A MedMedia interview of Francesco Sciacchitano.

MedMedia, an EU-funded project, interviewed last month Francesco Sciacchitano, Senior Legal Expert at the Italian media regulator, the Autorità per le garanzie nelle comunicazioni (AGCOM). Mr. Sciacchitano contributed to MedMedia’s peer-to-peer programme with Lebanon’s Audiovisual National Council (CNA). He also authored our assessment report on media legislation in the country.

MedMedia (MM): Southern Mediterranean broadcasting has dramatically changed in recent years. What are the challenges facing it today?

Francesco Sciacchitano (FS): Broadcasting in the Southern Mediterranean region has yet to complete its digital transition, which worldwide has enabled infinite technological possibilities, the globalization of events and the ability to share and commercialize audio-visual contents without intermediaries.

The change has led to greater diversity, with the inclusion of more actors, information sources, and plurality of voices and contents. Consumers have also become content producers (or “prosumers”) offering alternative sources of content and contributing to democratization.

However, countries who completed the transition are now facing new dangers. Traditional broadcasters are threatened by the so-called Over-The-Top players (OTT), online platforms who sell media services directly to the consumer on the internet via streaming media as standalone product, and bypassing telecommunications, cable or broadcast television service providers who traditionally distribute such contents.

The competition with traditional broadcasters is however unfair, as OTTs are not subject to the rules traditional broadcasters abide by. Laws and regulations on advertising, promoting cultural heritage, protection of minors, etc. do not apply to these transnational entities.

Finally, without regulation and effective filtering of information published by prosumers, poor, unethical, inaccurate and even illegal contents have proliferated on the Internet. Piracy is a serious problem and the so-called fake news phenomenon has had a detrimental impact on the public opinion of media. These are only some of the new challenges that broadcasters in the region are facing or may have to face in the near future.

MM:Are existing regulatory frameworks in the Southern Mediterranean still relevant?
FS: Most regulators in the region monitor the broadcasting sector but have no authority over Internet Protocol TV providers (IPTV), video-on-demand (VoD) or Web-TV services, which are regulated in the European Union through the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMS). Southern Mediterranean regulatory frameworks must be reviewed to address transformations in the media market. Regulators’ mandates should certainly enable them to monitor content (at least TV-like content) available on cable, satellite and on the Internet, and provide them with a more effective enforcement power.

MM: What key steps have been taken in EU Member states to overcome these challenges?
FS: In Europe, these challenges and dangers have raised serious concerns. The EU has, in this context, adopted the Digital Single Market Strategy, a major reform of the whole the communications sector:
• In the Audio-visual sector, a review of the AVMS Directive (due this year) should include new provisions regulating VoD and Web-TV. It will also include cover video-sharing platforms and enhance the role of regulators.
• In the Electronic communications sector, in 2019, all the existing directives will be replaced by a code that will also regulate OTTs.
• Copyright is now considered part of the communications sector and the Copyright Directive is under review. Some convergent regulators, such as the Italian AGCOM, are given tools to fight piracy online.

Following public consultations, the new provisions are being assessed by the EU’s institutions. They could provide useful points and key references for reviewing broadcasting regulation in Southern Mediterranean countries.

MedMedia is an-EU funded project supporting media reform in the Southern Mediterranean region.
The contents of this interview are the sole responsibility of its authors and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.
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