06 October, 2006
New Media at the centre of discussions
Dubrovnik was the setting of the 24th EPRA meeting which convened at the invitation of the Croatian Council for Electronic Media from 4 to 6 October 2006. The meeting involved about 150 participants from 39 countries. Forty-five regulatory authorities were represented and were joined by the permanent observers from the Council of Europe, the European Audiovisual Observatory and the European Commission.
This time, new media related issues were at the centre of the discussions. The opening session was dedicated to Content Regulation in the New Media Environment. The keynote address, held by Alexander Scheuer from The Institute for European Media Law (EMR), outlined the scope of the draft Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMS) with a focus on the envisaged regulatory regimes for linear and non linear servicesthe consequences brought about by this qualification and its potential impact on the media landscape. His presentation was complemented by a comparative overview of new media content regulation recently taken up in Australia, Canada and Israel. A dilemma emerged in the debate. Some participants entered the caveat that over-regulation may possibly stifle the development of new services. Other displayed concern about the potential downwards spiral, once a lighter regime or a deregulated approach has been agreed upon for new services.
During the second day, a plenary session was dedicated to Mobile Television. After a brief excursion on technologies and the current situation in Europe, participants focused on the issues at stake for regulators concerning standard setting, licensing and consumer protection. A number of key questions arose: should regulators encourage specific standards or let the market set them? Should the licences be awarded to network operators, service providers or content providers? Should free-to-air content also stay free in the mobile environment or is a mobility premium acceptable? As on past occasions, European regulators were interested to hear about experiences from outside Europe. Therefore, the presentation on Digital Multimedia Broadcasting (DMB) by guests from the Korean Broadcasting Commission was also a highlight of this session.
Technology issues were also the main focus of the Working group on Digital Radio Broadcasting. This group outlined the current state of play in France, Germany, Norway and the UK and debated on issues of standards and networks, coverage, and future perspectives for deployment.
The regulation of new media will also mean profound changes in the role played by regulatory authorities because it requires a greater emphasis on self- and co-regulation. One of the working groups, explored the issue of co-operation with co- and self-regulatory bodies illustrated by reports from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Israel and the UK. It appears that the level of co-operation ranges from non-existent to formal agreements. A precondition for successful co- and self-regulatory regimes is the involvement of all stakeholders. Emphasis should also be laid on transparency, independence and accountability. The issue of effective sanctions and the development of media literacy were generally considered crucial.
The issue of co-operation, this time between broadcast regulators, was one of the focal points of the round-table on legal jurisdiction over broadcasters and the presentations from the European Commission and the Council of Europe. Even though some of the suggested amendments to the AVMS Directive were seen as a step forward, participants did not believe that the draft Directive was the universal remedy for all current problems, in particular with regard to circumvention. A reinforced co-operation between regulators, which can take manifold forms and vary in depths, may help tackle some of the issues at stake.
The next meeting of the EPRA is scheduled for 16-18 May 2007 in Prague, at the invitation of the Czech Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting.