Attempts to ban the “geo-blocking” of audio-visual content within the European Union will hurt the bloc’s entertainment industry, that sector has warned.
Geo-blocking refers to technology that restricts access to Internet content based upon the user’s geographical location.
In an open letter to MEPs, the Association of Commercial TV & VoD Services (ACT) has asked them to vote against a non-binding resolution on December 12 that demands the practice of restricting video and audio content to individual Member States be banned within the bloc.
According to ACT, such a restriction will be financially devastating to the sector, especially for smaller creators.
“A ban on the use of geo-blocking technology … would severely jeopardise the creative and economic sustainability of the film and audio-visual sector in Europe,” the document warned.
According to the group, a ban on geo-blocking would put at risk the sector’s current funding model, which relies heavily on nation-state-level fees.
A ban would see such fees dry up, resulting in a more centralised market dominated by larger players, ACT contends.
“This would have a direct and negative impact on consumer welfare: significant reduction of choice in content, distribution, and access options as well as a surge in prices,” the letter, signed by 619 organisations within the sector, read.
“Surely this cannot be the intended outcome,” it added, urging for MEPs to vote through amendments that would continue to permit geo-blocking for audio-visual content.
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The December 12 vote is the result of a report that was narrowly passed by the European Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs in October
Discussing the much more limited ban on geo-blocking that already exists within the EU, the committee is now also demanding that the restrictions be expanded to all audio-visual content, something ACT said it “deplored”.
Some supporters of the expanded regulations have dismissed the criticisms, with RENEW MEP Karen Melchior contending the outcry was “extensive lobbying by the audio-visual sector”.
According to the Danish politician, existing legislation allowing geo-blocking is discriminatory towards linguistic minorities in Europe, preventing them from easily accessing media content in their own language.
She claimed that native German-speaking Belgians were becoming “increasingly cut off from films and series in German” thanks to the internet and that EU legislation is now required to fix the problem.
Others have warned that the move will hit smaller media creators across the bloc and likely hand control of European media to international corporations, such as those based in the US.
“Today, the only [companies] who broadcast throughout Europe – and therefore the only ones with the capacity to finance films and series on a continental scale – are streaming platforms,” the Left Group’s Emmanuel Maurel said.
“The one who has money has the control. And therefore, without geo-blocking, independent and national producers who contribute to the cultural diversity of Europe … will lose control.”
The French MEP added that the Parliament must now dismiss the proposed changes or face putting European creators “under the command of the major American platforms” such as Amazon and Netflix.
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