Business

EU pushes for Netflix to have 20% European content in European nations where it operates

The European Union on Wednesday unveiled quotas for European films with providers like Netflix and new rules protect children from harmful content online.
European lawmakers are pushing for companies like Netflix to have a minimum of 20 per cent local content in European markets where it operates. (Elise Amendola/Associated Press)

The European Union on Wednesday unveiled quotas for European films with providers like Netflix and new rules protect children from harmful content online.

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."

The measures would ensure that Netflix and other on-demand video providers like iTunes and Amazon offer at least a 20 per cent share of European-made content on their catalogs.

Opposition pushes back

But the quota plan 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"Cultural quotas are outdated and unnecessary — video-on-demand providers are already investing heavily into European local content," said James Waterworth, vice president of Europe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.

However, European Commission officials say 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."

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

Those measures were mostly welcomed by Europe's main consumer organization, although BEUC said they could go much 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 ebooks 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.

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