other methods of parental control for the protection of minors and, if applicable, to create the appropriate legal framework in the Member States;

13.  Approves the use of self-regulation in the rules on audiovisual content, but such rules should be taken to be a set of principles, preferably accompanied by shared codes of conduct, laid down by the relevant national and Community authorities;

14.  Supports the principle espoused by the Commission that the allocation of scarce spectrum should aim for optimum efficiency whilst stressing that the approach to broadcast spectrum cannot be considered in isolation from other public policy objectives which public service broadcasters are required to meet;

15.  Notes the conclusions of the Lisbon seminar on digital terrestrial television and the activities relating to digital video broadcasting (DVB), and calls on the Council and the Member States to take steps in order to achieve a gradual and agreed move to digital television, in particular digital terrestrial television;

16.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to take the lead in organising an appropriate European consultative forum to discuss aspects relating to the content of audiovisual and multimedia material (cinema, television, Internet, video games, webcasting, DVD, UMTS telephone, etc.) and related social and economic aspects;

Competition and the audiovisual market

17.  Calls on the Commission and the relevant national authorities to ensure, with a view to safeguarding pluralism, that measures are taken to prevent the emergence and maintenance of dominant positions in the audiovisual sector; calls on the Commission to assess the dominant position of audiovisual services on the basis of both economic and general criteria, looking at the functioning of the markets vertically, horizontally and intersectorally and not only in percentage terms, and taking into account the impact on European languages and cultural identity (Article 151(4) of the Treaty);

18.  Calls, therefore, on the Commission to assess carefully whether it would be advisable to put forward appropriate initiatives on media ownership in the new digital environment, with particular reference to vertical mergers;

19.  Calls on the Commission to ensure Europe-wide coordination between the national regulatory authorities and the audiovisual sector regulators; calls on the Commission to promote the creation of a European body to safeguard Europe-wide transparency in all areas of the audiovisual and multimedia market and to counter market concentrations which may pose a threat to pluralism,

20.  Calls on the Commission to take into account the cultural uniqueness and the weak economic position of the European audiovisual sector when defining its competition policy for this sector and to ensure that there are strong European groups capable of competing worldwide;

Functions of public service broadcasting

21.  Considers that the provisions of the above Protocol concerning the role of public service broadcasting in safeguarding pluralism are of fundamental importance; reiterates that it is for the Member States to define the tasks of public service broadcasting and to determine how public service broadcasting is funded in accordance with the Protocol;

22.  Stresses that public service and private broadcasting must play an innovative role at the forefront of the digital audiovisual industry;

23.  Invites the Member States, the relevant national authorities and those responsible for managing public service broadcasting to provide such broadcasting free to air, ensuring universal transmission and access and to provide legal guarantees for it through must-carry rules; stresses, in this connection, the crucial role of public digital terrestrial television and the need to make this platform as attractive as possible in the run-up to analogue switchover, through increasing capacity and improving coverage;

Other initiatives concerning the audiovisual sector and related sectors

24.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to take steps to safeguard the balanced development of the digital audiovisual sector and the European music and digital broadcasting sectors;

25.  Calls on the Commission to embark on a study of the socio-economic impact of radio in Europe, focusing in particular on the role of local broadcasters, and to promote a move to the use of the DAB standard;

26.  Calls on the Commission to propose further initiatives to develop cyber-cinema and to promote the simultaneous distribution of European cinematographic works in the Member States, on the basis of the experience acquired in connection with the Media Training and Media Plus programmes;

27.  calls on the Commission to take steps to encourage additional financing for European cinema, including the establishment of a guarantee fund; welcomes, in this connection, the call made at the Lisbon Summit for the EIB to support European audiovisual production;

28.  Calls on the Commission, the Council and the Member States, each within its own field of competence, to recognise and promote high-quality content, not least with tax measures;

29.  Calls on the Commission to conduct a thorough examination of the advantages and possibilities of enacting an appropriate tool, e.g. a film directive, in order to strengthen support mechanisms for the film sector in the various Member States and to improve the way in which they are coordinated, with a view to creating a genuine internal European market for films;

30.  Agrees with the Commission that it is necessary to amend the legislation on advertising in connection with the innovation brought about by digitalisation, particularly with regard to interactivity;

31.  Calls on the Commission and the Council to ensure that, in reforming the legislation on advertising, the principle of demarcating between advertising and editorial content is safeguarded;

32.  Calls on the Commission and the Council to promote the creation of and access to works, and also the circulation thereof, in the digital environment, whilst at the same time ensuring that intellectual property rights are adequately protected by means of a strengthening of the directive on copyright and associated rights in the information society; considers that this need has become even more apparent as a result of the fact that the Internet, in its various forms, is one of the main new media for the dissemination of audiovisual works;

The international scene

33.  Hopes that the Community, in developing audiovisual policy, will take account of the international dimension in relation to globalisation, and of the local dimension in order to promote cultural diversity, and will ensure that the scale of the broadcasting medium does not determine the type of content, to the detriment of pluralism;

34.  Calls on the Commission to ensure that, in international negotiations, the Community insists on the distinction between regulating the medium and regulating content, so as to avoid the risk of audiovisual services being included among those which follow the rules of the networks and/or electronic commerce;

35.  Stresses the importance of the European dual system of broadcasting in which general public service broadcasters, of which the public service remits are freely defined by Member States, can continue to develop further in the information society and to coexist with commercial broadcasters, and reiterates that this European model has to be safeguarded in future WTO negotiations;

36.  Calls on the Commission as a matter of urgency to create, by means of an appropriate audiovisual policy, an environment which favours entrepreneurial talent and investment in order to secure a presence for the audiovisual industry in the global economy, whilst promoting cultural diversity;

37.  Calls on the Council and the Commission to ensure that the Community and its Member States retain the ability to determine and to transpose their policy in the cultural and audiovisual sector so as to guarantee cultural diversity;

o   o

38.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission and the governments and parliaments of the Member States.

(1) OJ C 283, 6.10.1999, p. 1.
(2) OJ L 298, 17.10.1989, p. 23.

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