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Ireland Broadcasting Update - European Commission takes legal action against Ireland for failing to implement digital and media legislation

AUTHORs: Kate McKenna co-author(s): Simon Shinkwin, Conor Ryan Services: EU, Competition & Regulatory DATE: 30/09/2021

Ireland is one of nineteen Member States to face legal action for failure to transpose EU legislation within the required timeframe. The Audio Media Services Directive (the ‘AVMSD’) and the European Electronic Communications Code (the ‘EECC’) were required to have been adopted by late 2020.

Describing the Directives as “crucial for the EU’s digital transformation”, the European Commission issued Ireland with a ‘reasoned opinion’ on 23 September, which requires Member States to transpose the legislation into national law. Ireland will now have two months to adopt the legislation before facing potential infringement proceedings at the European Court of Justice.

AVMSD

The AVMSD aims to establish a revised regulatory framework for audio-visual media, including traditional TV broadcasters, Video Sharing Platform Services (‘VSPS’) such as YouTube and On-Demand Services (‘ODS’) like Netflix.  

See our previous updates here:
https://www.matheson.com/insights/detail/irish-media-and-broadcasting-law-update---summer-2020
https://www.matheson.com/insights/detail/implementation-of-the-audiovisual-media-service-directive-update-for-businesses

The AVMSD will be introduced into Irish law by the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill (the ‘Bill’), which is currently undergoing pre-legislative scrutiny and was included as ‘priority legislation’ in the Government’s legislative programme for the Autumn 2021 session.  The Bill provides for the dissolution of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and its replacement by a new Media Commission, which will have responsibility for online safety and the regulation of the audio-visual media sector.

EECC

The EECC is intended to modernise EU telecoms rules, making it “fit for the digital age”. This includes the harmonisation of rules for telecom regulation across the EU and expanding the telecoms framework to new types of communication providers such as Whatsapp, Google and Zoom. The EECC is also intended to strengthen end-user rights, increase competition in high capacity communications networks, such as 5G, and lead to improved quality of services across the EU.

We understand this will be implemented via secondary legislation and the Department recently indicated that draft legislation is nearly complete and will obtain government approval for the draft in ‘early Autumn’ at which point there will be a public consultation before it is finalised. However, the government’s intention is to also introduce an Act through parliament which will focus on updating enforcement powers for ComReg (and other regulators) at the same time as the secondary legislation with a view to all commencing at same time in Q4 2021 or Q1 2022.

We hope to see the full implementation of the EU digital and media legislation before the end of 2021, and with less than two months until the Commission decides whether to refer Ireland to the European Court of Justice – the clock is ticking.