Conservative MEPs' bid to change "confused" broadcasting rules

13-May-2017 @ 11:00

Amjad Bashir Amjad Bashir

Amjad Bashir Amjad Bashir

Amjad Bashir Amjad Bashir

Conservative MEPs' bid to change "confused" broadcasting rules

European Parliament proposals to revise TV broadcasting rules could weaken consumer protection, threaten freedom of speech and increase red tape, say Conservative MEPs.

Conservative members are so concerned that they are to use new Parliament rules to allow MEPs one last chance to amend the Culture and Education Committee’s report on the revised Audio-visual Media Services Directive (AVMSD).

Conservatives were successful in making a number of improvements to the final text but oppose proposals to drop the current limit of 12 minutes per hour of advertising in favour of a daily limit. The report also leaves the door open to unchecked advertising by offering a prime time window with no minimum limit.

Culture and Education spokesman Andrew Lewer MEP described the proposal as a lose-lose scenario.

"Commercial TV companies need fair rules to allow them to continue to invest in high quality programmes in the digital age and we all want rules that continue to protect consumers. But this report fails to deliver on both counts.

"Dropping the current hourly advertising limit will see viewers bombarded with ads at peak times and a reduction in the value of each advertising minute. The result? Frustrated viewers turning off and commercial broadcasters attracting less revenue to reinvest as big brands pay less.”

Another concern is the Committee’s decision to significantly extend the definition of incitement to hatred to bring it in line with Article 21 of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights. This goes beyond protecting people on accepted grounds such as disability, sex, race and religion to include a person or groups defined by a “political or any other opinion”.

Conservatives believe this wider definition, which also covers online platforms such as YouTube, could give the green light to censorship and stop legitimate issues being discussed.

Mr Lewer commented: “Incitement to violence on any grounds is totally unacceptable. However, we must be ever vigilant when it comes to overzealous regulation that, whilst well intentioned, has negative consequences for freedom of expression.”

A further concern is the proposal that 30% of the content offered by video-on-demand companies such as Netflix must be European work.

While supporting the need to update EU broadcasting rules, Conservative MEPs believe the Parliament must have the chance to amend this proposal. Consequently they are joining other political groups to trigger a vote at next week’s parliamentary session in Strasbourg to stop the current text going straight to negotiations with the Council and Commission without debate.

Mr Lewer said: “Despite our best efforts to strike a sensible balance between supporting investment, protecting consumers and safeguarding free speech, we are left with a confused report that misses the mark in key areas, and in some cases may cause greater harm.

"We would be failing those we represent if we did not seek to allow MEPs one last chance to change this.”

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