MEPs raise Netflix quota to 30% and sharpen rules on violent online posts

MEPs want to raise a quota proposal to require broadcasters and online video-on-demand platforms like Netflix to include 30% European works in their catalogues. [Shardayyy/Flickr]

Netflix and other video-on-demand platforms could be required to include a minimum 30% of European content—more than the Commission’s proposed 20% quota, if new broadcasting rules follow a report approved yesterday (25 April) by MEPs in the Culture Committee.

Online services like Netflix balked last year when the European Commission announced a proposal to apply the audiovisual media services directive, which were last updated in 2010, to video-on-demand platforms.

DigitalEurope, a lobby group representing Amazon, Google and other internet companies, called the quota proposal “counterproductive”. Netflix has pushed back against the quota, even though the company says it already carries more than that share of European works.

Some European countries already have national broadcasting quotas—France even requires broadcasters and online video-on-demand platforms to make sure at least 60% of their catalogue is made up of European works.

Other details in the draft broadcasting law have drawn a lot of attention and caused uproar among internet firms and some traditional broadcasters.

The two MEPs who co-authored the report in the European Parliament’s Culture Committee received more than 1,000 amendments.

One of the authors, German CDU lawmaker Sabine Verheyen (EPP), said that volume reflects intense lobbying from companies that were concerned over the new extension of the broadcasting law to online services.

“If you newly take them under the scope of the directive, there is a big objection against that. That’s natural. That’s what we had. We had changes,” she told euractiv.com.

European Commission wants Netflix to carry at least 20% European content

The European Commission will propose quotas on online video streaming services that require them to offer at least 20% European content.

Verheyen’s co-rapporteur on the audiovisual bill is German SPD lawmaker Petra Kammerevert (S&D).

The MEPs also changed liability rules for user-generated online video-sharing platforms like Youtube, requiring them to remove content that is harmful to children or incites terrorism.

A compromise amendment to the bill removed part of the Commission’s original proposal that said member states should not pass national laws that are stricter than the EU directive.

But Verheyen rejected criticism that her report goes against EU rules guaranteeing that online platforms cannot be liable for what their users upload, which is grounded in legislation known as the eCommerce directive. The audiovisual rules do not conflict with the eCommerce directive because they do not require platforms to filter out what their users upload or hold them responsible for content unless it is flagged as dangerous, Verheyen told euractiv.com.

“We respect that they are not responsible before they can surely have knowledge of illegal and unacceptable content,” she said.

The bill would still require online companies to set up a system to monitor and respond to alerts about harmful content.

Separately, the executive has brokered a non-binding agreement with online platforms including Youtube, Facebook and Twitter encouraging them to respond to alerts about hate speech and remove posts.

The audiovisual rules must still be agreed with member states and the Commission in three-way negotiations before they can go into effect.

Online video-on-demand companies also criticised the MEPs’ report for creating an option for member states to force firms to pay into national film funds. DigitalEurope said in a statement that that measure “strongly undermines the country-of-origin principle” that allows EU countries to only regulate broadcasters based in their own member states.

Lobbyists swamp MEPs over 'Netflix bill'

MEPs handling the controversial bill that could impose a 20% quota of European works on Netflix will meet up to 40 lobbyists at once over three meetings, after being swamped with requests.