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Procedure : 2001/2087(COS)
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Document selected : A5-0037/2002

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Thursday, 11 April 2002 - Strasbourg
Protection of minors and human dignity

European Parliament resolution on the evaluation report from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on the application of the Council Recommendation of 24 September 1998 concerning the protection of minors and human dignity (COM(2001) 106 – C5&nbhy;0191/2001 – 2001/2087(COS))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Commission report (COM(2001) 106 – C5-0191/2001),

–  having regard to the Treaty establishing the European Community, and in particular to Article 157 and Article 249 thereof,

–  having regard to Council Directive 89/552/EEC of 3 October 1989 on the coordination of certain provisions laid down by law, regulation or administrative action in Member States concerning the pursuit of television broadcasting activities ('Television without Frontiers'), and in particular Article 22 thereof(1),

–  having regard to its resolution of 13 May 1998 on the protection of minors and human dignity in audiovisual and information services(2),

–  having regard to the Council Recommendation 98/560/EC of 24 September 1998 on the development of the competitiveness of the European audiovisual and information services industry by promoting national frameworks aimed at achieving a comparable and effective level of protection of minors and human dignity(3),

–  having regard to Decision No 276/1999/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council(4) of 25 January 1999 adopting a multiannual Community action plan on promoting safer use of the Internet by combating illegal and harmful content on global networks,

–  having regard to the Council Conclusions of 17 December 1999 on the protection of minors in the light of the development of digital audiovisual services(5),

–  having regard to its resolution of 5 October 2000 on parental control of television broadcasting(6),

–  having regard to the Council Conclusions of 21 June 2001 on the protection of minors and human dignity(7),

–  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 Citizens' Freedoms and Rights, Justice and Home Affairs and the Committee on Legal Affairs and the Internal Market (A5-0037/2002),

A.  whereas children's welfare is primarily the responsibility of their legal guardians, though this does not absolve the suppliers and distributors of audiovisual content, nor the drafters of legislation, from their responsibilities,

B.  whereas the Council Recommendation in question was supplemented in 1999 by a Safer Internet Action Plan which presented a coherent set of initiatives to deal with illegal content on the Internet,

C.  whereas self-regulation by the audiovisual industries has generally proved to be an effective additional, but not sufficient, means of protecting minors from harmful content, when appropriately applied,

D.  whereas the Commission Report concludes that 'after two years, the results of the application of the Recommendation are encouraging, although interested parties and in particular consumers should have been more involved in the establishment of codes of conduct',

E.  whereas not all Member States have established hotlines to handle complaints about illegal or harmful content and whereas campaigns to publicise the existence of these have been carried out in only five Member States,

F.  whereas legal provisions governing the classification of video games and/or self-regulation by the industry exist in only nine Member States despite the rapid proliferation of such products in conjunction with internet and broadcast promotion;

G.  whereas the majority of websites with illegal content originate on computers outside the EU, and whereas individual Member States, in the questionnaire on which this evaluation report is based, have expressed their regret at the lack of harmonisation between the relevant national laws with regard to cooperation,

H.  whereas in Sweden large Internet Service Providers have set up 'abuse departments' to which complaints may be made about harmful or illegal content,

I.  whereas in the remaining Member States, video games are currently labelled according to the age rating system in place in the Member State from which they are imported,

J.  whereas the Commission can promote the protection of minors from harmful content in the audiovisual media by facilitating exchanges of experience and best practice, and whereas more systematic public monitoring could be introduced in each Member State on the basis of minimum standards, drawn up by the Member States,

K.  whereas the video game industry has engaged in a pan-European project of self-regulation,

L.  whereas transparency and the possibility of public scrutiny are important means of promoting the implementation of the Recommendation,

M.  whereas, as the Commission notes, 'two years may be a relatively short period for fully applying the Recommendation',

1.  Notes the conclusions of the Commission's Evaluation Report of 27 February 2001 on the application of the Council Recommendation of 24 September 1998 concerning the protection of minors and human dignity;

2.  Welcomes the actions developed under the Safer Internet Action Plan of 25 January 1999 and calls on the Commission to continue and expand these actions after 31 December 2002;

3.  Reminds the Member States of their obligations under Articles 34, 35 and 36 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Children of 20 November 1989 to protect children from all forms of exploitation prejudicial to the child's welfare;

