Audiovisual Media Services Directive: Commission refers five Member States to the Court of Justice of the EU

(Source: European Commission)

The European Commission has today decided to refer Czechia [INFR 2020/0510], Ireland [INFR 2020/0531], Romania [INFR 2020/0555], Slovakia [INFR 2020/0563] and Spain [INFR 2020/0521], to the Court of Justice of the European Union over the failure to transpose the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive (“AVMSD”, Directive (EU) 2018/1808), with a request to impose financial sanctions in accordance with Article 260(3) TFEU.

The AVMSD governs EU-wide coordination of national legislation on all audiovisual media. The latest review of AVMSD was carried out in 2018. The revised AVMSD provides EU-wide media content standards for all audiovisual media, both traditional TV broadcasts and on-demand services, in addition to video-sharing platforms. These new EU rules aim to create a safer, fairer and more diverse audiovisual landscape. They reinforce the protection of viewers, with a particular regard to the safety of those most vulnerable, such as minors, extend rules regarding illegal and harmful content to video-sharing platforms, and foster cultural diversity in audiovisual media. Moreover, the Directive introduced additional independence requirements for national media regulators.

Member States had to transpose this Directive and communicate the national transposition measures to the Commission by 19 September 2020. In the absence of adoption of the relevant national rules, the Commission sent Letters of Formal Notice to 23 Member States in November 2020, followed by nine Reasoned Opinions in September and two in November 2021. To date, the Member States listed above have failed to fully transpose and communicate the measures implementing the AVMSD. For this reason, the Commission decided today to refer these cases to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Due to the delayed transposition, citizens and businesses in Czechia, Ireland, Romania, Slovakia and Spain may not be able to rely on all the provisions of the AVMSD, which:

  • Create a level playing field for different types of audio-visual media services;
  • Guarantee the independence of national media regulators;
  • Preserve cultural diversity by, for example, requiring video on demand services to have at least 30% of European works in their catalogues;
  • Protect children and consumers in general, by laying down rules for instance for the protection of minors against harmful content in the online world, including protection on video-on-demand services and reinforcing their protection regarding audiovisual commercial communications; and
  • Combat racial, religious and other types of hatred by having reinforced rules to combat the incitement to violence or hatred, and the public provocation to commit terrorist offences.

Background

The Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) aims to ensure a fair single market for broadcast services that keeps up with technological developments. The Commission proposed a revision of the AVMSD in 2016, which was adopted in 2018; it included a new approach to online platforms disseminating audiovisual content.

Under Article 258 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU), if the State concerned does not comply with the opinion within the period laid down by the Commission, the latter may bring the matter before the Court of Justice of the European Union. Additionally, under Article 260(3) TFEU, the Commission can call on the Court of Justice of the EU to impose financial sanctions to the Member States that failed to fulfil their obligation to notify measures transposing a directive.

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