Saturday, March 10, 2007

Broadcast changes into audiovisual

Yesterday the EU commissioner Viviane Reding presented the text of the modernised "Television without Frontiers" Directive. The first thing that hits between the reader’s eye is the lack of the word television in the title. The word Television has been replaced by Audiovisual. Now the title is Audiovisual without Frontiers.

Musing over the title there is more than another word. In the first place a noun has been replaced by a pronoun. And the medium television has been replaced by a term for an industrial complex.

The replacement of the noun by a pronoun shows something of a problem. With a noun there is an unequivocal meaning about the word. But a pronoun is used for the lack of a noun. And it is true. With television we know what we are talking about, but the pronoun audiovisual is not an unequivocal word. It can be used for movies, animations, CD-ROMs, DVDs and internet.

The replacement was necessary as television was becoming an old fashioned term. It basically began to indicate the analogue distribution of linked screens at a set time. But with interactive television, ADSL, cable and internet television is in a state of turmoil. After the analogue television, we have now (at least in The Netherlands) digital television. The viewer does not see any difference and still gets his series of linked screens at a set time on his television set. Now internet users can link into the broadcasts at the set time, if they want to. But better they can recall the broadcasts in their own time, while the broadcast remains the same series of linked screen.

Is the replacement of the term essential? The replacement is not surprising. Since the start of the new EU commissioners’ team it was in the air. Viviane Reding started to integrate the Media programme with the digital media research section. And this was needed badly. Television and film have dominated the EU Media programme for years; the term audiovisual was also used in the programme managers, but never given it body. And still there is a problem. The EU Media programme supports television and movie festivals financially, but does not sponsor digital media and content festivals. As such the perspective still has to be broadened beyond linear television.

The modernisation of the "Television without Frontiers" Directive of 1989 was proposed by the Commission on 13 December 2005 (see IP/05/1573 and MEMO/06/208) and since then has made rapid progress in the European Parliament and in the Council of Ministers. The new Directive intends to help Europe's audiovisual industry to become more competitive by allowing all audiovisual media services to profit from the internal market, regardless of the transmission technology used. It also introduces more flexible rules for traditional TV broadcasting to accommodate technological and market developments, and changing viewing habits.
The new rules, which have been called for especially by the European Parliament, are a response to technological developments and create a new level-playing field in Europe for emerging audiovisual media services (video on demand, mobile TV, audiovisual services on digital TV). European TV- and filmmakers will be given more flexibility to produce digital content which they can then make freely available to consumers thanks to advertising. The new Directive reaffirms the pillars of Europe's audiovisual model, which are cultural diversity, protection of minors, consumer protection, media pluralism, and the fight against racial and religious hatred,. The Commission also proposes to ensure the independence of national media regulators. The consolidated text of the new Directive will now go into a second reading by the European Parliament and Council.

So, the term audiovisual is not a strong term, but it is broader. At least, it leaves the opening to a larger scope.

Blog Posting Number 688

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