The 19 September 2020 is the final day for EU Member States to transpose the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive into their national law, a legislation they agreed on two years ago (on 6 November 2018). This ‘upgraded’ directive further harmonises national legislation, not only on traditional TV broadcast but also on-demand services and video-sharing platforms.
The directive fosters cultural diversity in the European audiovisual market and allows screenwriters and directors’ stories to circulate more widely and be seen by more people around Europe.
It is widely known that COVID-19 has severely impacted the cultural and creative sectors; cinemas are struggling to survive, and film productions are trying their best to get back on their feet. Meanwhile, video-on-demand services for film and TV programmes are reaping the benefits of the 21th century’s digitalisation and the consequences of the pandemic, confining people to their individual devices more than ever. Thanks to the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD), the audience will have an increased selection of European films and programmes as video-on-demand services are required to ensure a minimum quota of 30 percent of European works in their catalogues. As authors and producers’ organisations from all across Europe jointly expressed before the adoption of the directive, the AVMSD is “the pillar of the European audiovisual regulation and instrumental for the circulation and promotion of European works”.
Sabine Verheyen, Chair of the European Parliament’s Culture Committee, told at the European Film Forum in Venice (4 September 2020) about the hard work of the Parliament to negotiate with video-on-demand platform’s and other stakeholders to get the 30% obligation included in the directive, an important way to support the cultural and creative sector in Europe. The European Parliament stated in its recent resolution on cultural recovery that “we should seize this opportunity to promote European cultural content worldwide (...) the implementation of those directives [AVMS, Copyright Directive and SatCab] and forthcoming legislative proposals must preserve and promote collective mechanism to ensure adequate protection of individual creators”.
The AVMS Directive also provides Member States with the possibility to require financial contributions (direct and indirect investment in works) from all audiovisual media services (broadcasters and on-demand services) established in their territory and in other Member States but targeting their audience. Such a rule will be essential in contributing to better funding local and European production, grow the value of the audiovisual sector and promote cultural diversity.
Considering the weight of on-demand services in the European market, whose dominant position has been accelerated by the COVID-19 crisis, the 30% quota and the financial contributions are measures urgently needed. However, many Member States are falling behind the deadline for implementation. According to the European Audiovisual Observatory, only Denmark, Germany, Sweden and United Kingdom have transposed the Directive so far. To support Member States with the implementation, the European Commission issued guidelines on video-sharing platforms and the promotion of European works. Unfortunately, they were published very late, on 2 July 2020, which has not helped the process that some national Parliament debates have been delaying due to COVID-19.
To provide financial means to the production and promote European works, on-demand services must be fully included into the European eco-system. However, implementing the AVMS Directive is not enough. Putting words into action with the new Copyright Directive is also essential to improve filmmakers’ position and remuneration. The European audiovisual sector needs to stand steadily on its two feet, to recover and address the pandemic as well as the post COVID-19 challenges.