EU Plan To Force Netflix To Show European TV — Even If It’s Terrible

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The European Commission will next week propose video streaming services like Netflix be forced to have European works making up “at least” 20% of their catalogues.

They also intend to require that watch-on-demand services “contribute financially” to the production of European television shows and films.

The plans, which will be officially unveiled next week, are part of the Commission’s update of audiovisual media laws and propose other changes such as liberalising restrictions on advertising.

EurActiv writes that, following broadcasters lobbying for more flexibility, hourly limits on advertising will be replaced with a daily limit of 20 per cent between 7am and 11pm.

“Films made for television, cinematographic works and news could be interrupted more often and isolated spots would be admissible,” the draft proposal reads.

While most television channels in Europe tend to operate “watersheds” to lower the chance of children viewing adult material, the Commission aims to extend protections to video streaming services by subjecting “the most harmful content, such as gratuitous violence and pornography” to measures such as encryption and PIN codes.

The European Commission’s initiative for a “digital single market” plans to bring an end to “unjustified geo-blocking,” the term referring to a measure that restricts access to content based on the country from which a user is trying to access it.

This would see British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) content, which is paid for by British residents who pay t license fee, be automatically available to everyone in the European Union (EU).

The proposal comes after intense lobbying by France, Politico reports.  The draft of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive announced that EU member states would be able to “impose financial contributions [direct investments or levies allocated to national film funds] to on-demand services in their jurisdictions.”

The Financial Times notes that companies such as Netflix have already worked on some original European content “with mixed success,” referring to series Marseille, starring French actor Gérard Depardieu, which it says has been “panned by critics.”

As well as requiring on-demand services to carry at least 20 per cent European content, the European Commission also demands they “ensure prominence” for continental works.  This means providers like Amazon will have to dedicate front-page space to Italian soap operas alongside top Hollywood blockbusters.

In its response to the proposals, Netflix warned Brussels that quotas “risk suffocating the market for on-demand audiovisual media services,” and would distort the market creating a “perverse incentive” for content providers to buy cheap titles.

Referring to the Commission’s demand for prominence of European content, Netflix pointed out that this measure would interfere with the company’s “personalised” interface which offers suggestions on what to watch based on customers’ viewing habits.