Promoting the alignment with European standards on media legislation is one of the main priorities of the European Commission in supporting the convergence of the Western Balkan countries and Turkey with the European Union. The European Commission therefore invited media stakeholders of the Western Balkans countries and Turkey to a seminar on this topic, which took place in Istanbul on 1 and 2 December.

The Istanbul seminar focused on the Audiovisual Media Services Directive and on the process of switch-over from analogue to digital television as the most salient elements of the modernisation of European audiovisual policy.

The purpose of the event was to continue the exchange of experiences among international organisations, regulatory authorities, representatives of the governments of the Western Balkan countries and Turkey and the private sector, together with the identification of local needs and concrete possibilities of European Commission support for the ongoing legislative reform and implementation.

The EU's Audiovisual Media Services Directive, adopted on 19 December 2007, establishes a comprehensive legal framework covering all audiovisual media services – including on-demand services. It strikes a fair balance between upholding core European societal values, from protecting minors to ensuring accessible services for people with hearing or visual impairments and the recognition of the pivotal role that user choice and responsibility play in the new on-demand environment. By the end of 2009 the new rules should be transposed into the national law of the 27 Member States of the European Union, so that both service providers and consumers will be able to benefit from the modernized European rules for the audiovisual media services. Moreover, broadcasting is entering a period of intense transformation and high innovation as it makes the transition to digital and high-definition services. Increasing the number of broadcasting channels holds out prospects for increased media pluralism, growth in media content production, and higher-quality, more interactive services for viewers.

Audiovisual Policy and Reform of the Broadcasting Sector in the Western Balkan countries and Turkey

Western Balkan countries and Turkey have already made substantial efforts to meet the European standards on media and the process of reform is ongoing. Further progress is needed to transform state broadcasters into genuine public service broadcasters and to ensure free access to information, freedom and independence of the media and full independence of Regulatory Bodies. Political interference in the media, sometimes through financial and fiscal pressure, still persists in some countries.

More efforts are required to ensure the media’s financial viability over the long term. A level playing field for public and private broadcasters is needed to ensure the co-existence of viable public and private sectors. Efforts should also be directed at consolidating professional structures, raising professional and ethical standards – thereby promoting self-regulation – and ensuring the appropriate involvement of relevant professional and other bodies in the functioning of the media.

The European Commission and other relevant European organisations are reinforcing their co-operation with the public authorities and professional sectors in the western Balkan countries and Turkey in order to increase awareness of best practices in the media and to identify ways to accelerate the pace of the necessary reforms.

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