STE VE DEMPSEY

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Business & Appointments - - FRONT PAGE -

change was that the pro­mo­tion of Euro­pean works is a cor­ner­stone of cul­tural pol­icy in Europe. These quo­tas mean the likes of Net­flix and Ama­zon Prime will need to buy or com­mis­sion con­sid­er­able amounts of lo­cal con­tent for the Euro­pean mar­ket.

Of course, the likes of Net­flix and co aren’t fans of quo­tas. They would ar­gue that quo­tas pro­mote parochial pro­gram­ming, rather than con­tent more likely to ap­peal to a global au­di­ence. To make things worse, in­di­vid­ual mem­ber states will also be able to make video plat­forms con­trib­ute fi­nan­cially to video pro­duc­tion in the coun­try where they’re based, and in coun­tries where they tar­get au­di­ences. This is an­other con­tentious is­sue, which could re­sult in an un­even play­ing field for the on­line and pan-euro­pean plat­forms. Cus­tomers in one mar­ket may end up sub­si­dis­ing those in an­other.

Also, like state and com­mer­cial broad­cast­ers, so­cial me­dia com­pa­nies like Google’s Youtube, Face­book and Twit­ter are set to be­come legally obliged to counter hate speech, con­tent that in­cites of jus­ti­fies ter­ror­ism and which harms the “moral devel­op­ment” of chil­dren on their plat­forms.

While so­cial me­dia com­pa­nies and in­ter­na­tional video ser­vices are un­doubt­edly irked, Euro­pean bu­reau­crats are de­lighted with them­selves. The Mal­tese cul­ture min­is­ter, Owen Bon­nici, had this to say: “We are very proud to have reached an agree­ment on au­dio-vis­ual me­dia ser­vices. This is a com­plex di­rec­tive which touches on very sen­si­tive is­sues such as the in­ter­nal mar­ket, fun­da­men­tal rights and free­doms, cul­tural diver­sity and the pro­tec­tion of mi­nors.”

These pro­pos­als need to be agreed with the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment be­fore they can be­come law. Then in­di­vid­ual coun­tries will then start trans­pos­ing the di­rec­tive into na­tional law. But there’s a pat­tern emerg­ing here. Europe is tak­ing a tough stance on cit­i­zens’ data and safety. The in­tro­duc­tion of the Gen­eral Data Pro­tec­tion Reg­u­la­tion next year will add oner­ous over­heads to com­pa­nies that keep Euro­pean cit­i­zen’s data. Leg­is­la­tion was re­cently ap­proved in Ger­many which would see so­cial plat­forms slapped with fines of up to €50m if hate speech is not promptly re­moved within 24 hours of be­ing flagged. And de­spite Brexit, the UK also is also on board. The Home Af­fairs Com­mit­tee par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee con­cluded last month that “the biggest and rich­est so­cial me­dia com­pa­nies are shame­fully far from tak­ing suf­fi­cient ac­tion to tackle il­le­gal and dan­ger­ous con­tent, to im­ple­ment proper com­mu­nity stan­dards or to keep their users safe”. It also called for the pub­li­ca­tion of quar­terly trans­parency re­ports, which cover safe­guard­ing, en­force­ment of stan­dards, and the num­ber of staff work­ing on safety.

There is a fine bal­ance, how­ever, be­tween pro­tect­ing cul­ture and pro­tec­tion­ism, en­sur­ing ap­pro­pri­ate reg­u­la­tion and safe­guard­ing in­no­va­tion that sup­ports in­vest­ment and in­no­va­tion in dig­i­tal me­dia.

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