Regulation of the television media in Greece under the recently adopted Law 4339/29-10-2015 is an infringement of basic EU tenets. Furthermore, the independent authorities responsible, the Greek National Radio and Television Council (ESR) and the National Communications and Postal Regulator (EETT), have opposed this measure firmly for a number of reasons. Firstly, it has disregarded European content provider licencing practices in favour of competition for the spectrum, which was auctioned off two years previously, however. Secondly, it is not in line with EC law. Thirdly it introduces register of media workers and undermines the independent authorities.
In view of this:
Given that the proposed law only regulates the licensing of content providers, in line with provisions dating back to 1995 and relating to analogue TV, does the Commission consider it to be in accordance with agreed European policy regarding content providers and with EC law?
Given that the concentration of all these powers in the hands of the Minister of State (instead of the ESR, an independent authority) effectively gives him carte blanche to decide alone on the number of licences to be issued and the minimum bid price, does the Commission consider that the principles of separation of government and public service and non-politicisation of the public service is being respected?
Do the provisions regarding minimum staff numbers per station and the closed register of employees constitute admissible State intervention in the business sector? Is this in line with the basic EU tenets and the principles of free competition?
Answer given by Mr Oettinger on behalf of the Commission
The Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) does not regulate the licencing of content. As underlined by Recital 19, the AVMSD does not affect the responsibility of the Member States and their authorities with regard to the organisation of their licensing systems.
As regards the public service broadcasting, the Protocol on the system of public broadcasting in the Member States annexed to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (the ‘Amsterdam Protocol’) recognises the Member States' competence to define the public service remit, to organise public service broadcasting and its financing system.
As regards the matter of removing some powers of the independent regulatory authority to the Minister of State, the current wording of Article 30 AVMSD does not provide a legal basis to enforce the independence of regulatory authorities.
However, given the pertinence of the topic, in the public consultation preparing for the revision of the AVMSD(1), the Commission has raised the question whether there should be a legal obligation for regulators to be independent. The legal proposal for a revised AVMSD is expected to be adopted in the summer 2016.
The independence of audiovisual regulatory bodies is very relevant for the implementation of the audiovisual rules in an impartial manner. Adequate regulatory powers and not being subject to instructions are indicators of the regulator's independence.
The Commission services are still analysing the possible impact of the provisions regarding minimum staff number per station and the closed register of employees on the fundamental freedom to provide services.