The Audiovisual Media Services Directive contains specific rules to protect minors from inappropriate on-demand media audiovisual services.

The AVMS Directive's general approach, a system of graduated regulation, applies also to the protection of minors. The less control a viewer has and the more harmful a specific content could be, the more are restrictions that apply. The rules in this directive are supplemented by the 1998 Recommendation and 2006 Recommendation on the protection of minors and human dignity

The AVMSD takes into account that the protection of minors has to always be balanced with other important values of a democratic society like freedom of expression and cannot work without parental responsibility.

The Commission has also published a specific communication on video games.

Protection of minors in television broadcasting or linear services

Overview of Graduated Regulation
Content which might impair minors Total ban
Article 27(1)
only available in a way minors will not normally hear or see such content
Article 12
Content which is likely to impair minors No restrictions ensure that minors in the area of transmission will not normally hear or see such broadcasts through encryption or other measures.
Art 27 (2),(3)

Content which might seriously impair minors

  • This kind of content must not be included in any programme signifying total ban. Programmes which "might seriously impair" the development of minors containing pornography or gratuitous violence are prohibited.
  • Those which might simply be "harmful" to minors can only be transmitted when it is ensured - by selecting the time of the broadcast or by any technical measure (e.g. encryption) - that minors will not normally hear or see them.
  • When harmful programmes are not encrypted, they must be preceded by an acoustic warning or by means of a clearly identifiable visual symbol throughout their duration .
Click to read the legal text of Article 27(1)
Article 27 (1)
Member States shall take appropriate measures to ensure that television broadcasts by broadcasters under their jurisdiction do not include any programmes which might seriously impair the physical, mental or moral development of minors, in particular programmes that involve pornography or gratuitous violence.

Content which is likely to impair minors

Such content must be ensured, by selecting the time of the broadcast or by any technical measure (e.g. encryption), that minors in the area of transmission will not normally hear or see such broadcasts. 

Click to read the legal text of Article 27(2)(3)

Article 27(2)(3)

  1. The measures provided for in paragraph 1 shall also extend to other programmes which are likely to impair the physical, mental or moral development of minors, except where it is ensured, by selecting the time of the broadcast or by any technical measure, that minors in the area of transmission will not normally hear or see such broadcasts.
  2. In addition, when such programmes are broadcast in unencoded form Member States shall ensure that they are preceded by an acoustic warning or are identified by the presence of a visual symbol throughout their duration.

Protection of minors in on-demand or Non-linear  services

Programmes which "might seriously impair" the development of minors are allowed in on-demand services, but they may only be made available in such a way that minors will not normally hear or see them. This could be done by the use of PIN codes or other, more sophisticated age verification systems. There are no restrictions for programmes which might simply be "harmful".

Click to read the legal text of Article 12

Article 12

Member States shall take appropriate measures to ensure that on-demand audiovisual media services provided by media service providers under their jurisdiction which might seriously impair the physical, mental or moral development of minors are only made available in such a way as to ensure that minors will not normally hear or see such on-demand audiovisual media services.

How to complain about a programme ?

The European Commission does not monitor programmes on an individual basis but rather the performance of Member States in general. Therefore, the media regulator(s) of the Member State having jurisdiction is competent for following up individual complaints. If it is not clear which Member State has jurisdiction or a citizen does not speak the language of the competent Member State, she or he may also contact the media regulator of her/ his own Member State directly. Regulators are obliged to cooperate one with each other, especially in trans-border cases.

Background

The Directive obliged the Commission to submit a study of the advantages and disadvantages of other measures to facilitate parents' control of broadcasts watched by their children (filters, rating systems, etc.).

The Audiovisual Media Services Directive is complemented by the 1998 Recommendations which was the first legal instrument concerning the content of online audiovisual and information services and the 2006 Recommendations on the protection of minors and human dignity.

Useful Information

Refer to the list of Media regulators in the EU

More on Prohibition of incitement to hatred

Provider's jurisdiction European Audiovisual Observatory - MAVISE

Team responsible
Published: 
11 May 2016
Last update: 
9 May 2017