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Convergence of TV programmes and internet content on screens demands new regulatory regime, says MEP

EU media laws should be reformed to account for the increasing availability of television and internet content on single screens, an MEP has said.30 May 2013

The growth in the market for 'connected TV' devices has necessitated a change in EU laws, the MEP said, because TV programming and internet content are subject to different regulatory standards. A single regime is more appropriate if both forms of content can be displayed on TV sets, she said.

"At first sight, it seems as if connected television raises only technical issues," Petra Kammerevert said in a draft report on 'connected TV' (10-page / 157KB PDF) for the European Parliament's Committee on Culture and Education. "What is basically at issue, however, is the availability, accessibility and findability of media content and whether, and if so by what regulatory means, media services can be treated differently in a convergent world."

Kammerevert said that it is currently rare for the "hybrid devices" that are used to enable both TV programming and internet content to be displayed on TV screens to provide "universal internet access". As a result, content available to consumers is generally selected and prioritised by the companies involved in providing the platforms from which the content is displayed. This situation presents a risk of content being provided in a discriminatory fashion, and EU laws need to be amended to prohibit this, the MEP said.

"The wealth of content on offer makes findability and non-discriminatory access to content one of the central issues of connected TV," Kammerevert said in the report. "Creators of platforms and/or portal operators make a preselection of the content which will be available and above all determine whether and how it is prioritised, and they alone decide on the technology to be used in providing it. As a result, the platform operator, portal operator or device manufacturer (all three functions may be combined by one and the same business) controls access to content which has an impact on opinions."

"To an unprecedented extent, this gives platform operators and device manufacturers a gatekeeper position which is not currently covered by any media regulation. It therefore seems urgently necessary to amend the Audiovisual Media Services Directive, in particular, to take this new situation into account, because otherwise diversity of opinion and of the services on offer may be jeopardised, as may freedom of information," she said.

Kammerevert called on the European Commission to form a new legal framework which would compel firms that provide the platforms or portals through which media is made available to ensure, "if possible", that those platforms or portals were "interoperable" with those operated by rivals.

This, she said, would allow content providers to prepare their material once rather than to accord with a number of separate technical requirements and allow "third parties equal opportunities, without discrimination, to produce and market their own applications, irrespective of the medium of transmission".

The Commission should also take action to ensure that the consumers are able to make use of TV and online services served through hybrid receiving devices anonymously, Kammerevert said. The monitoring and exploitation of users' behaviour by device manufacturers or third parties should generally be barred unless consumers witting give their "unambiguous consent" to the activity, she added.

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