European Parliament recognises ad self-regulation and EU pledge


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On Wednesday 21 February, the Committee on Culture and Education adopted an own-initiative report on “the implementation of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive” welcoming advertising self-regulation as a complement to regulation and rejecting calls for advertising restrictions. In particular, the report recognises the efforts made by the food and beverage industry in the context of the EU Pledge.

This non-binding report follows the publication in May 2012 by the European Commission of the first application report on the Audiovisual Media Services Directive, in which the Commission welcomed the progress made by the industry in the field of marketing and advertising self-regulation, as highlighted by the evaluation of the Platform for Action on Diet, Physical Activity and Health.

The report was prepared by Polish Conservative member Piotr Borys. It aims to evaluate the implementation of the Directive, and looks at various aspects including question around “connected TV”, the free movement of content in Europe, the promotion of media pluralism, etc. Since the beginning, Mr Borys emphasised that self-regulation was a very important aspect of the Directive.

Formal recognition of advertising self-regulation, particularly in the area of food and beverage marketing to children

Following successful advocacy efforts by WFA and industry partners, calls for advertising bans were rejected.

The report formally recognises co-regulatory and self-regulatory initiatives, which “offer a means of reacting more swiftly to developments in the rapidly changing world of the media”. The report notes also that self-regulation should be regarded as complementary to legal provisions, and that they should “regularly be monitored to ensure their enforcement”. In line with this vision, MEPs call on the Commission “to give these relatively new regulatory tools a greater role in the protection of minors” in the event of a revision of the AVMS Directive.

Most importantly, the report formally recognises the EU Pledge, a commitment of major food and beverage manufacturers and WFA to the EU Platform on Diet, Physical Activity and Health. The report recognises that these efforts “respond to the AVMS Directive's call for codes of conduct for commercial communications, accompanying or included in children's programmes, of foods and beverages high in fat, sugar and salt”.

When the AVMS Directive was adopted, calls for stricter regulation of advertising to children were discarded in favour of a self-regulatory mandate to industry. Over the years, and in the context of the European Commission's Platform, industry has invested a great deal of resources and energy in responding to this mandate. It is therefore a major achievement that the European Parliament recognises and encourages those efforts as it examines the application of the AVMS Directive, and begins deliberations on a potential future regulatory framework for connected TV.

Other points to note:
  • Amendments calling for restrictions on alcohol advertising were defeated.
  • The report calls on the Commission to update its Interpretative Communication on television advertising to take account of experience gained under the EU Platform for Action on Diet, Physical Activity and Health, and the EU Alcohol and Health Forum
  • The report voices concern that that the 12-minute per hour limitation on advertising is “regularly breached” in some Member States, and “highlights the need to monitor commercial formats devised to circumvent this restriction, especially surreptitious advertising, which can confuse consumers”

The report was adopted with 21 votes in favour, 3 against. Liberal members voted against the report, presumably for reasons other the recognition of advertising self-regulation, which they had supported in some of their own amendments.

Many thanks to all those members and partners who helped achieve this important result.

Next steps: The report will be put to a vote during the EP's April plenary session, where it should have the support of most political groups.

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