September 28, 2015
Guest blog post by Angela Mills Wade, Executive Director of the European Publishers Council.
European Publishers Council reports show seismic transformation in content development and publishing in the context of the forthcoming revision of the AVMS directive and the consultations on online platforms.
The deadline for the public consultation on the revision of the Audiovisual Media Services (AVMS) Directive is this week. The European Commission has been seeking the views of all interested parties on how to make Europe’s regulatory framework landscape fit for purpose in the digital age, focusing on audiovisual media and we have until 30 September to put our case. And before the ink has dried on our AVMS submissions, new consultations were launched last week on geoblocking, and the role of online platforms in a converged world including their use of our content, the liability of intermediaries as well as questions on the free flow of data.
According to the European Commission’s AVMS public consultation document, the EU Directive has fostered unhindered cross-border transmission of audiovisual media services within Europe, and we agree. However, the media environment has changed dramatically since the Directive was adopted in 2007 hence the new consultations on online platforms. Media convergence is now a reality. The traditional TV set is now only one of the means to watch audiovisual content now that Connected TV, set-top boxes, but also PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones are increasingly used.
Whilst it is true that the AVMS consultation is mainly directed at the audiovisual sector at large, it does also touch upon issues that may directly or indirectly impact online platforms and global players, but also online publishing and in particular the freedom of the press.
We in the European Publishers Council (EPC) have an active and ongoing dialogue with the European Commission on this and other directives affecting the media industry in the EU. For those who are not already familiar with us, the EPC brings together 26 Chairmen and CEOs of Europe’s leading media groups representing companies with newspapers, magazines, online publishing, journals, databases, books and broadcasting. We have been communicating with Europe’s legislators since 1991 on issues that affect freedom of expression, media diversity, democracy and the health and viability of media in the EU. Publishing industries as a whole constitute a major economic sector in the EU employing more than 750,000 people in 64,000 companies. The EU newspaper and news media publishing sector generated total revenues of approximately €46 billion in 2014.
When we are talking to EU legislators, we are often asked for facts, figures and statistics alongside our views about trends and the impact of policies on our business sector. In response to these requests, four years ago, we began to publish a series of annual research reports on current trends in digital media under the title “Global Media Trends” to help inform those people drafting legislation that may have an impact on our industry, and therefore a possible impact on the freedom of the press.
The data in our most recently published reports back up the experience of our members and demonstrate clearly that a seismic transformation in content development from news, to entertainment and all manner of publishing offers is taking place in the magazine and newspaper industries and that the lines between traditional and new media services and between professional and non-professional journalism and content creation are blurring all the time. We realize that this poses a difficult problem for regulators in Brussels who are tasked with boosting Europe’s digital economy and confronted with many different commercial interests in a very different media world than we were experiencing back in 2007 when the AVMS directive was last revised.
The data in our reports show an incredibly fast-pace of change, not just from 2007 to now but even from last year to this. For example, in the US, the number of people using mobile to read newspapers has gone from less than 40% in March 2014 to more than 70% in March 2015; and that’s not the only major shift:
-Reading an article and or news story are in the top five activities on Facebook
-Internet advertising spend is poised to overtake television ad spend worldwide for the first time
-Mobile advertising is growing nine times faster than desktop internet advertising expenditure and is predicted to account for 40.4% of ad spend by 2017 compared to 22.1% in 2014
-Tablet penetration in Western Europe will more than double to nearly 60% by 2019
-Smart phone penetration is surging globally and expected to reach 80% by 2019 in Western Europe and North America (doubled from 2015)
-Internet use is the biggest driver of device ownership
-In terms of media content consumption, the largest chunk of time is still spent watching traditional TV whilst a growing amount of time is spent on online TV, followed by traditional radio, then online radio
-Social networking is the number one online activity in every country, followed by micro-blogging (eg Twitter) or online press
-The Netherlands, Germany, France, Ireland, Sweden, Poland, the UK and Spain appear (in that order) within the top ten countries worldwide for percentage of time spent on social networking
-Youth aged 16-24 years old worldwide spend 43% of their total Internet time on mobile devices
-From 2009 to 2015, mobile-driven web traffic grew from 0.7% to 33.4%
-High-speed connectivity is a major driver of increased smartphone usage: no EU member states appear in the top eight countries for amount of 3G and 4G connected phones
-Publisher content referrals from social media are outpacing search engine referrals, up by 179% from 2013. Meanwhile, less than 10% of publishers’ online traffic comes directly to their home pages
These are just snap-shot statistics from our extensive reports which bring to life the fast-moving digital world, a world that has changed dramatically since 2007, both in terms of content delivery and consumer behaviour. The current AVMS Directive excludes the press from its scope, and for good reason because even though all kinds of content from multiple sources can be viewed on the same screen, their origins and purpose differ. We believe that this exclusion is still valid today and will continue to be so in the future because the press, whether it is consumed off-line, online, on a device or via a third party platform on which a consumer can also watch a TV programme, needs to fulfil its role as an independently funded, unlicensed media enterprise, upholding the values of democracy, with the freedom to report and comment widely and investigate those in power.
