AER Comments on the European Commission Consultation on Directive 2010/13/EU on Audiovisual Media Services (AVMSD) – 2015

30 September 2015 – AER COMMENTS ON THE CONSULTATION ON DIRECTIVE 2010/13/EU ON AUDIOVISUAL MEDIA SERVICES (AVMSD) – A MEDIA FRAMEWORK FOR THE 21st CENTURY

The Association of European Radios (AER) is a Europe-wide trade body representing the interests of over 4500 commercially funded radio stations across the EU28 and in Switzerland.

AER is located at:

Association Européenne des Radios
76, av. d’Auderghem,
B-1040 Brussels,
Belgium

AER’s EU Interest Representative Register ID Number is 6822083232-32.

AER’s main objective is to develop and improve the most suitable framework for private and commercial radio activity. AER constantly follows EU actions in the fields of media, telecommunications and private radio transmission, in order to contribute, enrich and develop the radio sector.

AER will therefore comment the Consultation on Directive 2010/13/EU on audiovisual media services (AVMSD) A media framework for the 21st century (the consultation)(i) from a commercial radio perspective. Although radio is not audiovisual, some points in this consultation are essential for commercial radio – hence the fact that AER will only comment on certain points of the consultation.

1.    Introduction /  Ensuring a level playing field

AER would like to first recall some core points on what radio is: radio is a mixture of audio content which is well-edited and well-produced.  Content is Free-To-Air / Free-To-Access, transmitted via wired or wireless means – such as, first and foremost, broadcast, but also cable, satellite or online – and typically consists of talk, stories, entertainment, news, music and surprises.

Radio connects people: it is everywhere, mobile, simple-to-use, interactive, cost-efficient and complimentary. For commercial radio, these features are all based on a very efficient model: terrestrial broadcasting of free-to-air programmes, funded (almost) 100% by advertising.

Radio is also the most intimate medium. Its character is by nature local, regional or at the utmost national – and so is its audience: listeners are interested in their local news, their local service information, their local weather forecasts, their local traffic jams, the advertising of their local furniture shop, the comedy piece about a local politician, told in the local dialect of their local DJ. In case of natural or manmade disaster, listeners rely on radio as their most immediate and most trusted source of information (see European Commission Standard Eurobarometer Survey of Autumn 2014 (EB82)(ii)).

Radio is diverse: each country has its own media and radio landscape, depending on various local factors (of historical, cultural, or political nature), but all countries in Europe have a range of stations with different owners offering a wide spectrum of content to the audience. Commercially funded radios evolve in highly competitive environments, not only with public broadcasters or community radios, but, first and foremost, with other privately owned and commercially funded radios. The extent of alternative sources of news and information across media has also increased fundamentally in recent years, particularly with the rapid growth of online media and other internet services. Commercially funded radios deliver comprehensive and varied content, from editorial and talk / debate to music formats.

Given its influential role towards public opinion, radio is already tightly regulated at national level: regarding advertising, protection of minors, amount of speech, music / formats, local reporting, anti-discrimination and right to reply. In addition, commercially funded radios take further responsibilities by adhering to self-regulatory schemes in advertising, data protection / privacy and the protection of minors. Incidentally, it is paramount for radio that independent regulators are present in each EU Member State to preserve radio’s health and media pluralism. This entails that regulator and controlling entities should be independent from the State, adequately funded, with well-trained and knowledgeable staff, and its decisions should be impartial.

With the development of new technology, radio increasingly integrates new platforms and develops new offers to reach its audience: programmes are being broadcast, streamed, webcast and offered on demand. So far, no recurrent cross-border problem has been reported regarding radio. It remains indeed, even online, a sound medium targeted at local, regional or national audiences. As further illustrated in this position paper, these specificities entail that radio is very different from an audiovisual medium. This is why radio is not in the scope of the AVMSD, and why this should remain the case in the future.

2.    Questions beyond AVMSD

The questions contained at the end of the public consultation do not relate only to the AVMSD, at least when considering them from a radio’s perspective.

Must Carry / Findability

These two concepts are related but still differ at least from a radio perspective. They will therefore be treated under two different points:

–    Must carry

The must carry rule set at article 31 of the Universal Services Directive is key to maintain access to radio in many different countries where, e.g. cable access is prominent in media and especially radio consumption. For instance, a significant proportion of FM radio listening takes place through cable TV networks. Most European cable operators are planning to digitise their networks, leading the capacity planned for radio in cable to disappear. It is however essential that radio remains available via cable networks.

As mentioned, radio is still mainly a broadcast medium and will remain so for the foreseeable future – even in the case of hybrid radio, combining broadcast and online features, broadcasting is the backbone of the infrastructure, as it is very robust.

