Protection of Minors in the Audiovisual Media Services: Trends & Practices (ERGA report)

ERGA adopted its Report on the Protection of Minors prepared by the taskforce chaired by current ERGA Vice-Chair – Lubos Kuklis form the Slovak CBR. The Report provides an overview of protection measures currently used by a wide range of players in the so-called ‘converged audiovisual media landscape’.

ERGA brings together the high level representatives of national independent regulatory
authorities in the field of audiovisual services. Its primary purpose is to advise
the EU Commission on the implementation of the EU‘s Audiovisual Media Services
Directive1 (“AVMS Directive”) and facilitate cooperation between the regulatory bodies
in the EU. In order to fulfil these roles efficiently, ERGA creates expert groups that
examine various areas of the media environment and related regulatory implications.

The report focuses on the tools currently being used by the audiovisual media service
providers to help parents to protect children from content that may be unsuitable or
potentially harmful to their development or overall well-being. By outlining the types
of measures with concrete examples from the representative sample of the audiovisual
media providers active in various EU member states, it is laying the foundations for
further ERGA activities with the aim of fostering cooperation among stakeholders to
protect children in the audiovisual media environment.
This ERGA initiative is closely linked to its role as advisory body to the EU Commission.
It is also led by the need for close cooperation among Europe’s regulators, and
between regulators and media providers. This is especially important in the field of
child protection. In the near future, new challenges lie ahead for regulators and the
media alike. In the current proposal for the revision of the Audiovisual Media Service
Directive there are changes proposed to provisions on protection of minors. Under
these proposed changes, the rules for protection of minors will be unified for both
types of audiovisual media services, linear and non-linear, and there are new rules laid
down in this field for a new regulatory category of media-sharing platforms.
Whatever will eventually be written into the Directive, it is clear that the international
character of the most widely used VOD services and VSPs pose regulatory questions
that can hardly be tackled by any one national regulator alone. The technical progress
in audiovisual media, furthermore, is so rapid that regulation, even (or especially) in
the field of protection of minors, will be particularly challenging. Technical progress
does, however, also provide new tools and capabilities to better protect minors.
Through cooperation between media companies and regulators, these tools may be
put to the most efficient use – one that ideally will protect children from the most
immediate threats, will provide parents with the means of raising their children safely
in the digital era and according to their wishes, and will not unnecessarily burden the
media companies.
It is important to note that the issue of protective measures within the audiovisual
media services is just a part of the bigger question of protecting children in the digital
environment and it should be viewed in this context. The sphere of audiovisual
media, however, has the longest history of regulation and its wide use by children
certainly justifies close examination of the measures currently used by the media providers.
And it is only fitting that ERGA, functioning as an advisory body to the EU Commission on these matters within the scope of the AVMS Directive, is contributing
to the debate within the field of its competence.
The media providers focused on in this report were chosen as representative examples
of all known protection of minors practices across a range of media services, i.e.
broadcasting and video-on-demand, video-sharing platforms and audiovisual distributors.
Through the work of its Subgroup on Protection of Minors ERGA gathered
information about them from existing sources and via direct engagement with the
media providers through the questionnaire, phone calls and personal meetings. The
information was gathered in a period from September 2016 until early March 2017.
The primary focus is on the actual measures that are employed by media providers
but, as these are often influenced by some form of mandatory regulation in the particular
jurisdiction, the interplay between regulation and the media practices is also
captured in the text of the report – most notably in the section on broadcasting, where
this influence is especially strong.
This report does not purport to be an overview of all practices aimed at protection of
minors by all media providers in all EU member states. Such a task is clearly beyond
current ERGA capacities. It does however, as we believe, provide the reader with a
substantial view on the current state of protection of minors in audiovisual media
services in Europe, namely:
• what are the most widely used measures media companies use in this field
• what is the approach of the biggest market players and
• what appear to be the trends for the near future

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