The Malta Independent 9 August 2020, Sunday

Introduction of media literacy, increased transparency among amendments to Broadcasting Act

Giulia Magri Friday, 10 July 2020, 15:43 Last update: about 30 days ago

Regulations on video sharing platforms and change in time of commercials which include alcohol and gambling are some of the few updates to the Broadcasting Act, which were announced by Minister within the Office of the Prime Minister Carmelo Abela.

During a press conference held at Castille, Abela, who is minister responsible for Public Broadcasting, announced that the Cabinet has approved a Bill on the Broadcasting Act (Chapter 350) and the Legal Notices to amend related Subsidiary Legislations.

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He pointed out that the Government conducted a Public Consultation from 8 May which lasted until 22 May.

“The realities of our media services are very different to when the last amendment to the Audio-visual media services Directive, which was back in 2007,” said Abela. “Now we have the convergence of television and internet, as people can now watch a press conference live on their own devices, such as tablets and mobiles.” Abela said that there is now also an importance on “user-generated content” and that the new amendments emphasise the protection of consumers, especially the more vulnerable.

“With the changes of audio-visual media services, require an updated legal framework that reflects the development that has taken place and strikes a balance between access, freedom of expression, competitiveness and consumer protection.”

Abela pointed out that the regulations and amendments are to promote a fairer competition and for citizens to have better access to media. “We want to promote more media literacy, therefore to protect minors and the vulnerable,” highlighted Abela

 Abela gave an account of the amendments in the law of the Broadcasting Act in the subsidiary legislation.

What are the amendments to the directive?

·        Directive introduces an important point on transparency regarding the structure of ownership of particular media services. There must be transparency about who owns the media; as this is directly linked to freedom of expression. 

·        New  concept of media literacy to be introduced: To strengthen the skills and knowledge of citizens to be able to use media more effectively and free of dangers 

·        Important point which was in the previous Directive and re-included in this Directive is that there is an obligation on-demand media services to ensure that at least 30% of the content they provide originates from Europe and is visibly promoted. (Previously the Directive was 10%) 

·        The introduction of regulation on video sharing platforms 

·        Apart from including on-demand services back in 2007, the Directive will expand and also include user-generated videos 

·        Broadcast regulators must have up-to-date information of all service providers under their jurisdiction. The industry must have a self-regulatory framework. 

·        The media services have the obligation to provide enough information regarding their content, so that the consumer can make a clear and informative decision about what they are seeing. (Ex: clearer indication whether a programme is child-friendly or not) 

·        Accessibility of audio-visual content will be enhanced, and the law will oblige providers of these services to implement measures to increase accessibility to their content. 

·        Calculated time for adverts will change and be more flexible 

Abela announced a number of amendments which were spurred by the Broadcasting Authority:

·        A change in the time when adult audience content will be shown will also change; it will be moved forward from 9pm onwards to 10pm onwards. 

·        The introduction of a new regulation in regards to foods containing salts, fats and sugars (HFSS products) and other regulations relating to alcohol advertising and gambling. Abela explained that such commercials will have certain time-slots, and children will be amongst those who will benefit from this protection. 

·        Regulations on the inclusions of commercial products will be less stringent, but the regulations on the inclusions of commercial products will not be touched when it comes to children’s programs, religious products, news and current affairs.

 

 

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