FSE co-signed Open letter to EU institutions on European Media Freedom Act.

Open letter to EU institutions: Audiovisual and cultural organisations voice concerns over the EMFA

A broad coalition of European and national organisations from the audiovisual and cultural sectors addressed the EU Commission, Council and the Parliament with a joint letter expressing our concerns over the Commission’s proposal for the European Media Freedom Act.

The proposed European Media Freedom Act (EMFA) contains welcomed safeguards for the independent functioning of public service media and duties of media service providers in the internal market, with the objective to ensure the protection of media pluralism and independence across the European Union.

With the EMFA, the European Commission is setting out new “requirements for well-functioning media market measures and procedures” with the objective of tackling obstacles to the functioning of the internal market for media services, such as disproportionate and inadequate national regulations affecting the media and press sectors. These national regulations are considered as “regulatory burdens” and “obstacles to the exercise of economic activities” in the European media market with the risk of creating “legal uncertainties” weakening investment in media services.

We, organisations from the audiovisual and cultural sectors, are concerned that this approach may weaken and possibly challenge the existence of protective and ambitious cultural policies set out by Member States to promote European audiovisual creation in all its diversity.

A wide range of measures could be called into question, such as regulated window release systems, known as media chronology and anti-concentration measures. It could also challenge the implementation measures of the 2018 Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) such as the minimum proportions of European works in broadcasters’ retransmission time and in on-demand services catalogues, as well as media services’ obligation to contribute financially to the production of European works. This could create a chilling effect on Member States’ ability to regulate the promotion and distribution of European works at a time of sea-change for the audiovisual sector in Europe and worldwide.

In addition, the proposed Article 20 establishes a new complaint mechanism (4) for media services providers to challenge essential measures for the creation, production and distribution of European audiovisual works and the diversity of cultural expressions solely based on internal market criteria. This new procedure would be in complete contradiction with Article 167 TFEU and the share of competences between the European Union and Member States, the long-established European audiovisual policy, notably AVMSD provisions on the promotion and distribution of European works and the State aid rules.

While welcoming the European Commission’s will to dispel misunderstandings about the objectives pursued (5), we remain deeply concerned that the regulation would embed national cultural policies into internal market rules. We believe the proposed Article 20 EMFA as drafted, will be the main tool to disrupt key policies implemented by Member States to support film and TV creation and local ecosystems at a critical time for the sustainable future of our sector across the European Union.

Protecting media pluralism and media independence must not, inadvertently or otherwise, lead to undermining cultural diversity – one of the European Union building block.

We call on the European co-legislators to revise EMFA Article 20 to ensure continued sustainable conditions for the local audiovisual creation across Europe, which is a cornerstone of well-functioning democracies and an essential mean to remain united in diversity.