16 May, 2008
Riga, the Baltic pearl, was the backdrop for the 27th meeting of the European Platform of Broadcasting Regulatory Authorities (EPRA)
The EPRA convened at the kind invitation of the National Broadcasting Council of Latvia from 14 to 16 May 2008. The largest EPRA meeting so far brought together 156 participants from 43 countries. Fifty one regulatory authorities were represented and they were joined by the permanent observers from the Council of Europe (Media and Information Society Division), the European Audiovisual Observatory and the European Commission (DG Information Society and Media). Observers from the National Commission on Television and Radio of Armenia and guests from the Mediterranean Network of Regulatory Authorities (RIRM) also attended the meeting.
On this occasion, Jean-François Furnémont, Director of the Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel of the French Community of Belgium was unanimously elected vice-Chair and joined the five-person Executive Board presided by Dunja Mijatovic from the Communication Regulatory Agency (CRA) of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The first plenary session focused on the role of regulators in the promotion of media literacy. Whereas most authorities are involved in the protective aspects of media literacy, only a few - most prominently the German and British authorities - engage in incentive-based actions and creative production, i.e. the fostering of media-related knowledge, the development of critical judgment ability, the enhancement of practical usage skills and the capability of designing media independently. Most authorities however acknowledge that consumers are increasingly active and take greater responsibility for their media consumption in the new media environment and that in a changing world, the role of regulators should evolve accordingly. It is too early to tell whether this may result in a proper change of paradigm for regulators from protection towards empowerment. At this stage, it seems that these approaches are two sides of the same coin, even though the balance might shift eventually. Media literacy could thus be considered as a preventive measure to be added to the toolkit at the disposal of regulators, based on the assumption that the legal framework alone cannot solve all problems. In the meantime, it was suggested that the EPRA secretariat should collect information from members pertaining to media literacy research projects and awareness activities conducted by regulators in Europe.
Must-carry: valuable tool or sacred cow? was the topic of the second plenary session opened with the keynote address of Prof. Peggy Valcke from Leuven University in Belgium. Elaborating on the bovine metaphor, she emphasised that the sacred cow should not be sacrificed but that it was imperative to create the right conditions for a healthy cow, i.e. to rethink must-carry in a digital age as a multi-layered approach and couple it with must-offer and must-distribute. The discussion showed that, in most EPRA countries, the role of the regulatory authorities regarding must-carry, aside from the responsibility to monitor and implement the regime, is relatively limited. Several issues of implementation, particularly in connection with new platforms, were reported. Must-offer and remuneration issues were generally considered as key questions.
Three simultaneous working groups also convened in the afternoon of the first day.
The first group looked at the issue of the regulation of participation/Call TV and its legal qualification in the wake of the ECJ Quiz Express judgement. Issues of separation between editorial and advertising, minutage and insertion rules and consumer protection were examined.
With the help of concrete video examples, working group II explored the new borders of prohibited advertising following the adoption of the AVMS Directive, in particular around the issue of surreptitious advertising, product placement and self-promotion.
The third group examined the practical impact of the change of the ancillary jurisdiction criteria in the AVMS Directive, effectively making the location of the uplink provider as the criterion for determining jurisdiction over non-EU satellite broadcasts. This change will result in a new repartition of competence for non-EU satellite channels among European regulators, thus reinforcing the need for a strengthened cooperation between regulatory bodies. The development of a reliable Europe-wide database of television channels, as is currently undertaken with the MAVISE project, was deemed as a useful instrument for regulators.
The next meeting will convene in Dublin at the invitation of the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland from 29 to 31 October 2008.