THE POTENTIAL FAILURE TO INFORM AND PROTECT
TELEVISION VIEWERS & THE USERS OF EUROPE’S AUDIOVISAL MEDIA SERVICES
AGAINST PRODUCT PLACEMENT
SURREPTITIOUS AUDIOVISUAL COMMERCIAL COMMUNICATION
by the European Alliance of Listeners’ and Viewers’ Associations (EURALVA)
Provisions of the Amended text of
Directive on Audiovisual Media Services,
as agreed by
the EU Council of Ministers on 13 November 2006
EURALVA welcomes the extension of the Television Without Frontiers
Directive to all Audiovisual Media Services, which will bring new platforms into
a common regulatory framework.
We are concerned, however, that the proposed rules on surreptitious
audiovisual commercial communication and product placement, as formulated in
the latest proposal of the Council of Ministers, have failed to provide
consumers with the minimum protections which they were guaranteed in the
European Commission’s original proposal.
Because of the failure to harmonise minimum standards, it is probable that
substantially different regulatory standards will be adopted across the
European Union. This will completely destroy any hope of establishing a
single European audiovisual media space.
A Member State will therefore be unable protect its own citizens when the
standards adopted by another Member State falls below those which it demands
from its own broadcasters and providers of audiovisual media services.
Viewers of television broadcasts, which have mass impact, are more at risk
from surreptitious audiovisual commercial communication than consumers of
on-demand services. This is because the e-Commerce directive, which covers
commercial on-demand services, offers a Member State wider scope for
derogation than does the Audiovisual Services Directive as presently
drafted. The latter, which governs traditional [linear] mass broadcast
media, only permits a Member State to derogate if it can demonstrate that
the service in question constitutes a serious risk to children.
If the draft text of the AVMS Directive, as agreed by the Council of
Ministers, has to be implemented in its present form, the Contact Committee
could play an important role in re-establishing common minimum standards to
protect all consumers. Although EURALVA welcomes the provisions of Article
23, it regrets that the interests of consumers and viewers are
insufficiently represented, because only the European Commission will be
authorised to bring issues arising from the application of Article 3 to the
Committee’s attention, and not national governments which may well be better
placed to represent and reflect consumer interests.
EURALVA therefore proposes that national governments should also be authorised
to bring consumer issues for discussion at the Contact Committee. Member
Associations of EURALVA would be prepared to co-operate with national
governments in bringing this about.
In conclusion, it is regrettable that, in extending the Television Without
Frontiers Directive to on-demand audiovisual media services, the net result so
far – whatever the original intention - has been to presage a serious weakening
of the protections against surreptitious commercial exploitation which have
traditionally been afforded to ordinary television viewers watching the
principal mass media in the European Union.