The European Commission announced yesterday (1 September) that it had written to eight EU members (Austria, Cyprus, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Luxembourg) seeking information about their implementation of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMS).
However, other countries are apparently in a worse situation.
Slovenia has not notified to the Commission of any measures to transpose the AVMS Directive into national law and Poland has only partially notified some measures. Brussels has initiated infringement procedures against both countries. The EU executive is still analysing measures notified by Portugal.
Jonathan Todd, spokesperson for the EU commissioner in charge of the 'Digital Agenda', Neelie Kroes, said that the letters signalled concern that the provisions of the AVMS Directive were not being applied correctly in those countries. He insisted that at this stage, there was no infringement procedure against any of the eight countries.
He also made clear that the letters had nothing to do with the controversy over Hungary's media law which raged for the first few months of the year, stressing that this chapter had been successfully closed.
The Commission's concerns regarding compliance in each country differs from case to case. Overall, the main concern appears to be conformity with the 'country of origin principle', meaning that media service providers are only subject to regulation in their country of origin and cannot abide by regulations in the destination country, except in very limited circumstances, such as incitement to hatred.
The country of origin principle sparked controversy with Hungary, until Budapest agreed that broadcasters legally established in other EU countries could no longer be fined for breaching the Hungarian media law's provisions.
The other issues raised in some of the countries mentioned are:
- Audiovisual commercial communications (including product placement, sponsorship, television advertising and teleshopping);
- basic obligations under the directive (such as identification requirements, rules on incitement to hatred and accessibility, balanced coverage obligations and registration of on-demand services);
- the protection of minors;
- promoting European works;
- events of major importance to be broadcast on free-to-air television and short news extracts, and;
- cooperation between regulators.
The Commission has asked the eight countries to reply within 10 weeks.