Audiovisual Media Services Directive - Toolkit for transposition
Part 1 – Orientation and key information
The Audiovisual Services Directive was adopted on 14 November 2018. In this section of the toolkit we give a brief introduction of the Directive with key definitions, provide a timeline for transposition and implementation, and indicate who the key players of the process are. We will also explain that this Directive is a 'minimum harmonisation' Directive and what this means in practice.Back to top
The Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) sets an EU-level legal framework to coordinate national legislation on all audiovisual media, both traditional TV broadcasts and video on-demand services such as Netflix, Amazon Video, Now TV, etc. This Directive sets out provisions concerning aspects like prohibition of hate speech, commercial information on TV programs, protection of minors, independence of national regulatory bodies monitoring audiovisual services, and the promotion of European audiovisual productions .
Another area for which the European Disability Forum (EDF) has always been very active relates to the accessibility of audiovisual media services for persons with disabilities, and the prevention of discrimination on the grounds of disability in commercial audiovisual services. This EU law represents therefore an opportunity for all Member States to advance on media accessibility.
The Directive was first adopted in 2010 with a very soft approach to media accessibility. This is why EDF supported the revision that led to the adoption of an up-to-date and better Directive for persons with disabilities, last November 2018 .
Member States now have to transpose the Directive into national law by 19 September 2020 and communicate the text of those provisions to the European Commission. By "transposing" we mean to reform or adopt national laws to comply with the EU Directive. This toolkit aims at giving EDF members policy proposals to advocate for a strong national legislation and adequate implementation resulting in more accessible audiovisual services for persons with disabilities.
2. Key documents
• Directive (EU) 2018/1808 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 November 2018 amending Directive 2010/13/EU on the coordination of certain provisions laid down by law, regulation or administrative action in Member States concerning the provision of audiovisual media services (Audiovisual Media Services Directive) in view of changing market realities. Full text of the revised Directive is available in all languages.
• Directive 2010/13/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 10 March 2010 on the coordination of certain provisions laid down by law, regulation or administrative action in Member States concerning the provision of audiovisual media services (Audiovisual Media Services Directive) (Text with EEA relevance). Full text of Directive 2010/13/EU (before revision) is available in all languages.
• United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). Link to the UN CRPD in different languages - All Member States and the EU have ratified the UN CRPD and therefore committed themselves to taking appropriate measures to ensure access for persons with disabilities, on an equal basis with others, to, inter alia, information and communication technologies and systems. State Parties have to also "take all appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities: a) enjoy access to cultural materials in accessible formats; b) enjoy access to television programmes, films, theatre and other cultural activities, in accessible formats".Back to top
3. Timeline from transposition to implementation
19 September 2020
Deadline for Member States to bring into force laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with this Directive. They shall immediately communicate the text of those provisions to the Commission.
19 December 2022
Deadline for the first report by Member States to the European Commission on the implementation of Article 7, paragraph 1, i.e. accessibility of the audiovisual media services for persons with disabilities. This reporting must be done every three years thereafter.
19 December 2022
Deadline for submission of the first report by the European Commission on the application of the Directive. This reporting must be done every three years thereafter.
19 December 2026
Deadline for submission of an evaluation by the European Commission, accompanied where appropriate by proposals for its review, of the impact of this Directive and its added value.
Please note that the above are final deadlines; there is nothing stopping Member States from implementing these provisions earlier.
4. Key definitions
Audiovisual media service means a service which is under the editorial responsibility of a media service provider and has the primary purpose to provide programmes to the general public by electronic communications networks. This service is either a television broadcast or an on-demand audiovisual media service; Audiovisual media service also means audiovisual commercial communication (for example, TV ads).
Programme means a set of moving images with or without sound constituting an individual item within a schedule or a catalogue established by a media service provider and the form and content of which are comparable to the form and content of television broadcasting. Examples of programmes include feature-length films, sports events, situation comedies, documentaries, children's programmes and original drama.
Media service provider means the natural or legal person who has editorial responsibility for the choice of the audiovisual content of the audiovisual media service and determines the manner in which it is organised;
Television broadcasting or television broadcast (also known as linear audiovisual media service) means an audiovisual media service provided by a media service provider for simultaneous viewing of programmes on the basis of a programme schedule.
