In a rapidly evolving digital world, self- and co-regulatory models can be attractive alternatives to traditional regulations, according to a study for the European Commission presented today on Europe's "Safer Internet Day".
"For the media and Internet industry to flourish responsibly, the regulatory framework needs to strike the right balance between fairness and firmness while still allowing industry to respond quickly to change," said Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding at the occasion of the presentation of the study on co-regulation in the media sector today in Brussels. "This study underlines my firm belief that self-and co-regulation offer very real alternatives to traditional legislative approaches in the media sector today. Where such self- and co-regulatory models are credible and efficient, the European Commission will encourage their use, in particular for the online environment. This is the spirit included also in the provisions of the European Commission's proposal for modernising the Television Without Frontiers Directive, which I expect to be agreed between European Parliament and Council in the months to come."
Particularly in the digital economy, driven by rapid technological change and enhanced user control, traditional regulations are finding it difficult to keep up with the speed of technological, economical and social changes, and the problem of decentralised information. Traditional regulatory approaches also may suffer from enforcement problems.
The European Commission therefore views self- and co-regulation as a way to achieve better regulation, an important goal of the Barroso Commission. Self regulation, where industry regulates itself, and co-regulation, the combination of state and non-state regulation, will help cope with the increasing risk of failure of traditional approaches, and will hand back responsibility to society and interested parties where appropriate.
The study on co-regulation measures in the media sector was undertaken for the Commission by the Hans-Bredow Institut for media research, at the University of Hamburg, in cooperation with the Institute for European Media Law in Saarbrücken, and presented today in Brussels. It concluded that, in general, industry needs sufficient incentives to support such a regime. Having a state run regulator in the background often gives self-regulatory bodies the power they need to work effectively. In addition, sufficient means to enforce regulations, such as adequate and proportional sanctions seem to be necessary for a co-regulatory system to be workable.
Transparency and openness were also found to be vital to build trust in the mechanisms, particularly where non-State organisations are responsible for regulating, or where interest groups are not involved.
The study examined the different approaches to co-regulation already active in different countries for two important sectors (the protection of minors, and advertising), and found that there was no reason to assume that these were insufficient for implementing European directives.
Self- and co-regulation are therefore explicitly encouraged by the European Commission in the proposed modernisation of the "Television Without Frontiers" Directive, currently being debated in the European Parliament and Council. The text of the proposed Directive is the first legislative proposal from the Commission related to the media sector where such an explicit reference to self- and co-regulation is made (in Recital 25 and in Article 3(3): "Member States shall encourage co-regulatory regimes in the fields coordinated by this Directive. These regimes shall be such that they are broadly accepted by the main stakeholders and provide for effective enforcement.”).
Further good examples of current self- and co-regulation in the EU include:
- Today's signing by mobile operators of a European Framework agreement on safer use of mobile phones by children.
- The Film Online Charter signed by the film and content industries in May 2006.
- The management of the .eu domain by the private not-for-profit agency EURid, entrusted with this task by the European Parliament and the Council.
- The food industries efforts to fight obesity.
- The role of the European Aviation Safety Agency in safeguarding Europe's skies.
The full study on "Study on co-regulation measures in the media sector" is online at:
The Commission's proposal for modernising the "Television Without Frontiers" Directive and accompanying material can be found at: