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Brussels, 28 February 2001

The Commission calls for increased efforts to protect minors in the context of audiovisual services and new media

The Commission has adopted its evaluation report on the September 1998 Recommendation concerning the protection of minors and human dignity. The report analyses the measures adopted in the Member States and at Community level over the past two years. It notes that the Recommendation has been implemented in a satisfactory manner overall, but regrets that consumers have not been sufficiently involved in the introduction of codes of conduct.

"The ongoing convergence between audiovisual services Internet TV, downloading of videogames and films from the Internet, etc. means we must seek a coherent approach across the different media to measures to protect minors and human dignity". Such were the words of Viviane Reding marking the report's adoption, at her initiative. The Member of the Commission responsible for education, culture and audiovisual services also called upon European industries and public authorities increasingly to foster self-regulation, combined with education in the critical use of media, in order to ensure a level of protection for minors which is worthy of the European social model.

Adopted in September 1998, following the Commission's 1996 Green Paper on the protection of minors and human dignity in audiovisual and information services, the Recommendation calls for the establishment of national self-regulatory frameworks to supplement the regulatory frameworks.

In line with to the Recommendation, associations of Internet operators have been founded in most Member States, and the Internet service providers from a majority of Member States are members of the European federation EuroISPA, which has encouraged the adoption of codes of conduct on the responsibility of providers. Telephone hotlines to handle complaints about harmful or illegal content have been established in a large majority of Member States(1). The European Commission is supporting the creation of such hotlines through its Safer Internet Action Plan. According to the information provided by the Member States, it would appear that the majority of Internet sites advocating political extremism or sexual brutality and very many paedophilia or pornography sites are located outside the European Union, thus confirming the importance of a worldwide strategy, as envisaged by the Commission's Action Plan.

The industry is also working on the development of rating and filtering systems and the establishment of "walled gardens", i.e. portals where the operators guarantee the quality of sites which can be accessed through them. The Community's Safer Internet Action Plan also encourages these initiatives.

Concerning implementation of the Recommendation by radio and television services, all Member States now have arrangements under which programmes that may be harmful to minors are preceded by an acoustic warning or identified by the presence of a visual symbol throughout their duration. Filtering systems are used only for digital broadcasting, which is gradually replacing analogue broadcasting, where filtering systems are largely ineffective. A study on parental control of television broadcasting carried out for the Commission in 1999 called for self-regulation to be used extensively and advocated the general availability to families of television filtering devices at an affordable price.

Finally, the report on the application of the Recommendation reveals that videogame classification currently exists in only a minority of Member States.

Although the Recommendation is not directly linked to the "Television without Frontiers" Directive, this evaluation report will be taken into account in the debate now commencing on the possible revision of the Directive.

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