The European Union Recommendation on the Protection of Minors and Human Dignity in Audiovisual and Information Services*
The Recommendation on the Protection of Minors and Human Dignity in Audiovisual and Information Services has been adopted by the Council of the European Union on May 28th, 1998, and was formally adopted on September 24th, 1998.
The Recommendation, which is a legal act, aims to provide guidelines for national legislation. It covers all electronic media.
In sum, the Recommendation says:
television is asked to try out new digital methods of parental control (such as personal codes, filtering software or control chips), although the responsibility of broadcasters in this area is acknowledged;
on-line Internet service providers are asked to develop codes of good conduct so as to better apply and clarify current legislation. The Recommendation fits in with current national and European regulations.
The Recommendation offers guidelines for the development of national self-regulation regarding the protection of minors and human dignity. Self-regulation is based on three key elements: first, the involvement of all the interested parties (Government, industry, service and access providers, user associations) in the production of codes of conduct; secondly, the implementation of codes of conduct by the industry; thirdly, the evaluation of measures taken.
The Recommendation is closely linked to the European Union Action Plan on Promoting Safer Use of the Internet.
The full text of the Recommendation is published in the Official Journal of the European Communities L 270 of 07.10.1998, p. 48, and can be found here. We here reproduce its actual recommendations:
THE COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION
I. HEREBY RECOMMENDS that the Member States foster a climate of confidence which will promote the development of the audiovisual and information services industry by:
1) promoting, as a supplement to the regulatory framework, the establishment on a voluntary basis of national frameworks for the protection of minors and human dignity in audiovisual and information services through:
the encouragement, in accordance with national traditions and practices, of the participation of relevant parties (such as users, consumers, businesses and public authorities) in the definition, implementation and evaluation of national measures in the fields covered by this recommendation,
the establishment of a national framework for self-regulation by operators of on-line services, taking into account the indicative principles and methodology described in the Annex,
cooperation at Community level in developing comparable assessment methodologies;
2) encouraging broadcasters in their jurisdiction to carry out research and to experiment, on a voluntary basis, with new means of protecting minors and informing viewers, as a supplement to the national and Community regulatory frameworks governing broadcasting;
3) taking effective measures, where appropriate and feasible, to reduce potential obstacles to the development of the on-line services industry while sustaining the fight against illegal content offensive to human dignity, through:
the handling of complaints and the transmission of the necessary information about alleged illegal content to the relevant authorities at national level,
transnational cooperation between the complaints-handling structures, in order to strengthen the effectiveness of national measures;
4) promoting, in order to encourage the take-up of technological developments and in addition to and consistent with existing legal and other measures regarding broadcasting services, and in close cooperation with the parties concerned:
action to enable minors to make responsible use of on-line audiovisual and information services, notably by improving the level of awareness among parents, educators and teachers of the potential of the new services and of the means whereby they may be made safe for minors,
action to facilitate, where appropriate and necessary, identification of, and access to, quality content and services for minors, including through the provision of means of access in educational establishments and public places.
II. RECOMMENDS that the industries and parties concerned:
(1) cooperate, in accordance with national traditions and practices, with the relevant authorities in setting up structures representing all the parties concerned at national level, in order inter alia to facilitate participation in coordination at European and international level in the fields covered by this recommendation;
(2) cooperate in the drawing up of codes of conduct for the protection of minors and human dignity applying to the provision of on-line services, inter alia to create an environment favourable to the development of new services, taking into account the principles and the methodology described in the Annex;
(3) develop and experiment, as regards broadcasting services, on a voluntary basis, with new means of protecting minors and informing viewers in order to encourage innovation while improving such protection;
(4) develop positive measures for the benefit of minors, including initiatives to facilitate their wider access to audiovisual and information services, while avoiding potentially harmful content;
(5) collaborate in the regular follow-up and evaluation of initiatives carried out at national level in application of this recommendation.
III. INVITES the Commission to:
(1) facilitate, where appropriate through existing Community financial instruments, the networking of the bodies responsible for the definition and implementation of national self-regulation frame-works and the sharing of experience and good practices, in particular in relation to innovative approaches, at Community level, between the Member States and parties concerned in the various fields covered by this recommendation;
2) encourage cooperation and the sharing of experience and good practices between the self-regulation structures and complaints-handling structures, with a view to fostering a climate of confidence by combating the circulation of illegal content offensive to human dignity in on-line audiovisual and information services;
(3) promote, with the Member States, international cooperation in the various fields covered by this recommendation, particularly through the sharing of experience and good practices between operators and other concerned parties in the Community and their partners in other regions of the world;
(4) develop, in cooperation with the competent national authorities, a methodology for evaluating the measures taken in pursuance of this recommendation, with particular attention to the evaluation of the added value of the cooperation process at Community level, and present, two years after the adoption of this recommendation, an evaluation report on its effect to the European Parliament and the Council.
Brussels, 24 September 1998
* The full heading is: COUNCIL RECOMMENDATION of 24 September 1998 on the development of the competitiveness of the European audiovisual and information services industry by promoting national frameworks aimed at achieving a comparable and effective level of protection of minors and human dignity (98/560/EC).