• ACT recognises the challenges to European broadcasting during coronavirus  
  • “The crisis has once again demonstrated the clear need for regulation of the internet”  
  • ACT called on Member States to help their own national broadcasters 

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ACT: Though TV viewership has increased advertising revenues for broadcasters has dramatically dropped

The Association of Commercial Television in Europe (ACT) has voiced its support and solidarity to the European audio-visual sector and beyond who are mobilised to face the Covid-19 crisis. 

European broadcasters are working overtime to support and serve audiences in providing accurate and trusted news, bringing people together for information dissemination and to deliver entertainment during the lockdown. 

The ACT said it recognises that during times of “deep national and international crisis the unique qualities of broadcasting are most needed.”  

Its members are taking actions to support their own national audiences, including prioritising news and public health information, broadcasting official recommendations and donation requests, offering additional contents to their subscribers or lowering subscription costs, carrying out technical operations to prevent network congestion. 

However, the ACT said: “Regrettably, the role of media as providers of trustworthy reporting on Covid is continuously challenged online. The crisis has once again demonstrated the clear need for regulation of the internet where disinformation, conspiracy and fear campaigns have flourished, threatening to drown out quality news and information.” 

Though TV viewership is experiencing a significant increase as viewers turn to trusted media and entertainment, free-to-air and pay-TV players are facing a dramatic drop in advertising revenues (in some markets up to 80% for the month of April). Major disruptions in programming is occurring due to the lack of availability of live sports events and delays in delivery of new contents.  

The ACT has called on the European Commission to “demonstrate flexibility in the application of state aid rules.”  

In particular it pointed to recognising the need for Member States to help their own national broadcasters withstand a major drop in revenue.  Such measures should include tax credits for advertising investments, a direct stimulus to the entire economy via the promotion of products and services during the recovery. 

“In addition, the European Commission can directly help, by extending and reorienting the Media Programme to ensure better access for operators most suited to restart productions across Europe. Broadcasters will also struggle to meet the strict and broad financial and content commitments they would perform in normal circumstances.  

“In this regard, the crisis will only aggravate the lack of a level playing field with the digital sphere. The European Commission in close cooperation with the European Regulators Group for Audiovisual Media Services, should thus develop guidance to enact leniency (such as standstill periods for quota obligations) and liberalisation measures to ensure Broadcasters can rebound from the crisis.” 

It acknowledged that these measures will provide temporary relief, but would not be enough to retain long-term sustainability to the European broadcasting sector.  

ACT added: “European broadcasting which was already under threat pre-Covid from largely unfair market conditions in the digital environment. The European Commission, by way of the Digital Services Act, the AV Action Plan and the Democracy Action Plan, has the means to bring structural changes to the digital environment.” 

Its recommendations include:  

  • Pro-competitive structural changes to deliver a level playing field and fair competition in the digital sphere, ensuring notably that broadcasters have fair access to the data they generate whilst enabling the vast revenues generated by digital advertising to be redirected to Europe’s creative ecosystem 

  • liability rules that ensure Europe’s creative industries’ rights are upheld online, its creations properly protected and valued, and online disinformation properly tackled and sanctioned 

  • liberalisation measures to allow Broadcasters to continue playing their essential role as defenders of cultural diversity, media pluralism and investors in high quality local and national news and jobs 

It concluded: “ACT stands ready to work with European policy-makers and regulators to ensure we adequately assess and respond to the immediate and long-term challenges thereby ensuring the sustainability of this vital national and international resource.”