The European audiovisual industry is extremely diverse, highly successful, and has delivered significant benefits for Europe up to now.

In past bilateral and multilateral trade agreements, the EU has secured a ‘carve-out’ for audiovisual services, ensuring that the EU and its Member States can shape, preserve and develop their audiovisual sector. This reflects the fact that audiovisual services are more than a commodity; they have cultural value and shape public opinion.

To safeguard the European audiovisual sector, we need to ensure this carve-out is not just in the negotiating mandate for trade deals but also covering all relevant provisions in the final agreement.

Recognizing Europe's unique audiovisual model

When negotiating international trade deals, the specificities of the audiovisual sector in Europe need to be taken into account and safeguarded.

The European audiovisual sector relies not only on financial support mechanisms, but also significantly on regulatory mechanisms at EU and national level. Exposing audiovisual media services to international trade commitments would harm EU and Member States’ capacity to shape the European audiovisual landscape and set up measures aiming to promote the creation and distribution of European works. 

Avoiding potential loopholes

Exemptions for audiovisual media services from international trade agreements are crucial to safeguarding cultural heritage and values in Europe, and ensuring an environment in which European creativity can thrive.

To deliver on these objectives, exemptions for audiovisual media services should be apply to all chapters of trade deals to avoid any potential loopholes in the future. In practice, this means including an explicit binding horizontal clause recognizing the sovereignty of signatories, including EU Member States, over their cultural and media policies.

A future-proof notion of audiovisual services

In any future trade deal, audiovisual services should also continue to be treated under the principle of technology neutrality - as defined by the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.

In the digital and online environment, it has become more difficult to distinguish content and distribution services while broadcasters are offering their services on all platforms.

The possibility to distinguish content services from transmission services remains essential. Any definition of electronic communications should ensure that the existing safeguards for audiovisual services in the EU regulatory framework continue to be reflected in any trade agreements. Therefore, it is essential to ensure that the exclusion from trade negotiations is understood to encompass all audiovisual services irrespective of the platform or device.

A positive list approach for clarity

For the sake of clarity regarding commitments, any future bilateral agreement negotiated by the EU should follow a ‘positive list approach’, where services subject to liberalization are explicitly mentioned and listed. A negative list approach risks introducing uncertainties regarding the exact scope of the services covered by trade liberalization commitments.

11 Sep 2020
EBU response to the European Commission’s Consultation on a Renewed Trade Policy for a Stronger Europe
EBU response to the European Commission’s Consultation on a Renewed Trade Policy for a Stronger Europe.
15 Jan 2015
EBU Policy Note: EU negotiations on 'TTIP' and the exclusion of audiovisual services
The present note gives indications on the European audiovisual sector’s specificities and interests in the context of these negotiations. It explains why the audiovisual sector has been and continues to be excluded from EU free trade negotiations. It points out some specific aspects to be taken into account in this regard in the context of the negotiations on TTIP.
04 Aug 2010
Trade policy
EBU reply to the public consultation on a future trade policy
18 May 2005
UNESCO Convention on cultural diversity
Position paper on draft UNESCO Convention on cultural diversity
17 Jan 2003
Audiovisual services and GATS
EBU contribution to the public consultation on requests for access to the EU market
12 Apr 2001
Audiovisual services and GATS
EBU Comments on US negotiating proposals of December 2000
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