On 2 October, the EU voted to update their regulations regarding Audiovisual Media Services. With 452 votes for the changes and a mere 132 against, it’s evident that this is a strongly felt topic within parliament, but what are the consequences for us as consumers?

The result for the general public is overwhelmingly positive, with the initiative aimed at protecting our data and giving consumers more information as to what they are watching. On-demand services such as Netflix have seen exponential growth in recent years; European subscriptions may surge from 12.25 million in 2015 to a predicted 37 million by the end of 2018. Hence, it’s only natural for more legislative measures targeting this nascent industry.

This directive aims to reform for key areas in online media, specifically child protection, content regulation, advertising limits, and accessibility.

Regarding child protection, while most adults are aware of when subliminal advertising is present, a child may not be; an innocuous can of coca-cola on a desk doesn’t go unnoticed to adults, but minors are not attuned to these hints. Now, a can of coke is by no means detrimental to a child, but there are much more serious implications of advertising in this way towards children.

The new legislation is much stricter on companies’ and individuals’ respecting this and installs serious sanctions for disobedience. Vloggers must notify viewers of any paid advertising or product placement within their videos. Meanwhile, platforms must ensure they have a transparent, effective system for reporting any abuses of this rule.

The directive also promotes more diversity. Platforms providing on-demand services must also have 30% of their content be European and they must also pay a percentage of their streaming revenues towards the development of European audiovisual productions. This should facilitate more cultural diversity within streaming services and hopefully curtail the onslaught of new US shows and movies funded by Amazon Prime and Netflix.

In the case of online advertising, the directive partly addresses this by introducing rules dictating how much content can be allocated to advertising. Some of these will affect the current ‘free-for-all’ state of online advertising. For instance, under the directive, the periods of 18:00 to 00:00 will be ‘prime-time’ periods, where advertising may only account for 20% of the streamed content. Similar regulations have already existed in France for some time.

Finally, for accessibility, the directive aims to make major events, which currently tend to operate on a pay-per-view basis, more accessible to all. This would be done through the eradication of monopolies on broadcasting rights for ‘events of major importance for society’. Member States would present a list of such events which would then be analysed and approved by a committee.

So what does all this mean for us as consumers? On paper, it promises to improve our overall experience of online media services whilst reducing the ads we see on said platforms. In reality? In this day and age where companies can and do influence governments, it’s hard to say if they’ll abide, or simply find a clever loophole to avoid this new directive. One thing is sure; it’s a step in the right direction and a solid foundation for future improvements.


By Alex Lohier – Law Writer