Brussels, 6 May 2004
Enhancing the effectiveness of the protection of minors and of human dignity in audiovisual and information society services: the European Commission proposes a new Recommendation
The European Commission has adopted a proposal for a Recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the protection of minors and human dignity and the right of reply in the European audiovisual and information services industry. This Recommandation is a follow-up to the second evaluation report of 12 December 2003 on the 1998 Recommendation of the Council on the protection of minors and human dignity in audiovisual and information services. The report analysed the measures adopted in the Member States and at EU level since 2000. The new Recommendation proposed today is a further step to ensure an effective cooperation between the Member States, the industry and other interested parties, notably viewers' bodies, in the field of the protection of minors and human dignity and the right to reply. It responds notably to the challenges which technological developments bring in that field.
Viviane Reding, European Commissioner in charge of Education, Culture and Audiovisual, said: "The new Recommendation builds upon the original 1998 Recommendation, which remains valid. The proposal addresses questions of media literacy (e. g. media education programmes), the cooperation and the sharing of experience and good practices between self-, co- and regulatory bodies, which deal with the rating or classification of audiovisual content and action against discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation in all media, and the right of reply in a cross media approach. As a bottom-up initiative, it is a good example for the Commission's legislative strategy which aims at combining regulation which more flexible instruments which allow Member States, industry and citizens to cooperate at the EU level on the basis of the experience on the ground. I am convinced that the initiatives that will be triggered by this proposal will do a lot to enrich the on-going European debate on the appropriate framework for the media in an evermore digital environment."
The responsibility to protect minors from harmful effects of the media is a commonly shared one. National regulators, the audiovisual industry and parents all have to play their part to achieve the goal. Media-literate children and parents supported by efficient self-regulatory and rating systems are best equipped to prosper in the world of the future. The proposal includes a call for 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 means whereby they may be made safe for minors, in particular through media literacy or media education programmes.
Rating or classification of audiovisual content
Rating or classification of audiovisual content serves an essential role in the protection of minors. For reasons of cultural and social diversity among Member States, rating of programmes is carried out at national level. Nevertheless, as there could be a "bottom-up" harmonisation, the proposal calls for the encouragement of cooperation and the sharing of experience and good practices between self-, co- and regulatory bodies which deal with the rating or classification of audiovisual content. Such ratings and classifications should enable all viewers, but especially parents and teachers, to assess the content of programmes.
Portrayal of the sexes in the media and in advertising
In order to complement the proposal for a Council Directive implementing the principle of equal treatment between women and men in the access to and supply of goods and services, the proposal includes a call for action against discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation in all media, and combating such discrimination. This aims to establish the right balance between the principle of protection of human dignity and free speech.
Right of reply across all media
As a first step towards an effective right of reply applicable to all media, for instance in cases where the allegation has been published in another country, the proposal includes a call on the Member States to consider the introduction of measures into their domestic law or practice such as to ensure the right of reply across all media, without prejudice to the possibility of adapting the manner in which it is exercised to take into account the particularities of each type of medium.
The 1998 Recommendation already offered guidelines for the development of national self-regulation regarding the protection of minors and human dignity, the exchange of best practices at EU level, and for the networking of self-regulatory initiatives. The second evaluation report1 showed that, even though it had been applied in different ways by the Member States and the accedding countries, the 1998 Recommendation has triggered important initiatives, e. g. in the field of common criteria for age ratings, or the development of internet filters.
The proposal is available on:
1 Voir note IP/03/1733