In terms of how viewers consume audiovisual content, there has been further blurring, since the adoption of the AVMS directive, of the boundaries between linear and non-linear audiovisual services as more and more online services are made available by broadcasters and VOD platforms, increasing competition and choice at the consumer level but causing a distortion of ‘regulatory’ competition.
Today it is largely up to the viewers when, where and on what device they consume the audiovisual content available where they live. Consumers are well served: they continue to have an increasing choice between a growing number of services, some broadcast-based, some internet-native.
The above, in combination with the emergence of a globalised and powerful alternative VOD provision, challenges the current providers and makes everybody wonder if the obligations on TV broadcasters alone are indeed unfair.
Those competing players and newer markets are no longer in their infancy and given that the regulation should be forward-looking, those developments should be taken into account to ensure European broadcasters are not unfairly burdened so we imagine the latest consultation on online platforms is the precursor to a review of the eCommerce directive – a sister directive to the AVMS covering the provision of online goods and services.
Current television sets, the so-called Smart TVs, allow Europeans to access both linear (compliant with full AVMSD rules) and non-linear (compliant with less strict AVMSD rules) content. As the two types of services are available on the same platform/set, applying different levels of rules are no longer justified. Perhaps definitions should be reviewed to clarify the role of these new players.
From a publisher’s perspective, newspapers, magazines and journals are cross border and all publishers now have web-based and mobile apps that are accessible to readers throughout the EU and beyond. For us, as with any business likely to cross borders, what is essential is legal certainty. Legal certainty that whatever we distribute will be legally acceptable wherever it ends up; legal certainty that we will not be subject to 28 different legal systems in the 28 different Member States of the European Union – and potentially liable for a panoply of legal actions differing from one country to another.
This is especially relevant for the press sector, which bases its business on the dissemination of professional journalistic and quality content, without fear of either prior control or restrictions to free circulation. To prevent any such attempts at restriction, all EU regulation that touches on the media sector, even indirectly, should:
-always in a very clear and straightforward way stress that it cannot in any way be used to limit freedom of expression;
– ensure that any revision to provisions on advertising must not negatively affect the online press business model;
– always use the country of origin principle for the press, so that no EU member state government is able to impede the dissemination of the media which is legally compliant at the country of origin; and
– pass the proportionality test favouring self-regulation rather than statutory regulation when possible.
Recently, we conducted an in-depth survey of all our CEO members on the business of media and journalism as they saw it. What emerged from this survey was the story of a unique business sector, a sector that is diverse and highly ethical, one that underpins democracy and one that has integrity and independence at its core.
Despite all the business and regulatory challenges identified by our members, the values of a free and independent press still came through loud and clear as the drivers for media business leaders today.
We hope that our reports will help to steer regulators towards appropriate and market-driven regulations based on actual worldwide digital content and usage trends because this is indeed a unique sector. While our values are as important to us as our profits, we will always be at a disadvantage compared to the big, new media players. It is not a level playing field. Professional journalists need to be paid, trained, resourced and legally protected by their publishers. Quality content is expensive. However, regulators can help protect a free press by taking our important differences into account when legislating and making sure our pursuit of the provision of reliable information, analysis and entertainment is helped, not hindered. For in order to perform our vital role in society, our traditional media need to be financially viable – it’s as simple as that.
Global Media Trends Series 2015: Completed chapters so far:
- Video : http://epceurope.eu/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/epc-trends-video.pdf
- Mobile: http://epceurope.eu/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/epc-trends-mobile-apps-etc.pdf
- Social media : http://epceurope.eu/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/epc-trends-social-media.pdf
New chapters due on newspapers and magazines, on broadcasting and on consumer useage of media contentBlogactiv Team