EU Competencies in Respect of Media Pluralism and Media Freedom: Legal Overview
Legal overview Paula Gori, CMPF 29 October 2012, EUI, Villa la Fonte
Is there space for intervention?• June 2012. Vice-President N.Kroes affirmed that: “Currently the EU does not have the legal competence to act in this area [media pluralism] as part of its normal business. In practice, our role [of the EC] involves naming and shaming countries ad hoc, as issues arise.”• Art.5(3) TEU “Under the principle of subsidiarity, in areas which do not fall within its exclusive competence, the Union shall act only if and in so far as the objectives of the proposed action cannot be sufficiently achieved by the Member States, either at central level or at regional and local level, but can rather, by reason of the scale or effects of the proposed action, be better achieved at Union level.”
The main steps / 1• 1974. Sacchi Case: “…a television signal must, by its nature, be regarded as provision of services”• 1980. Debauve Case: confirmed this principle in a cross-border broadcasting case and affirmed that discrimination by MSs against a broadcasting signal because of national origin is illegal.• 1984.Green Paper on the Establishment of a Common Market in Broadcasting, especially by Satellite and Cable and 1987. Green Paper on the development of the Common Market for Telecommunication Services• 1989. Television Without Frontiers Directive (TWFD): First harmonisation instrument for the free movement of TV services. It establishes the country of origin principle and refers only to traditional linear broadcasting services. It sets some minimum standards like the protection of minors and publicorder, consumer protection, the promotion of European works, the right ofreply .
The main steps / 2• 1996. Commission v. United Kingdom: broadcasters come under the jurisdiction of the Member State in which they are established• 1997. VT4 Ltd v. Vlaamse Gemeenschap and the revised version of the TWFD: in the event that a broadcaster is established in more than one MS, it falls under the jurisdiction of the MS in which it has its centre of activities (where programming decisions are taken)• 1999. Communication on the Future of European Regulatory Audiovisual Policy: “…regulatory policy in the sector is aimed at safeguarding certain public interests, such as cultural and linguistic diversity, the protection of minors and consumer protection…”• 2005. Liverpool Conference : media pluralism still is responsibility of MS• 2007. Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD)
The AVMS Directive / 1 Rapid changes caused by the technological developments Same legal basis as for the TWFD, namely the free movement of services The scope of application has been broadened to non-linear services : it covers all services with audiovisual content irrespective of the technology used to deliver the content. - Linear services: Programmes provided by a media service provider at a scheduled time andwatched simultaneously by viewers - Non-linear services: Programmes users select from a catalogue offered by the mediaservice provider, to watch at their own convenience. All media services have to respect a basic tier of obligations in some specific areas: identification of media services providers, prohibition of incitement to hatred; accessibility for people with disabilities; qualitative requirements for commercial communications; sponsoring and product placement. However: two – tier system: stricter regulation for linear services
The AVMS Directive / 2“Audiovisual media services are as much cultural services as they are economic services. Theirgrowing importance for societies, democracy — in particular by ensuring freedom ofinformation, diversity of opinion and media pluralism — education and culture justifies theapplication of specific rules to these services” (Recital 5)Art.5. Introduces some transparency elements stating that the media service providers shallmake easily, directly and permanently accessible to the recipients some information such as:the name of the service provider, the geographical address, its details (including email andwebsite), the competent regulatory or supervisory bodies.Recital 10: “…Bearing in mind the importance of a level playing-field and a true Europeanmarket for audiovisual media services, the basic principles of the internal market, such as freecompetition and equal treatment, should be respected in order to ensure transparency andpredictability in markets for audiovisual media services and to achieve low barriers to entry.”Recital 12: “…that regulatory policy in that sector has to safeguard certain public interests,such as cultural diversity, the right to information, media pluralism, the protection of minorsand consumer protection, and to enhance public awareness and media literacy, now and inthe future.”
