New IRIS Special Report Looks at Commercial Communications in the Converged Media Era

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Tue, 12/09/2014 - 14:53 -- Nick Dager

“Amazon knows me better than my wife” exclaimed a notable European media pundit at a recent conference. And he may not have been joking. The face of advertising has changed forever. Commercial communications (as they are now known) now exist in an increasingly converged media universe. As a result, the lines between real content and advertising are increasingly unclear.

Furthermore, big data giving precise details about our needs and behavior as consumers is stored and exchanged as currency so that advertisers can target us ever more precisely with their message. The European Audiovisual Observatory, part of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, has just published its latest in-depth IRIS Special report to examine: New forms of commercial communications in a converged audiovisual sector

This new publication is the result of a workshop organised by the Observatory and its partners the Saarbrücken-based Institute of European Media Law (EMR) and Amsterdam’s Institute for Information Law (IViR). The workshop (and hence this publication) focused on these developments in the sphere of commercial communications from a regulatory point of view.

The participants also analyzed the various EU directives, which lay down the rules for commercial content and its delivery via the myriad of new channels available in our hyper-connected environment. Peter Matzneller (EMR) and Jenny Metzdorf of the University of Luxembourg provide the opening summary of the workshop.

The report opens with a chapter by Conor Murray of the Association of television and radio sales houses (EGTA). Murray delivers a very useful overview of emerging advertising techniques and the resulting new funding models open to television broadcasters. He underlines the importance of second screen applications watched on mobile devices during television viewing. Such multi-screen behavior creates new advertising business models and the accompanying need for efficient regulation.

The Observatory’s Analyst, Christian Grece, then provides an introduction to the “ecosystem” of European online display advertising, or the competition in the advertising world for the “eyeballs” of customers watching content on line. He underlines the importance of big data in mapping advertising as precisely as possible onto known consumer behaviour with the resulting privacy concerns which call out for efficient legislation.

Mark Cole of the University of Luxembourg then walks us through the various different European legal texts, which have a bearing on or regulate in some way this increasingly complex advertising landscape. His analysis of the various EU directives (AVMSD, e-commerce, data protection or e-privacy to name but a few) reveals that the legal framework for commercial communication in Europe is currently so fragmented that grey areas appear and it is very difficult to get an overall view of the legal context.

Having described the new challenges raised for legislators by the new forms of commercial communication in his chapter, Ross Biggam of ACT argues in favour of future-oriented regulation (whether a revised AVMSD or a wider reaching directive) based on principles such as editorial responsibility, the protection of minor or indeed ethical standards.

The thorny issue of data protection for convergent media is evoked by Heiko Zysk of ProSiebenSat. 1 Media AG. Companies, users and legislators are all faced with the challenge of using big data responsibly with full respect of individual privacy. He evokes the possible solutions of a quality label of responsibility for companies making use of consumers’ big data. Zysk also pleads the case for adapted legislative provisions but also co- and self-regulatory standards to make data and its use more transparent.