The European Parliament is holding hearings on the Audiovisual Media Services directive (the update to the EU’s Television Without Frontiers, last updated in the mid-90s) proposed by the European Commission.  TWF deals with issues such as advertising, satellite broadcasting, rights to sporting events, and so on.  The biggest issue in the debate over updating it is how to deal with ‘non-linear’ content (web-based or mobile-delivered media, essentially).  There’s been a lot of opposition from various corners of the media industries, and when I posted about the alliance of companies seeking amendments, I suggested that things were about to get more interesting.  Now that’s quite relative, I suppose, but we did have the amusing spectacle of the Commissioner responsible (Viviane Reding) apparently getting some tough questions at a press conference held to mark the Council’s outline support (that’s the EU council of ministers responsible for all this jazz, keep up at the back).

So, to the Parliament.  One of the most amusing features is the fact that not one, not two, not even three but six committees are involved, showing yet again how ‘media’ is so difficult to put under a single heading.  So the committees on Culture and Education, Industry, Research and Energy,  Internal Market and Consumer Protection, Economic and Monetary Affairs, Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, and finally not forgetting Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, are all taking this on.  (Apologies for the Unnecessarily Germanic Capital Letters but them’s the titles they use)

Session one has a law professor, someone from OFCOM and the general director of French TV.  Session 2a (advertising) has an advertisers’ rep and a consumers’ rep, 2b (product placement) sees the president of the scriptwriters’ association and someone from Endemol (production company) and 2c (copyright) features the presidents of RAI (Italian state broadcaster) and the European Telecoms & Network Operators Association.  These three items are referred to as ‘economic’ aspects. (Ouch)

The second day deals with ‘non-economic’ aspects, including jurisdiction (Swedish broadcasting commissioner and someone from Astra (satellite)), ‘protection of minors and human dignity’ (effectively the censorship debate, with the director of the ‘Digital Media Association’ and AN Other down to speak), and cultural diversity/pluralism (a broadcasting association and the European federation of journalists).

I’m not too impressed with the range of speakers, although given the various layers to the debate and the directive, there is a limit on how many different angles can be dealt with!  On the other hand, the questions to be addressed  are really excellent, and make controversial statements from various perspectives that, if dealt with, will provide for a useful debate.