Protection of minors and human dignity (1998 Recommendation)
The development of the audiovisual services and information industry in the European Union (EU) requires the establishment of a climate of trust, including the effective protection of minors and human dignity.
This Recommendation calls for the implementation of national self-regulation frameworks to increase the protection of minors and human dignity in the broadcasting and Internet sectors.
Council Recommendation 98/560/EC of 24 September 1998 on the development of the competitiveness of the European audiovisual and information services industry by promoting national frameworks aimed at achieving a comparable and effective level of protection of minors and human dignity [Official Journal L 270 of 7.10.1998].
The impact of the increase in digital technology
As a consequence of the development of digital media (Internet, digital broadcasting and video games), questions relating to the protection of minors are becoming increasingly important.
Whereas in traditional broadcasting, the broadcaster is easily identifiable, it is becoming difficult, and sometimes even impossible, to identify the source of content broadcast on the Internet. At the same time, illegal and harmful content is becoming easier to access and can even be found unintentionally.
As far as audiovisual policy is concerned, technological developments require a new approach. To meet this challenge, the Council has adopted this Recommendation which calls on the Member States, the sectors and parties concerned, as well as the Commission, to take measures to increase the protection of minors and human dignity in the broadcasting and Internet sectors.
This Recommendation is the first legal instrument relating to the content of audiovisual services and on-line information broadcast on the Internet.
Action to be taken by Member States
Member States are called upon to foster a climate of trust which will promote the development of the audiovisual and information services industry.
The following measures could be taken to create such a climate of trust:
- promoting the voluntary establishment of national frameworks for the protection of minors and human dignity. This involves encouraging the participation of relevant parties (users, consumers, businesses and public authorities) in establishing, implementing and evaluating national measures taken in this domain. The establishment of a national framework for self-regulation of operators of on-line services is also encouraged;
- encouraging broadcasters to experiment, on a voluntary basis, with new ways to protect minors and inform viewers;
- fighting against illegal content on on-line services which causes offence to human dignity, by handling complaints and transmitting the necessary information about alleged illegal content to the relevant national authorities. Transnational cooperation between the complaints-handling structures is also encouraged in order to strengthen the effectiveness of national measures;
- promoting action to enable minors to make responsible use of on-line audiovisual and information services, notably by improving the level of awareness among parents, educators and teachers of the potential of the new services and of the ways in which they can be made safe for minors.
Member States are also called upon to facilitate identification of quality content and services for minors, including by providing Internet access in educational establishments and public places.
Action to be taken by the sectors and parties concerned
The industrial sectors and parties concerned are encouraged to:
- cooperate with the relevant authorities in setting up structures representing all parties concerned; the aim is to facilitate participation in coordination efforts concerning the protection of minors and human dignity on both a European and an international level;
- cooperate in drawing up codes of conduct for the protection of minors and human dignity applying to on-line services;
- develop on a voluntary basis new means of protecting minors and informing viewers;
- collaborate in the follow-up and regular evaluation of initiatives carried out on a national level concerning the application of this recommendation.
Actions to be taken at European Commission level
The Commission is invited to:
- facilitate the networking of the bodies responsible for defining and implementing national self-regulation frameworks;
- facilitate the sharing of experience and good practice at Community and international level;
- encourage cooperation and the sharing of experience and good practice between the self-regulation structures and the structures for handling complaints about illegal content;
- develop in cooperation with the competent national authorities a methodology for evaluating the measures taken pursuant to this recommendation.
This recommendation follows on from the 1996 Green Paper on the protection of minors and human dignity in audiovisual and information services. This Green Paper marked the start of a debate, at European level, on the ethical dimension of the information society and on how public interest can be protected in the new services.
The Television without Frontiers Directive adopted in 1989 and amended in 1997 also contains provisions regarding the protection of minors from harmful content (in particular by means of watersheds and technical devices).
Further information can be found on the European Commission's Audiovisual media website .