Broadcaster means a media service provider of television broadcasts.
On-demand audiovisual media service (also known as non-linear audiovisual media service, or OTT's: Over the Top services) means an audiovisual media service provided by a media service provider for the viewing of programmes at the moment chosen by the user and at their individual request on the basis of a catalogue of programmes selected by the media service provider. Examples of on-demand audiovisual media services are Netflix, HBO or Hulu.
Audiovisual commercial communication means images with or without sound which are designed to promote, directly or indirectly, goods, services or companies. Forms of audiovisual commercial communication include, inter alia, television advertising, sponsorship, teleshopping and product placement.
Video-sharing platforms are platforms which allow users to upload and share videos or live stream their own videos to the Internet. These can either be for the general public to watch, or particular users on a shared network. Examples of popular video sharing platforms are YouTube, Vimeo, Dailymotion, etc.
Other definitions not included in the AVMSD:
Subtitles, also called captions, provide a textual representation of dialogue and other important audio. Additionally, they make it possible to watch video without sound.
Subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing (SDH) or closed captions differ from regular subtitles in so far that they provide important non-dialog information, as well as speaker identification, which may be useful when the viewer cannot otherwise visually tell who is saying what. An example of SDH can also be "sound of footsteps", "dog barking" or "cracking window". These are also known as closed captions.
Spoken subtitles are the reading aloud of interlingual subtitles in a spoken voice. These are accessibility measures especially useful for persons with visual or reading impairments and for blind persons, particularly in those countries which do not dub the programmes into the national language. Spoke subtitles are also known as audio subtitles.
Audio description has the purpose of communicating important visual content with spoken information inserted as a narrative between the dialogue and other programme sounds. Audio description is essential for the full understanding and enjoyment of television programmes by persons with visual and intellectual disabilities. The term 'video description' is often used to refer to audio description of audiovisual material, with the term 'audio description' being used for the describing of visual presentations in general, including theatre, sports and events.
Sign language interpretation is the use of a sign language to convey the information contained in the programme audio (speech and other important sounds) to viewers who are deaf, viewers for whom sign language is their first language and for other sign language users. Provision of subtitles and closed captions by no means removes the need for sign language interpretation.
Access services: term which is used to refer to the above mentioned accessibility services (subtitles, SDH, audio description, sign language and spoken subtitles), but it is not limited to them, as other features may be introduced, such as clean audio, slow video, etc.
Services providing access to audiovisual media services means services transmitted by electronic communications networks which are used to identify, select, receive information on, and view audiovisual media services and any provided features, such as subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing, audio description, spoken subtitles and sign language interpretation, which result from the implementation of measures to make services accessible as referred to in Article 7 of AVSMD; and includes electronic programme guides (EPGs).
Advice for DPOs:
Make sure the national legislation includes explicit references and definitions of the access services, as the Directive does not define these. You can use the abovementioned definitions for inspirations or take them from national or international standards (see below). By doing this, DPOs will be ensuring the deployment of the necessary accessibility features and that these are provided correctly (so regular language subtitles do not count as SDH, for example).Back to top
5. Who are the key players for transposition at national level?Back to top
5.1. Member States
Each government is responsible for transposing the Directive into national law, meaning that they need to adopt new legislation or reform existing laws and legal dispositions in order to comply with the Directive. The national laws can go beyond the Directive or can regulate aspects not included in the AVMSD. It is worth bearing in mind that some of the responsibilities derived from these will be assigned to the national regulatory body (for example, quality of access services).Back to top
5.2. National regulatory authorities and/or bodies
According to the Directive, each Member State shall designate one or more independent national regulatory authorities, bodies, or both with the purpose to ensure that the implementation of the Directive is carried out effectively. So, these authorities or bodies are responsible for the enforcement of the national measures transposing the rules of the Directive and ensuring compliance with European and national rules. In this context, close cooperation between competent regulatory bodies of the Member States and the Commission is also necessary to ensure the correct application and address issues of misinterpretation of this Directive. Importantly, the Commission can approach the national authorities to request additional information or to inform them of potential issues in relation to the transposition or the implementation of the Directive in their national legislation before initiating an infringement procedure against a Member State. Therefore, the role of the national authorities is very important. You can check your national regulatory authority or body in the website of the European body that groups them (ERGA).Back to top
5.3. Organisations of persons with disabilities (DPOs) and other civil society organisations
DPOs are key stakeholders who have expertise and can influence how effectively the Directive will be implemented in their country. Even though the Directive doesn't explicitly state the right of DPOs to be consulted, many DPOs have expertise in media accessibility, and some of them are involved in developing access services. The AVMSD does mention about the importance of accessible point of contact and complaint point for persons with disabilities to provide feedback in Article 7.4 (see below). DPOs' role will be important because Member States have a great deal of freedom in how they implement some aspects of the Directive. Some Member States will only do the bare minimum, but others may be open to more ambitious deadlines and a wider scope, but all should involve DPOs in line with the UN CRPD article 4.3.Back to top
5.4. Audiovisual media services providers
TV broadcasts and video on demand services will certainly try to influence the transposition of this Directive at national level, most probably to have more flexible and softer rules. They may also be represented by umbrella organisations, such as EBU (European Broadcasting Union) or ACT (Association of Commercial Television) at European level. In relation to making their services accessible to persons with disabilities, these audiovisual media services providers will most likely have to invest financially and also develop their understanding of users' needs, and their expertise in providing access services.Back to top
5.5. The European Commission
The Commission has the power to pursue infringement proceedings against a particular Member State in case of incorrect transposition or application of the Directive. The Commission may learn about such infringements through the complaints by citizens, parliamentary questions or monitoring carried out by independent consultants.
Advice for DPOs:
Make sure you are pro-actively exercising your right to be consulted as soon as possible to ensure your interests are taken on board. Governments have to draft and adopt national laws to ensure new rules are in place before the deadline. Relevant ministries are already preparing for this so now is a good time to get involved at national level to ensure you can brief officials and get the best out of the Directive for persons with disabilities in your country.
Identify which ministries are involved in transposing the Directive into national law; if you don't know who is in charge of this work, ask your minister in charge of disability affairs or your minister in charge of digital affairs/telecommunications.
Visit the website of the ERGA Secretariat to find out the contact information of the national regulatory authorities or bodies, and locate the responsible experts for audiovisual matters, and particularly, if any, on media accessibility, as they will be involved in the enforcement and monitoring of the new rules. They might also guide you to the ministries/government officials who are responsible for the transposition of the Directive and support later on during any irregularities regarding implementation.
If you need any advice locating your national regulatory body, please contact EDF Secretariat.
Once you have identified the right official or minister: write to them and request an appointment to set out your position and offer your advice.
Engage with other groups (e.g. representing persons with a range of disabilities, representing older people, viewers associations, or other consumers' organisations) to find out if you can work together on the Directive. If you are able to have a dialogue with your national authorities as part of a large coalition, this is likely to be very effective. If you decide to work as part of a coalition, agree a common strategy before any meeting with representatives of your government.
Contact Members of your national parliament who have an interest in disability and media accessibility. They may be able to help you by putting pressure on your government to ensure an effective implementation of the Directive.
When negotiating with national authorities, especially as regards to aspects not covered by the AVMSD (see below), always refer to their existing obligations under the UN CRPD, as well as existing EU legislation (e.g. public procurement), and national laws (e.g. antidiscrimination law).
If you have relevant consumer rights protection legislation it could be useful to refer to, to stress your right as a consumer.
Make sure you are informed who are the biggest public and private providers of audiovisual media services in your country. Check if they have specialists working on accessibility and offer your support as users in understanding your needs, the importance of media accessibility and quality access services. Try to meet with their management with decision-making powers. Raise awareness about the benefits of making audiovisual content accessible too, thus reaching wider audiences (like non-native speakers, or older people) and increasing competitiveness in the market (an increasingly number of users make use of subtitled videos on their mobile devices).
Back to top