Broadcasters on radio provide useful and crucial information: in the event of natural disasters, emergencies and extraordinary situations, broadcast radio is often the first tool to provide live information and advise directly the public. Broadcasting radio also enables to avoid overburdening mobile networks(iii).

The various elements presented in this sub-part call for a strengthening of must carry rules ensuring
–    An obligation for Member States to reserve capacity for licensed radios by at least cable and satellite operators
–    The conservation of current technical conditions for FM listening via cable – or at least ensuring modification of devices used for FM listening via cable by the cable operator in countries where digital broadcast radio has not taken up yet

–    Findability

To maintain radio’s audience, radio programmes must be found both offline and online.

It is therefore first essential to ensure the presence of chips enabling reception of terrestrial broadcast radio in any “techie” device so that radio remains an obvious and easy-to-access medium: e.g., car radios, personal radios, mobile phones, tablets and computers. Besides, when broadcast chips are present on a device, their use must be enabled.

Furthermore, national initiatives such as the UK “Radioplayer”(iv) , the French “Mur du Son” (v) or the Finnish “radiot.fi” (vi) are paramount for radio’s findability online. For instance, Radioplayer, originally developed in the UK and now adopted by Austria, Belgium, Germany, Ireland and Norway, works as follows: public service and commercial broadcasters are collaborating at a national level to create jointly owned portals. It is collectively owned, and lists all (or most of) the radio stations owning a licence to broadcast in each country. This enables easier development of hybrid radio, generic apps or app look-alike. By this, AER means apps that are generic enough to be set as default on the screen of e.g. a smartphone, a smartTV or of a car. A generic radio app or an app look-alike should be set on all screens of the devices mentioned before. Besides, radio programmes must be available in app stores and must be found also in Electronic Programming Guides (EPGs).

To ensure proper development of the various elements presented in this sub-part a complement to must carry rules contained in the Universal Services Directive could be adopted to ensure
–    Presence and enabling of broadcast chips on “techie devices”
–    Presence of a generic radio app or app look-alike on screens of all techie devices
–    Presence of radio in EPG and app stores

Finally, search engines are important partners for radios as well as fierce competitors. The dominant position of a market player must not result in a higher ranking or a preferential treatment of the services of this company. Competitors of search engines must be treated on a non-discriminatory and fair basis. Given the fact that search engines constitute essential facilities online, search results should objectively reflect the search request, without undue (commercial) influence on these results. Search results should equally not end up privileging services owned, administered or controlled, in whole or in part, by search engines. The European Commission action in cases of potential abuse of a dominant position is key.

Events of major importance for society / Short news reporting

From a radio perspective, events of major importance for society and short news reporting are quite similar, as radio formats often force information to be short, and focused on important issues, at least at a local level. At the same time, radio’s approach differs as it is sound-only. Sport is a striking example of this situation.

A primary mission for radio stations is to inform citizens free-to-air. It is important to recognise the fundamental differences between live television sports broadcasts and radio programmes with similar content.

The main element of television sports broadcasts is the transmission of images, which is a “literal” representation of the game or the event. The fundamental element of radio sports broadcasts is the journalist’s commentary. This constitutes a singular product based on the knowledge of the journalist and his / her capacity to enrich the message sent to listeners.

Other important elements are the free-to-air nature of the coverage provided by radio stations and the right of the public to information. Radio stations play a crucial role in ensuring that all citizens receive information on sports events even if they have no financial means to access paid for means of accessing this information, which very often enjoy exclusive rights for broadcasting major sport events.

The right of the public to information is recognised by
–    Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR): “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas […](vii)” and
–    Article 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU: “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers […]. The freedom and pluralism of the media shall be respected.” (viii)

So, radio journalists should have free access to venues where sport events take place, and be free to comment on them. This should not prevent the event organiser from asking radio stations to pay a fair amount for enjoying specific services such as technical facilities in a stadium.

ENDS
30/09/2015

Contact details:    Julia Maier-Hauff
AER Secretary General
Tel: +32 2 736 9131
julia.maierhauff(at)aereurope.org

 


(i) Please see here:
https://ec.europa.eu/digital-agenda/en/news/public-consultation-directive-201013eu-audiovisual-media-services-avmsd-media-framework-21st
(ii) Please see here: http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/eb/eb82/eb82_media_en.pdf
(iii) See Teracom study showing it is still impossible to replace listening capacities covered offline by online means – see for instance Teracom study: http://www.mynewsdesk.com/se/teracom/pressreleases/unrealistic-to-substitute-broadcast-radio-with-distribution-via-cellular-networks-933976
(iv) http://www.radioplayer.co.uk/
(v) http://www.lesindesradios.fr/
(vi) http://www.radiot.fi/
(vii) http://www.echr.coe.int/Documents/Convention_ENG.pdf
(viii) http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:12012P/TXT&from=EN

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