The future of TV in Europe

Over the past few years, the television and audiovisual landscape has changed immensely. Operators such as Netflix and Amazon have entered the scene, on-demand TV has become increasingly popular and social media have grown to be indispensable for people and companies. As an umbrella organisation, the European Parliament has been reviewing the current audiovisual media directive. That way, the legislation will be more in tune with the present scenario in real life. Isabella Adinolfi, member of the European Parliament, Colin Bortner, director of global public policy at Netflix, Stefano Ciullo, director EU and international affairs at Sky Italy and Antonella Di Lazzaro, director of social media and digital marketing at RAI (Radiotelevisione Italiana) told the audience a bit more about the update. The lecture was organised by the European Parliament itself.
Television nowadays is not what it used to be. TV-viewers, in particular younger people, are leaving traditional TV behind while moving towards the online world. TV is, however, much more regulated than online media. Consumers should also have the right to protection when exploring the online world. The European Commission therefore decided to update their current directives, hoping to strike a balance between competitiveness and consumer protection.
Adinolfi, who is a member of the European Parliament herself, starts out saying that a few directives have become obsolete: Television is no longer just a big box in your living room but something in which you choose from a catalogue. She mainly talks about advertising, one of the directive’s pillars which should be updated. According to Adinolfi, advertising has an impact on everybody. She advocates strict rules for commercials during programmes for teenagers and children. On top of that, she also thinks it is extremely important that all European citizens have access to a public TV service as these services are not entirely dependent on advertisements. Lastly, Adinolfi also brings forward that TV users should be considered people and not only consumers.
Next, the other three members of the panel give their ideas on how they see the future of TV and digital innovation in relation to the companies they work for: RAI (the Italian public TV broadcasting company), Sky Italy and Netflix.
Di Lazzaro tells us that RAI has shown resilience in the media’s shift from a linear logic to a non-linear one. In short, this means that there has been a shift from the media determining the place and time where people use their content to the user himself being responsible for this. RAI got a new management structure in 2015. Some changes included adding a digital department to the organisation, having more dialogue with outsiders and shifting its focus on what users want. For example, as the main audience of RAI are older people, the team tries to use social media to get younger people involved as well.
Ciullo from Sky Italy warns the audience about two threats TV might face in the future: piracy and globalization of the market. Ciullo addresses that piracy is still a big threat that has not yet been properly addressed by the European Commission. Secondly with the idea of a digital single market, there has to be awareness on the consequences. As there are no territorial limits, there are also no longer exclusive rights. The phenomenon of geoblocking could also cause problems. Geoblocking means that access to certain Internet content could be restricted based on the consumer’s geographical location.
Bortner from Netflix adds that, although there has been a shift to personalized content that you can watch whenever you want, the fundamental activity of television making has remained the same: Netflix for example also still offers documentaries, movies, … . He also mentions that the change can provide opportunities for companies to innovate and to give consumers a different experience. People’s tastes are very broad, but internet TV makes it possible to watch many different things. Bortner’s story is more anti-disruptive. In his opinion, the most difficult role in the story is the role of the European Parliament itself.

By Charlotte Teunis