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Euro b’casters demand flexibility on ads

European commercial broadcaster have called for greater flexibility on advertising rules to be part of the changes being made to the EU’s Audiovisual Media Services Directive.

Commercial broadcasters told a hearing in the European Parliament hosted by the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) Group – the broadly Eurosceptic group that includes the UK Conservative Party – that they needed a level-playing field to secure advertising revenues and continue to invest in European content.

The broadcasters used the hearing on the AVMS directive to call for more flexible rules that would enable them, for example, to compete with big internet companies that are eating into available advertising revenues, but which are not bound by European rules on TV advertising.

They called in particular for more flexibility around quantitative rules for advertising, insertion, spots, product placement, sponsorship and promotional references.

Matteo Cardani, general manager, marketing and ad operations at Mediaset Group’s advertising arm Publitalia, said: “The current AVMS provisions no longer grants a pro-competitive framework enabling European broadcasters to provide their services on an equal footing with other players in the online Video Market.

“There’s no need for more rules but, rather, rules flexible enough that we may compete effectively for advertising budgets and in turn finance the whole value chain that delivers original European content and thousands of jobs in the EU creative industries.”

Gary Knight, commercial content director at UK broadcaster ITV, said: “we should look ahead and do all we can to modernise the historic regulatory regime for TV to ensure that TV companies can continue to compete effectively and invest at scale in the original European content that audiences love in an era of global digital competition.”

Lars-Eric Mann, sales director, advertising solutions at IP Germany said: “We need greater flexibility in the commercial communications rules for broadcasters in order to adapt to the ever-changing competitive media landscape. This is essential to ensure the continued production of high quality content in Europe.”

The revised Directive unveiled by the EC in May did call for a loosening up of advertising restrictions placed on TV broadcasters, which was welcomed by industry groups representing linear channels and advertisers.

However, bodies representing commercial broadcasters said at the time that the proposed changes did not go far enough.

Sales house industry body EGTA said that while the proposals delivered some “much needed flexibility” there were still too many rules that applied only to linear on-demand broadcasters and not to web-based on-demand services.

Ad-funded broadcasters group the Association of Commercial Television in Europe (ACT) took a similar line, arguing that the proposed revisions fell short of addressing a “radically changing media landscape”.

ACT reiterated its concerns at the latest hearings. Grégoire Polad, the organisation’s director-general, said: “Today some of the leading voices in TV advertising delivered a clear message. Original European AV content is expensive. To continue being a motor of investment, commercial broadcasters need a fair framework that allows them to secure advertising spend from European and global brands. Doing so will ensure advertising money is reinvested in European jobs, growth and outstanding original European TV content.”

Hosting MEP Andrew Lewer responded with a cautious note.

“It is worth underlining that up to date, the AVMSD has largely struck the right balance, serving citizens and businesses well. While maintaining the Country of Origin Principle and safeguarding the protection of minors, it is my view that we should not make change for changes sake. And where we do make changes, they must be evidence-based, offer legal clarity, and avoid unintended consequences,” said Lewer.