On 6-7 December, representatives from public service media throughout Europe met to analyze the Digital Services Package and see the impact it will have on the media.
The EU recently adopted the Digital Services Package, consisting of the Digital Services Act (DSA) and Digital Markets Act (DMA), which is a welcome step for public service media.
Media of all kinds – whether public or commercial, audio, audiovisual or press - rely on third-party platforms to reach their audiences. These gatekeeping platforms have reshaped the media landscape and media consumption patterns – putting their commercial interests first to the detriment of public interest considerations, such as media freedom and pluralism. With the DSA and DMA, the EU intends to prevent these gatekeepers from distorting competition and adds structure to the relationship between them and their users – including public service media.
What are the positives?
The DSA obliges platforms to be more transparent about their terms and conditions, recommender systems and content moderation decisions. For instance, platforms will have to better inform users about their terms and conditions and any changes they make to them; they will have to explain how they recommend content and why they decided to take certain content down.
The DMA carries many hopes of rebalancing the relationship between public service media and gatekeepers. It will improve media services providers' access to audience engagement and advertising data. The banning of certain self-preferencing practices will bring more fairness into digital markets. Consumers will also likely be able to more easily change certain default settings.
What are the negatives?
Due to the vague wording in the DSA, public service media are pessimistic about the added value of certain obligations, such as the transparency requirements for platforms’ recommender systems in the DSA. Moreover, the complaint procedures foreseen in the DSA seem unfit for media providers to effectively challenge unjustified and arbitrary content moderation decisions of platforms. In a time when media content is only valuable within the first few hours of publication, dispute settlement procedures that can take months or even years fail to redress the imbalance.
On the DMA side, the benefits will only materialize if implementation addresses the ultimate goal of this legislation, which is to restore competition in digital markets for businesses and end-users. At first glance, a number of obstacles to effective implementation of the text can be anticipated: the European Commission has limited resources/staffing; gatekeepers may plead for a narrow interpretation of certain rules, or try to escape obligations by claiming privacy or security concerns. In the media sector, the question of how the DMA will apply in the connected TV environment will be key as instances of problematic behaviour by gatekeepers on these devices seem to be multiplying.
To be continued
The next months will therefore be crucial to see whether the DSA and DMA frameworks bear fruit. Whatever the outcome may be, the media sector is unlike any other and these horizontal Regulations, with all their benefits, will only solve part of the equation. Additional legislation remains necessary to address sector-specific concerns. The European Media Freedom Act is an opportunity to promote a vivid EU media ecosystem online.