Who: the European Commission
When: April 2013
Law stated as at: 24 April 2013
Given the plethora of converged services already available, one might be mistaken for thinking that convergence has already arrived.
However, the European Commission would disagree and has been preparing for the imminent arrival of convergence by scratching its head over variety of convergence-related issues, including advertising.
Sadly it only managed to come up with a number of questions and no answers in a paper published on 24 April 2013, intended to start a process of open discussion and consultation.
The Commission’s paper defines convergence as “the progressive merger of traditional broadcast services and the internet” and lists a number of questions for a broad public discussion and consultation.
Amongst the issues considered are factors affecting the availability of premium content; whether there is a need for regulatory intervention beyond existing competition rules to improve the availability of premium content; and whether there should be legislative action to impose common technical standards across devices.
Close to this author’s heart is the discussion about the regulatory difference between linear and non-linear services. Disappointingly, the paper only considers this question in terms of whether the regulatory differentiation causes market distortion as opposed to whether it makes sense for content on the same screen to be governed by different legislation depending on whether it is from a linear broadcast or on-demand source.
Why this matters:
In terms of advertising, the consultation asks whether the current rules are still appropriate in the converged world and notes that innovative advertising techniques put the existing rules to the test, namely overlays over linear services, personalisation and ‘disguised commercial communications’. It also poses several questions about advertising, most notably whether there is more scope for self/co-regulation and what regulatory instruments would be most appropriate to address the rapidly changing advertising techniques.
Whilst the paper moots changes to the AVMS directive, the E-commerce directive and the electronic communications framework, it does not presuppose any specific outcomes. Nevertheless it may pave the way towards possible regulatory and other policy responses in the longer term.
The consultation closes on 31st August 2013 so, whatever respondents’ views are on the questions raised, we are unlikely to get any answers from the Commission anytime soon.