EU wants quota of European films on providers like Netflix

BRUSSELS – On-demand video providers like Netflix, iTunes and Amazon will be required to have a fifth of their films and TV shows on offer in the European Union be Europe-made, under new proposals issued Wednesday.

The quota would match one that already exists for TV networks in European countries and aims to protect the film industry, culture and national languages of the EU’s 28 states in an increasingly globalized world dominated by programs in English and from the U.S.

The system, however, is not popular in the industry and was immediately criticized by some.

“Cultural quotas are outdated and unnecessary — video-on-demand providers are already investing heavily into European local content,” said James Waterworth, vice-president of Europe operations for the CCIA computer and internet industry association.

Officials from the European Commission, the EU executive branch that made the proposal Wednesday, note that Netflix’s library is already made up of 21 per cent European content, while other providers have up to 30 per cent.

“These percentages are not going to represent a major effort,” said Guenther Oettinger, the commissioner responsible for Europe’s digital market. “We are providing a certain degree of security for the European film industry.”

The quota system was part of package of measures that also aims to make it easier to buy online across the EU’s borders.

The measures would seek to combat geo-blocking, which can result in online shoppers being rerouted to a country-specific platform when they try to buy abroad.

Those steps were mostly welcomed by Europe’s main consumer organization, although BEUC said they could go further.

“It flies against the logic of a single market when consumers are prevented from buying a tablet, a sweater or a video game because they live in another EU country or because they are paying with a foreign credit card,” said BEUC director general Monique Goyens.

But she said it is “regrettable that consumers can still be blocked from buying digital products such as e-books and music from sellers based in other countries. TV series, films and sport events will also stay off-limits. It is time the EU puts the final nail in the coffin of geo-blocking.”

The EU measures also aim to better protect minors from content like pornography or violence and crack down on incitement to hatred. New tools would allow users to flag harmful content, check the age of users and provide access to parental control systems.

For television, the proposals would boost the powers of audiovisual regulators, making sure they are independent from government and industry, and give broadcasters new flexibility in the way they screen advertising.

EU consumer affairs commissioner Vera Jourova said the package “is an important step to bring consumer protection up to speed with the online world and to give legal certainty to traders.”