4.  Calls on the Member States to continue to promote application of the Recommendation in question, and to set up hotlines for complaints about illegal or harmful content and to launch publicity campaigns to draw the attention of consumers, and in particular parents, to the risks;

5.  Reiterates its conviction that the protection of minors from exposure to content which, while it may be lawful may nevertheless be harmful to minors, is primarily the responsibility of their legal guardians and underlines the importance of campaigns to educate children and their legal guardians in the appropriate use of the audiovisual media;

6.  Recommends the Member States consult consumers' groups, voluntary associations and non-governmental organisations and involve these more closely in the implementation of the Recommendation;

7.  Welcomes the development of the Internet Content Rating Association and its development of a rating system that can reflect regional and individual values;

8.  Asks the Commission to continue to work closely with content providers and consumer organisations to monitor guidelines in particular for online services, the efficiency of codes of conduct and self-regulatory approaches so as to ensure the highest standards of protection for minors;

9.  Welcomes the emergence of service providers' self-regulation facilities in the Member States, reiterates the need for such arrangements and calls on the Commission to promote and support networking and exchange of experience between self-regulation facilities in the Member States;

10.  Notes that technical measures cannot be a substitute for the liability of service providers for the content for which they are responsible, and that consequently a legal duty for service providers to comply with certain provisions, with a view to protecting minors from harmful content, is unavoidable;

11.  Calls on Member States to continue promoting the rating of video games through self-regulatory mechanisms set up by industry as the preferred option, but otherwise by the introduction of agreed minimum standards for content and promotion, and to make users aware of this by means of wide-ranging information campaigns;

12.  Calls on the Commission to promote the creation of user-friendly content filter systems at affordable prices, so as to provide effective support for parental control both over the use of the Internet and over audiovisual media;

13.  Calls on the Member States to develop an approach which establishes common criteria for a comparable description of audiovisual content with the help of service providers, consumers, national and regional bodies responsible for youth protection, and academic circles, though the assessment of content should – not least in the light of cultural differences – remain the preserve of national or regional authorities while assessment systems for the various media should be better coordinated;

14.  Calls on the Member States to incorporate the teaching of media literacy into the educational system as a whole, starting from pre-school, in order to enable consumers to use the media in a manner geared to the values of society and to develop a sense of judgment in these matters; (media education should particularly be included in the school curriculum, so that minors can themselves learn awareness in dealing with media products);

15.  Calls on Member States to encourage Internet Service Providers operating on their territory to establish 'abuse departments' to which members of the public may complain about harmful or illegal content and to draw attention to the existence of these in the user agreements they issue;

16.  Believes that cooperation and partnership between the Internet industry, governments and national and regional authorities is the most effective way to tackle harmful and illegal content on the Internet and is concerned that recent decisions or strategies to block access to certain websites may result in the fragmentation of Internet access or the denial of access to legitimate content and therefore is not an effective European solution for combating illegal and harmful Internet content;

17.  Calls on the Commission to continue to promote application of the Recommendation by facilitating the exchange at Community level of experience of, and good practice in, the protection of minors in all audiovisual media;

18.  Welcomes the Commission's intention to support a study of rating of films distributed in cinemas, by television, by DVD or by videocassette in the EU and EEA Member States;

19.  Stresses the need for stronger European and international cooperation to combat illegal content, and calls on the Commission to that end to develop initiatives and draft proposals on how to improve cooperation in the field of justice and other cooperation between the authorities at European and international level;

20.  Calls on the Commission to draw up a further report, at an appropriate time and preferably before 31 December 2002, on the implementation of the Recommendation, calls, further, and in the interest of transparency, for any future report to provide descriptions of the implementation of the Recommendation in each Member State;

21.  Encourages the DVB consortium to work on the development of reliable filter and rating systems for digital broadcasting;

22.  Calls on Member States to monitor the rules for the installation and use of internet chat rooms where these threaten the human dignity of minors, and the means whereby these are advertised by service providers;

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

(1) OJ L 298, 17.10.1989, p. 23. Directive as last amended by Directive 97/36/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council (OJ L 202, 30.7.1997, p. 60).
(2) OJ C 167, 1.6.1998, p. 128.
(3) OJ L 270, 7.10.1998, p. 48.
(4) OJ L 33, 6.2.1999, p. 1.
(5) OJ C 8, 12.1.2000, p. 8.
(6) OJ C 178, 22.6.2001, p. 186.
(7) OJ C 213, 31.7.2001, p. 10.

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