The European Platform of Regulatory Authorities held its 22nd meeting in Budapest from the 20th to 21st of October 2005. The largest meeting to date involved 145 participants from 40 countries and was hosted by the National Radio and Television Commission (ORTT) of Hungary. Forty-six regulatory authorities were represented and were joined by the permanent observers from the Council of Europe, the European Audiovisual Observatory and the European Commission. Representatives from the Broadcasting Commission of South Korea also attended as guests.
The opening plenary session addressed the highly topical issue of state aid to Public Service Broadcasters. The session was opened by Nico van Eijk (Institute for Information Law, Amsterdam) who provided an overview of the EU approach to cases in this area, the investigations and their outcome, and the main issues at stake. He also addressed likely developments in the future, in terms of both EU policy, and the Member States approach to developing an appropriate public service remit. Roberto Viola (AGCOM) provided an overview of the system developed in Italy for regulating the transparency of financing of public service broadcasting. Erik Nordahl Svendsen (Radio and Television Board, Denmark) focused on the case study of TV 2 Denmark and the EC response concerning overcompensation. János Timár (Hungarian National Radio and Television Commission) outlined the problems with the legal framework in Hungary in relation to the regulation of principles concerning PSB.
Two working groups were held on the first day. The first focused on the approach to the regulation of product placement, in the light of the review of the Television Without Frontiers Directive. The discussion addressed the questions as to whether it is necessary to recognise an already existing practice and seek to regulate it, whether a relaxation of the rules is desirable in order to promote the European industry, or whether indeed a move towards de-regulation, will, in this way dramatically impact upon the nature of media and encourage an even greater commercialisation of output. Problems and regulatory solutions were presented by EPRA members: from Israel Yoram Mokady (Council for Cable and Satellite Broadcasting) presented a draft regulation developed by the Council, outlined the main concerns and the need to secure programme integrity and the protection of consumers; Martin Hart (Ofcom UK) outlined a consultation process that has been carried out on this issue with both industry and consumers and provided initial results and conclusions Birute Kersiene (Radio and Television Commission, Lithuania) presented some video examples of product placement and recommendations for a possible legislation of this area.
The second group looked at the issue of programme monitoring providing an update on both technological methods and also a focus on particular issues of concern. Cristina Trepcea (National Audiovisual Council of Romania) described the monitoring system developed with the support of the European Commission Phare programme: structure, personnel, technology. She also addressed particular case studies: political pluralism and protection of minors. Maryse Brugière CSA France) focused on the approach to monitoring of political pluralism in the French media including the principles laid out in the law concerning the media in relation to politics, news, local news, and election periods. Monica Gasol (CAC, Spain) provided an overview of the broadcasting monitoring system developed at the CAC, including the functions of the technological system used by the Broadcasting Council, the personnel structure of the monitoring department, and the key thematic areas that are a focus for the monitors. Pierre Rieder (Independent Complaints Authority, Switzerland) outlined the Swiss system, based on complaints, and presented audiovisual examples of case studies and the process of dealing with complaints.
On the second day a special plenary session addressed the review of the Television Without Frontiers Directive (TVWF) and the review of the European Convention for Transfrontier Television (ECTT).
Martin Selmayr (European Commission) outlined the results of the consultation process, the scope of the new directive concerning the approach to both linear and non-linear services, and the main principles underlying the directive in relation to both types of services: country of origin, protection of minors protection against content inciting hatred. Issues of advertising rules and product placement were also discussed. The European Commission is currently finalising the reviewed directive.
Alessia Sonaglioni (Council of Europe) presented the current status of the review of the European Convention on Transfrontier Television, which will involve both an alignment with the revised TVWF Directive, while also reflecting the aspects of the Convention concerning freedom of expression and information, and the interests of viewers. A working group will be launched in 2006 concerning the revision of the Convention.
The move of the EPRA Secretariat to the European Audiovisual Observatory in Strasbourg was also on the agenda and the EPRA members approved the terms of agreement with the new host.
The next meeting of the EPRA is scheduled for 18-19 May 2006 in Elsinore, Denmark at the invitation of the Radio and Television Board.