Public Service Broadcasting / 1Instrument to safeguard media pluralism and freedom – 2000Communication of the EC on Services of General Interest in Europe“…the broadcasting sector has, since its inception, been subject tospecific regulation in the general interest. This regulation is basedon common values such as freedom of expression and the right toreply, pluralism, protection of copyright, promotion of cultural andlinguistic diversity, protection of minors and of human dignity,consumer protection…”PSB is seen as an instrument to ensure the coverage of a number ofareas and the satisfaction of needs that private operators would notnecessarily fulfill to the optimal extent. (COM 2001/C 320/04)
Public Service Broadcasting / 2As a service of general interest it is covered by Article 106(2)TFEU as interpreted according to the Amsterdam Protocol onPublic Service Broadcasting (1997): “… the provisions of theTreaty establishing the European Community shall be withoutprejudice to the competence of Member States to provide for thefunding of public service broadcasters insofar as such funding isgranted to broadcasting organisations for the fulfilment of thepublic service remit as conferred, defined and organised by MS,and insofar such funding does not affect trading conditions andcompetition in the Community to an extent which would becontrary to the common interest, while the realisation of thatpublic service shall be taken into account”.
Public Service Broadcasting / 32 principal EC Communications(2001/C320/04 and 2009/C 257/01): set ofguidelines and rules followed by the EC whenit comes to decide state-aid cases in the PSBsdomain.The control on PSBs by independent andexternal bodies is of high importance for thesafeguard of pluralism (abuse)
Internal MarketWithin the EU: different national legislations regulatingthe media an EU level is missing.This is not efficient in the light of the free movement ofgoods and servicesLack of harmonisation: can harm the functioning of theinternal marketMoreover: consequences on the non-discriminationprinciple, as all citizens have the right to receiveinformation irrespective of frontiers.
Fundamental Rights• Article F.2 of the Treaty of Maastricht (1992): The Union shall respect fundamental rights, as guaranteed by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms signed in Rome on 4 November 1950 and as they result from the constitutional traditions common to MSs, as general principles of Community law.• 2002: Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU• 2009: Treaty of Lisbon: introduced the Charter into EU primary law
Article 11 of the Charter/1• (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.• (2) The freedom and pluralism of the media shall be respected.
Article 11 of the Charter/2Art. 11 has to be combined with Art. 51(subsidiarity principle) Art. 52 (conditions forlimitations) and Art. 53: Nothing in this Charter shall beinterpreted as restricting or adversely affecting human rightsand fundamental freedoms as recognised, in their respectivefields of application, by Union law and international law andby international agreements to which the Union, theCommunity or all the Member States are part, including theEuropean Convention for the Protection of Human Rights andFundamental Freedoms, and by the Member States’constitutions.
Article 10 of the ECHR• 1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.• 2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.
ECHR• Committee of Ministers• Parliamentary Assembly• Committees of Experts• ECtHR This corpus of activities is a point of reference at a national, European and international level – Although most part is not legally binding (resolutions) it can be relevant for the interpretations of the ECHR as it is a direct manifestation of the practice of MSs (Mastroianni) The ECJ and the Commission repeatedly refer to such corpus.
The Telecommunications Package/1• Electronic communications networks: resource through which content is delivered• 2002- Electronic Communications Regulatory Framework A General Framework Directive introducing a European framework for electronic communications networks and services + 4 more specific directives: Authorisation; Access; Universal Service; Privacy and Electronic Communications
The Telecommunications Package/2• Scope (Art.1 Framework Directive) :This Directive establishes a harmonised frameworkfor the regulation of electronic communicationsservices, electronic communications networks,associated facilities and associated services. It laysdown tasks of national regulatory authorities andestablishes a set of procedures to ensure theharmonised application of the regulatoryframework throughout the Community.
The Telecommunications Package/3• Art.8 (1) Framework Directive: “…National regulatory authorities may contribute within their competencies to ensuring the implementation of policies aimed at the promotion of cultural and linguistic diversity, as well as media pluralism.”• Recital 10 Access Directive: “Competition rules alone may not be sufficient to ensure cultural diversity and media pluralism in the area of digital television. Directive 95/47/EC provided an initial regulatory framework for the nascent digital television industry which should be maintained, including in particular the obligation to provide conditional access on fair, reasonable and non- discriminatory terms, in order to make sure that a wide variety of programming and services is available…”