“What are the requirements which apply to the definition of public service broadcasting? Are there specific cultural requirements?”

Ruth Hieronymi MEP at the conference “public service media in the digital age” organized by the French Presidency of the European Union, july 17th, 2008.

1. On the basis of the protocol of the Treaty of Amsterdam, public service broadcasters are obliged to preserve freedom of opinion, variety of information, cultural diversity and social coherence.

2. The mission to inform, educate and entertain requires a balanced fulfilment of these three program fields.
Reporting coverage has to take into account the differing opinions within society, encourage inter-societal dialogue and allow independent decision-making by the citizens.

3. The introduction of the digital technologies and particularly the internet dramatically changed the basic conditions also for the providers of public service broadcasting.
On 25 January 1999, the Ministers of Culture of the Members States of the European Union determined that "public service broadcasting has an important role in bringing to the public the benefits of the new audiovisual and information services and the new technologies".
Despite constant reminders from the European Parliament, no acts have followed these words.
In nearly all Member States there are difficulties with the exact definition and extent of public service broadcasting in the digital internet age.
The consequence is an increasing range for decisions by the European Court of Justice and interpreting communications of the European Commission - although these questions still fall under Member State competence.

4. Since then the European Parliament has asked for a modernisation of the EU-Television Directive from 1989/97 in order to clarify and define the term "broadcasting" for television in the digital age. On 11/12/2007 the audiovisual media services directive has been passed. This is now the legal basis for linear and non-linear audiovisual services which are under the editorial responsibility of a media service provider and the principal purpose of which is the provision of programmes in order to inform, entertain or educate to the general public by electronic communications networks independent of the transmission technology. Such an audiovisual media service is either a television broadcast or an on-demand audiovisual media service. Due to this updated directive, EU-television law and not only the EU-competition law on electronic commerce applies still for broadcasting in the EU.

5. It is therefore urgent to update the 1999 Council Resolution on public service broadcasting.

Especially important is a decision from the Member States concerning the following questions:

- An accurate definition of the mission of public service broadcasters at the national level considering the new digital internet technology, for example with a three-stage-test ("3-Stufen-Test", Germany), a public value test (UK) or another testing method.

- Consideration of the tasks of public service broadcasting, for the protection of cultural diversity, according to the UNESCO convention on the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions (2007, article 6h stating that we urgently need to take "measures aimed at enhancing diversity of media, including through public service broadcasting.")

- Clarification of the legal framework to ensure free entrance to publicly-financed content through comprehensive interoperable technological standards and coherent copyright regulations.