On the occasion of the 32nd meeting of the European Platform of Regulatory Authorities, which was held on 6-8 October in Belgrade at the invitation of the Republic Broadcasting Agency, over 50 regulatory authorities met to discuss issues of common interest and to exchange experiences and best practices in the field of broadcasting regulation.
Around 135 delegates from 44 countries attended the meeting, along with the permanent observers from the Council of Europe, the European Audiovisual Observatory and the European Commission. Observers from the National Communications Commission of Georgia attended for the first time. The National Commission on TV and Radio of Armenia became the 52nd member to join the biggest network of broadcasting regulators in Europe.
The first plenary session, entitled Advertising regulation: what next? offered a panorama of experiences gathered by regulators to date and looked at future regulatory scenarios ahead of the announced review of the Commissions Interpretative Communication on certain aspects of the provision of televised advertising. Audio and video examples of high profile cases illustrated how the separation principle has evolved over time. This creates a challenge for regulators who need to keep pace with market developments and balance the protection of viewers against public interests while sustaining the broadcasting industry. Defining legitimate product placement, preserving editorial integrity and handling a mix of traditionally regulated (TV), light-touch (VOD) and largely unregulated (Internet) content were identified as the major challenges for the next years.
The second plenary session examined regulatory and licensing models for DTT across Europe. Regulatory and licensing models are very diverse, ranging from strictly regulated systems close to the analogue channel-based approach to more lenient regimes focused on the MUX operator. Although many countries are close to or have completed analogue switch-off, DTT has not always emerged as the prominent delivery mechanism for television. Countries with a successful DTT take-up expressed their concern at this varying degree of success across Europe which may trigger a second digital dividend. Ensuring the presence of regional and local channels on DTT continues to be a key goal.
Three working groups also convened to reflect the wide variety of topics of concern for regulators. The first group on Product Placement presented an update on the state of the implementation of rules on product placement in EPRA member states and exchanged information about recent cases with the help of video examples.
The second working group focused on Connected TV, a development which is likely to have a far-reaching impact on the media regulation ecology. Speakers from the French CSA and the EBU highlighted the risks and opportunities of Connected TV/Hybrid TV for both consumers and commercial players and discussed the regulatory challenges in terms of access, content integrity, content standards, viewers protection and media responsibilities.
The third group was devoted to the assessment of PSB content and focused on assessment criteria, methods applied and how PSBs are followed up. The discussion revolved on whether input (e.g. ensuring internal quality control systems) or output regulation (e.g. expenditure, or language quotas) was more effective in achieving public service aims.
Regulators were also given the opportunity to hear about the ongoing Commission study on the independence of regulatory authorities. The introduction of an annual work programme for EPRA was endorsed by all members.
The next meeting of the EPRA is scheduled for 25-27 May 2011 in Ohrid at the invitation of the Broadcasting Council of the Republic of Macedonia.