A report approved by the European Parliament’s Committee on Culture and Education has suggested search engines and aggregators such as Google and Apple should be bound by the same rules as traditional media.
Ivo Belet’s Public service broadcasting in the digital era: the future of the dual system says the ‘dual system’ of public and commercial broadcasting is coming under pressure as telecom providers, internet service providers and search engines play an ever-increasing role in the new media environment.
The report “insists that the Commission should ensure the respect of the existing legal framework by content aggregators and invites the Commission to consider ways in which search engines and internet service providers could contribute to the financing of content creation.” Google has come in for much criticism for its use of audiovisual works without direct investment in content creation.
According to the report, the digital era has brought increased consumer choice and with it a rise in vertically integrated media companies and a shift towards pay-TV services and encryption. “Public service broadcasting does and should help to maintain a public sphere, providing high quality, socially valuable programming and objective information,” says the report, which recognises the pioneering role of the PSBs in stimulating and utilising technological developments.
“In the new digital environment the free public offer of the PSB is a thorn in the flesh of many commercial media players. The result is growing hostility from publishers towards the online services offered by public media service providers. Hence, a balanced model of coexistence on the internet is one of the main priorities of national and European media policy in the near future.”
The report aims to give political support to new content distribution mechanisms – though arguably many commercial broadcasters might feel it is they who need the support against the PSBs. It says the lack of legal provisions in some Member States could restrict the ability of the PSBs to expand.
Broadly welcoming the report Ingrid Deltenre, DG of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) said it was particularly relevant in today’s multiplatform digital environment. “We are pleased that the European Parliament acknowledges the crucial role that public service broadcasters play in cultivating the public sphere, by providing high quality media content of public interest which is universally accessible. “
The Association of Commercial Television (ACT) called the report a “useful contribution” to a long overdue debate on the appropriate level of state intervention in digital media markets, but said it had failed to establish the amount of state aid paid to Europe’s PSBs.
“Independent industry sources usually estimate the total amount of state aid received by publicly funded broadcasters to be around €25 billion per year, making them among the largest recipients of state aid in the EU,” said Victor Castro Rosa, chairman of the ACT Working Group on State Aid. “But without any transparency on the effective amount of funding– no evidence of any so-called underfinancing is included or even referred to in the Parliament’s report – any debate around state aid for broadcasting will always be incomplete.”
The report also highlights the need the need to modernise the current copyright clearance system and put in place extended collective licence systems for rights clearance.