23rd EPRA Meeting in Elsinore

posted on 18 May, 2006   (public)

The European Platform of Regulatory Authorities held its 23rd meeting in the Shakespearian setting of Elsinore, Denmark from the 18th to the 19th of May. The meeting involved about 130 participants from 37 countries and was hosted by the Danish Radio and Television Board. Forty-four regulatory authorities were represented and were joined by the permanent observers from the Council of Europe, the European Audiovisual Observatory and the European Commission.

The opening plenary session addressed the issue of political advertising on television. Four highly interesting examples were discussed, each of them illustrating a different facet of the topic. Issue advertising, i.e. non party political advertising spots emanating from societal and interest groups, and whether it is included in the scope of national bans applying to political advertising, is currently a focal point in Norway and the UK. However, even though the Norwegian Media Authority and the Ofcom have adopted a similar approach, they reach diverging conclusions. The Latvian example highlighted concrete problems raised by paid-for political advertising and the challenges posed for the national regulator with regard to ensuring an effective supervision of maximum expenditure thresholds and surreptitious advertising. The Italian cases focused on recent examples of violations in the allocation of free airtime during political and information programmes and the issue of appropriate sanctions. 

Three working groups were held on the first day.

  • The first focused on advertising rules against the background of the draft Audiovisual Media Services Directive. Two clear leitmotivs were issues around sponsorship and product placement. While the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland and the Malta Broadcasting Authority focused on the differentiation between advertising and sponsorship in their presentations, the Croatian Council for Electronic media and the Council for Cable and Satellite Broadcasting in Israel (where product placement has recently been authorised under certain conditions) gave an overview of the problematic issues in relation to product placement.
  • The second group looked at the issue of compliance with broadcasting licence requirements. The group started with a presentation of recent cases of regulation and supervision of public service broadcasters in Denmark. The following debate showed that in the vast majority of the countries, independent regulatory authorities play only a minor role in the evaluation of PSB performance. A fresh perspective on the issues at stake was given by a presentation of a quality management system developed by, to be seen as a complementary regulatory approach rather than as an alternative to traditional broadcasting regulation.
  • The third 'pilot' group was a round table discussion around practical issues with regard to reform and convergence of regulators. The group focused on the various approaches taken with relation to the establishment and structure of convergent authorities, also taking cultural differences into account the impact of convergence and organizational structure on the working cultures, core competences and aims of the audiovisual sector and on the issue of independence from political and economic influence and on the legal mechanisms to preserve it.

On the second day, following an update on European media policy by representatives from the European Commission and the Council of Europe, a plenary session was dedicated to the issue of data and information exchange between regulators. This informative session outlined the state of play of various co-operation networks at the bilateral, regional and supranational levels as well as useful tools for regulators, such as online discussion forums and repertories and databases of licensed broadcasters in Europe.

The next meeting of the EPRA is scheduled for 4-6 October 2006 in Dubrovnik, Croatia, at the invitation of the Council for Electronic Media.