EU Audiovisual Directive:Budapest Declaration for Freedom of the Internet
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European media scholars criticized a European Commission proposal for a new
EU Directive on Audiovisual Media Services for its vague regulatory concept
of ‘non-linear audiovisual services’ that would also affect the Internet.
The criticism was expressed in the “Budapest Declaration for Freedom of the
Internet” drafted by Peter Molnar, PhD, Senior research fellow at the Center
for Media and Communication Studies at the Central European University. The
Declaration is open for further signatures by media scholars.
“The unjustifiable restrictions suggested in the draft proposal of the
European Commission would put freedom of speech and freedom of information
at risk especially in Central-, and East-European countries where arbitrary
use of the state regulatory power is more likely than at least in some
West-European democracies,” the scholars warn.
The draft Directive is meant to replace the Television without Frontiers
Directive (TVWF) from 1989 (last revised 1997). It establishes regulations
for two types of audiovisual media content: ‘linear’ and ‘non-linear’.
‘Linear services’ are classic TV broadcasts. ‘Non-linear services’ include
on demand services and commercial audiovisual content, also on the Internet.
The regulation for ‘linear services’ would be similar to those that the TVWF
already imposes on TV services, but it would be simplified. ‘Non-linear
services’ would be subject to a lower degree of regulation.
Despite the ongoing discussion there is still a considerable uncertainty on
what kind of media could qualify as ‘non-linear audiovisual media’ that
would fall under the basic tier regulation of the proposal.
Critics, also among delegations from European Union member states, fear that
weblogs, online video games, or private websites with advertisement banners
might also fall under the scope of this Directive, as they are not strictly
Other examples for content that cannot be easily defined under the
provisions of the proposal include newly emerging video hosting platforms
like ‘Youtube’ or similar offers at ‘Google’, ‘Yahoo’ or elsewhere.
The European Commissioner for Information Society and Media, Viviane Reding,
assures however that the proposal for the Audiovisual Directive is not about
new restrictive provisions but will create the legal framework for new
services in the internal market by further co-ordination of minimum
standards. She states that the proposed piece of legislation complements
other elements of Community legislation, especially the e-Commerce Directive
that does not provide for harmonised rules in some essential areas of public
interest such as the protection of minors.
The Budapest Declaration, on the other hand, expresses concerns that the
“extension of the scope of some rather burdensome part of the Television
Directive to the internet – as the draft new directive of the European
Commission suggests in far too vague terms that would leave content
providers and users uncertain about whether or not their various activities
are regulated by this new directive – would be an unjustifiable restriction
on freedom of speech and freedom of information.”
Instead, the signatories argue, “the e-Commerce Directive of the European
Union already provides the necessary regulatory framework for the
information society services.”
The Declaration has been submitted to Members of the European Parliament and
is open for further signature by media scholars.
The European Commission submitted the proposal to the European Parliament on
13 December 2005. According to Commissioner Reding, the adoption by the
Cultural Committee of the European Parliament is scheduled for October and
finally the vote in plenary will take place in December 2006. A political
agreement in Council could be reached under the German Presidency (1st half
2007) and the second reading could take place under the Portuguese
Presidency (2nd half 2007).
Budapest Declaration for Freedom of the Internet (15.06.2006)
Signatures can be submitted to Peter Molnar and Laura Ranca
Modernising the TV without Frontiers directive
EDRI-gram : Draft Audiovisual Media Services Directive under criticism
(Contribution by Christian Möller)