Many in the media industry will be aware of the European Commission's Digital Single Market Strategy for Europe, published in May last year.  The strategy grandly seeks to achieve better online access for consumers and businesses across Europe, to achieve the right conditions and a level playing field for advanced digital networks and innovative services, and to maximise the growth potential of the EU's digital economy.

To achieve its strategy, the Commission has set out a very ambitious legislative programme over the next 12-18 months, including:

  • a consultation on the Satellite and Cable Directive, in order to assess whether its scope needs to be enlarged to cover broadcasters' online transmissions and whether further measures are needed to improve cross-border access to broadcasters' services;
  • a consultation on the Audiovisual Media Services Directive, to seek views on how to make the EU's audiovisual media landscape fit for purpose in the digital age;
  • a proposed Regulation on the cross-border portability of online content services, to allow EU residents to travel within the EU with the digital content they have purchased or subscribed to at home; and
  • the potential further review of copyright legislation.

There has been ongoing active political and legal discussion in light of these initiatives, with two interesting recent interventions in the debate.

European Economic and Social Committee

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has had its opinion on the strategy published in the Official Journal.  In contrast to the ambitious timetable proposed by the Commission, the EESC considers it to be unrealistic for the digital single market to be implemented during the Commission's current term of office.  Starkly, it also believes that Europe is being left behind the United States and Asia in the digital economy.

The EESC considers that Europe needs to focus on the social dimension as a new fourth pillar of the strategy, and that the Commission's first priorities should be closing the skills gap, educating young people early in order for them to develop digital skills, guaranteeing accessibility for all citizens including disabled people and ensuring appropriate public and private investment in teaching, professional training and research. 

Competition and Markets Authority

The UK's competition regulator, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), has published its responses to the Commission's questionnaire on the regulatory environment for platforms, and the House of Lords EU Internal Market Sub-Committee call for input.

Interestingly, the CMA believes the Commission should not impose any new regulation of online platforms, and that existing laws and mechanisms are sufficient.  It has called for competition enforcement to be targeted at specific harms based on a thorough analysis of the market, with sectoral inquiries used to better understand emerging problems.

Clearly there is a lot happening in relation to the strategy and we are likely to see further important legislative proposals this year.