Imagine a directive which had resulted in a massive growth in cross-border services in the EU; which had delivered an explosion of choice for European citizens; and which a consultation had found to be widely supported by regulators and other stakeholders.
You might think the Commission would regard this as a triumph of the single market, to be nurtured – but you would be wrong.
The regulation in question is the AudioVisual Media Services Directive (the AVMSD), and in particular its ‘country of origin’ (COO) principle. COO says that providers of video services (broadcasters, or VOD – video on demand providers) operating in the European Union are only regulated by the Member State in which they are based.
The Commission is now proposing to move away from this simple and effective principle, by allowing the country of destination (the COD) to also regulate cross border services. In particular, CODs would be allowed to raise levies on VOD providers (though not on broadcasters). Further, the Commission is proposing to take this step, despite not having consulted on this option.
And what is the rationale for this change to a system that is already working well? The ‘level playing field’ – the idea that traditional broadcasters are unfairly disadvantaged versus the VOD providers.
However, there is certainly no general requirement that competing services be subject to the same regulation. Think about short-haul flights and railways for instance – trains are not required to have life-jackets under their seats.
In our new study (commissioned by CCIA), we argue that the level playing field argument is particularly weak in the context of AVMS.