THE POTENTIAL FAILURE TO INFORM AND PROTECT

TELEVISION VIEWERS & THE USERS OF EUROPE’S AUDIOVISAL MEDIA SERVICES

AGAINST PRODUCT PLACEMENT AND

SURREPTITIOUS AUDIOVISUAL COMMERCIAL COMMUNICATION

 

 

An Analysis by the European Alliance of Listeners’ and Viewers’ Associations (EURALVA)

of the Provisions of the Amended text of

the Draft Directive on Audiovisual Media Services,

as agreed by the EU Council of Ministers on 13 November 2006

 

 

 Executive Summary

 

1.     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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.