July 2015 – Digital Single Market – Audiovisual Media Services Directive: No Need to Extend the Scope to Radio
Radio is local, regional or, at the most, national. 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, targeted at local, regional or national audiences; besides, it is tightly regulated at the same level. This is why radio is not in the scope of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMS Directive), and why this should remain the case in the future.
What is radio? 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 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. Listeners rely on radio as their most immediate and most trusted source of information (see European Commission Standard Eurobarometer Survey of Autumn 2014 (EB82)).
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.
Radio is already tightly regulated: regarding advertising, protection of minors, amount of speech, music, 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.
Radio’s unhindered access to advertising funding is vital: relaxation of certain rules, especially regarding mandatory messages in radio advertising, would be essential, without hampering these messages’ laudable political objective: inform consumers. Additional information in radio advertising is indeed bound to miss its aim: empirical data showed that warning messages were considered as “oppressive”, and lead listeners to “tune out” metaphorically, if not literally, in the worst case scenario. Besides, as radio is a non-visual linear medium: detailed messages in an advertisement have to be broadcast in an added time-space to the latter. This increases the amount of time, hence the price, of the considered commercial message. In addition, it lessens the commercial impact of the advertisement (a usual ad lasts for 15-40 seconds). These combined effects constitute factors that can deter advertisers away from using radio.
Access to radio should be preserved
– via hardware: 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 advice direct to the public. It also enables to avoid overburdening mobile networks. It would therefore be extremely important to ensure that as many “converged” devices as possible offer the possibility to receive broadcast radio – e.g., in cars, mobile phones and tablets. This can be done by an effective EU competition policy as well as by a review of the existing must carry rules. In addition, it is essential that, when broadcast chips are present on a device, their use is enabled
– via search engines: 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. The European Commission action in cases of potential abuse of a dominant position is key
Contact: Vincent Sneed, AER Director Regulatory Affairs / vincent.sneed @ aereurope.org