21 December 2020

Streaming peacefully part two: see no evil, hear no evil!

regulatory updates

meet the new kid on the block: The audiovisual media services directive

In part two of this two-part blog (see part 1 here), we introduce you to the new kid on the block: the audiovisual media services (AVMS) directive.

the audiovisual media services directive.

The AVMS provides guidance on how TV broadcasters, on-demand services, and video-sharing platforms must behave across the EU.

We will explain why the directive exists, what it does, and what it could mean for you and your business, whether you are Netflix or a scale-up using video to engage your customers, AVMS will apply to you.

changes to media sharing.

At Lawbox, we are fascinated by ways that media-sharing has changed and continues to evolve. The building that was once your trusty Blockbuster is probably now home to a vape shop. Your old record store is probably now a hangout spot for a swarm of vape-wielding hipsters. The movies and albums that these places used to provide are now sitting in your pocket. All the time. In the words of Bob Dylan, “The times they are a-changing”. Bob released that record in 1964… fifty years on, hyper-efficient streaming technology has brought a new level of convenience to everyday life, and memories of leaving the house for film or music offer little more than a warm nostalgic feeling.

Unsurprisingly, this technological revolution has created the need for a regulatory revolution. The EU has recognised the seriousness and permanence of these changes and dragged our outdated legislation in to the 21st Century – and we are here to explain it.

audiovisual regulations.

The audiovisual media services directive is a EU directive that updates current broadcast service laws to include on-demand such as Netflix and video-sharing such as YouTube. While attempting to say it aloud may give you a sharp headache, its rules will hopefully do the opposite.

Previously, only the television without frontiers directive existed, only regulating television broadcast services. The AVMS Directive is intended to fix this. The AVMS Directive extends regulation to all audiovisual media services, creating a level playing field between all audiovisual media services, regardless of how they are transmitted.

the AVMS Directive.

The AVMS Directive extends regulation to all audiovisual media services, creating a level playing field between all audiovisual media services, regardless of how they are transmitted.

So, what is an Audiovisual Media Service?

Simply put, any services whose main function is to provide programmes electronically to inform, entertain or educate the general public will have to comply with these laws. That means, if your company is producing a series of short videos, or is providing a platform for other companies to stream their video series’, you could be caught! It is now very important to assess what kind of media you are producing and whether they will constitute an audiovisual media service.

This does not generally apply to adverts and promotions, audio-only services like podcasts or radio, games of chance and online games, newspapers, and magazine websites.

audiovisual media providers: need to know.

country-of-origin principle.

Audiovisual media service providers need only comply with the relevant audiovisual media laws of the company that they are transmitting from. They do not have to comply with the laws of any other member state into which they transmit.

This simplifies things massively. As a service provider, you will now only need to learn one set of rules, rather than those of all 27 Member States.

freedom of reception.

Under this rule, the EU precludes governments from restricting which broadcasts its citizens can receive, as long as the broadcasts comply with the Directive in the country where they originate.

So, if you comply with the laws of your country, you can potentially broadcast to any EU citizen. This provides you with a large potential market to operate in. Cool right?

qualitative advertising rules.

The EU has established certain rules around adverts and promotions, or “audiovisual commercial communications (ACCs)”.

ACCs must be readily recognisable as an advert. They must not use subliminal techniques (sorry, Derren Brown), must not prejudice respect for human dignity, must not include or promote discrimination, must not encourage unsafe behaviour, must not encourage behaviour that would damage the environment, and must not mentally or morally impair minors.

In terms of specific products, you should never advertise alcohol, cigarettes, or prescription medicine.

Avoid all of the above and you are good to go!

product placement.

In the past, product (where manufacturers pay to have their product featured in a film or tv show for promotional purposes) was prohibited, with exceptions. Now, it is allowed, with exceptions. This is designed to help boost advertising revenue. Broadly speaking, product placement is now allowed in all audiovisual media services except in the following types of programmes:

  • News and current affairs
  • Consumer affairs
  • Religious
  • Children’s

european content quotas.

TV broadcasters and on-demand service providers must devote a certain amount of time or budget to European works.

“What is a European work?”, I hear the colleague reading over your shoulder whisper! By now I’m sure there’s a mighty crowd of people gathering around your computer screen, trying to take in every word. In this context, a work is a terrestrial or on-demand broadcast of some kind! To be a “European work”, it must originate from a country which is party to the European Convention on Transfrontier Television or be co-produced within the framework agreed between the EU and third .


For transparency, audiovisual media service providers will need to identify themselves to consumers! They must provide their name, address, contact details including email address or website and, where applicable, their regulatory or supervisory institution and the name of the member state that has jurisdiction over it.

harmful and illegal content.

This part goes without saying, but the new regulations forbid any overtly harmful or illegal content. For example. your audiovisual media services must not contain any incitement to violence or hatred, or provocation to commit a terrorist offence.

accessibility for the disabled.

One of the areas that has come under focus with the directive is accessibility. So, service providers must ensure that their services are more accessible to people with disabilities: introducing subtitles to videos, for example. Providers will have to develop accessibility action plans and designate an online point of contact for their accessibility measures.

impact of Brexit on AVMD.

By 2021, once Brexit has taken place, the AVMS will cease to directly apply to the UK. It follows that service providers established in the UK who wish to provide their services to audiences in Member States will no longer benefit from the country-of-origin principle. They will therefore need to take steps to bring themselves under the jurisdiction of a Member State.

However, the European Convention on Transfrontier Television (ECTT) framework will still apply. The 20 EU countries that have signed up to ECTT must allow freedom of reception to services under UK jurisdiction.

If you are UK-based and your service is available in the EU, you may need to get certain licenses.

non-compliance to AVMS.

Depending on the way that each country transposes this law, the consequences of non-compliance will differ. That said, you can expect to have to take your content down from the internet! You may even have to brace yourself for a nasty fine.

What do I need to do now?

If, having read this article, you think that the Audiovisual Media Directive applies to your business, it is worth checking into the government website to read some of the guidance there.  It is really useful!  Also worth discussing internally and identifying your current practices to help you decide on your next steps.  Alternatively, we would love to take the stress off you and discuss how we can help you navigate this regulatory labyrinth. Get in touch to find out more.