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CM(2009)91 4 June 20091
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1063 Meeting, 8 July 2009
5 Media


5.1 Steering Committee on the Media and New Communication Services (CDMC)

a. Abridged report of the 9th meeting (Strasbourg, 25-26 March 2009)
b. Draft Recommendation CM/Rec(2009)… of the Committee of Ministers to member states on measures to protect children against harmful content and behaviour and to promote their active participation in the new information and communications environment

Item to be prepared by the GR-H at its meeting of 18 June 2009
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The Steering Committee on the Media and New Communication Services (CDMC), chaired by Ms Delia Mucica (Romania), meeting on 25 and 26 March 2009 (see agenda at Appendix 1):

Draft standard-setting instruments

- decided to approve the Draft recommendation on measures to protect children against harmful content and behaviour and to promote their active participation in the new information and communications environment and to forward it to the Committee of Ministers for its possible adoption (Appendix 2), requesting that it also considers how the Council of Europe may contribute to its implementation (e.g. as regards creating a pan-European trust mark for labelling systems for online content which accords with inter alia human rights principles and standards);

PACE Recommendation 1855 (2009) on the regulation of audiovisual media services

- held an exchange of views with Mr Andrew McIntosh and, in light of the Committee of Ministers’ invitation, adopted comments on the Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation (Appendix 3);

Subordinate bodies

- decided to postpone decisions on possible CDMC subordinate groups on New Media, on Public Service Media Governance, on Cross-border Internet and on the Protection of Neighbouring Rights of Broadcasting Organisations to its 10th or 11th meetings (27 May and 20 to 23 October 2009 respectively);

- decided that, if necessary, work can continue on the protection of the neighbouring rights of broadcasting organisations under the same informal arrangements and with the same participants as for the previous stock-taking exercise;

1st Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for the Media and New Communication Services (Reykjavik, 28-29 May 2009)

- discussed and amended the texts to be submitted to the Conference for adoption; noted that a few delegations require further consultations with relevant authorities in respect of the draft Resolution on developments in anti-terrorism legislation in Council of Europe member states and their impact on freedom of expression and information; agreed to consider proposals for amendments of these texts that may be made by civil society and youth organisations at the CDMC meeting to be held on the eve of the Conference;

- noted that the European Youth Forum obtained finance from the European Youth Foundation for a conference to be held in Reykjavik just before and for participation in the Ministerial Conference, on condition that a number of participants are included in (and funded as part of) national delegations; a few CDMC delegations already pledged to include a youth representative in their delegation and the CDMC noted that voluntary contributions could be made to the European Youth Forum with a view to funding of youth participants;

Possible future mechanism in respect of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights

- decided to designate a small group of CDMC members (composed of – subject to confirmation as to their availability – Austria, Bulgaria, Estonia, France, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland) asking them to elaborate and submit to the CDMC in time for consideration at its next meeting (20 to 23 October 2009) practical proposals on light means for “more actively promoting compliance with Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and taking preventive action against violations of freedom of expression” using existing structures; decided that the views of the Commissioner for Human Rights and other relevant bodies should be sought and taken into account in this context;

Living together

- took note of on-going Council of Europe campaign on anti-discrimination, in particular its media component, which together with the foreseen “living together” publication contributes to the implementation of certain standards elaborated by the CDMC;

Standing Committee on Transfrontier Television (T-TT)

- took note of developments concerning the revision of the European Convention on Transfrontier Television and the foreseen finalisation of the draft amending Protocol during the Standing Committee’s 44th meeting (11 and 12 June 2009);

Appendix 1

Agenda

1) Opening of the meeting

2) Adoption of the agenda

3) Decisions of the Committee of Ministers of interest to the work of the CDMC

4) Work programme for the CDMC in 2009

5) Draft instruments or texts for consideration by the CDMC

    - Draft recommendation on measures to protect children against harmful content and behaviour and to promote their active participation in the new information and communications environment

6) Implementation of non-binding instruments prepared under the authority of the CDMC

7) Discussion on a possible Council of Europe convention on the protection of the neighbouring rights of broadcasting organisations

8) CDMC subordinate bodies

    - Draft terms of reference of CDMC subordinate bodies
    - Living together

9) 1st Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Media and New Communication Services “A New Notion of Media” (Reykjavik, 28-29 May 2009)

10) Standing Committee on Transfrontier Television (T-TT)

11) Dates of the next meetings

12) Items to be included in the draft agenda for the 11th CDMC meeting (20-23 October 2009)

13) Administrative and budgetary matters

14) Other business

    - Request for observer status by the non-governmental organisation Permanent Conference of the Mediterranean Audiovisual Operators (COPEAM)

15) Abridged report

Appendix 2

Draft Recommendation CM/Rec(2009)… of the Committee of Ministers to member states
on measures to protect children against harmful content and behaviour and to promote their active participation in the new information and communications environment

1. Protecting freedom of expression and human dignity in the information and communications environment by ensuring a coherent level of protection for minors against harmful content and developing children’s media literacy skills is a priority for the Council of Europe.

2. The risk of harm may arise from content and behaviour, such as online pornography, the degrading and stereotyped portrayal of women, the portrayal and glorification of violence and self-harm, demeaning, discriminatory or racist expressions or apologia for such conduct, solicitation (grooming), the recruitment of child victims of trafficking in human beings, bullying, stalking and other forms of harassment, which are capable of adversely affecting the physical, emotional and psychological well-being of children.

3. Attention should be drawn to the normative texts adopted by the Committee of Ministers designed to assist member states in dealing with these risks and, as a corollary, in securing everyone’s human rights and fundamental freedoms. These texts include Recommendation CM/Rec(2008)6 on measures to promote the respect for freedom of expression and information with regard to Internet filters; the 2008 Declaration on protecting the dignity, security and privacy of children on the Internet; Recommendation CM/Rec(2007)11 on promoting freedom of expression and information in the new information and communications environment; Recommendation Rec(2006)12 on empowering children in the new information and communications environment; and Recommendation Rec(2001)8 of the Committee of Ministers on self-regulation concerning cyber content (self-regulation and user protection against illegal or harmful content on new communications and information services).

4. There is a need to provide children with the knowledge, skills, understanding, attitudes, human rights values and behaviour necessary to participate actively in social and public life, and to act responsibly while respecting the rights of others.

5. There is also the need to encourage trust and promote confidence on the Internet, in particular by neutral labelling of content to enable both children and adults to make their own value judgments regarding Internet content.

6. The Committee of Ministers recommends that member states, in co-operation with private sector actors and civil society, develop and promote coherent strategies to protect children against content and behaviour carrying a risk of harm while advocating their active participation in and best possible use of the new information and communications environment, in particular by:

– encouraging the development and use of safe spaces (walled gardens), as well as other tools facilitating access to websites and Internet content appropriate for children;

– promoting the further development and voluntary use of labels and trustmarks allowing parents and children to easily distinguish non-harmful content from content carrying a risk of harm;

– promoting the development of skills among children, parents and educators to understand better and deal with content and behaviour that carries a risk of harm;

– bringing this recommendation and its appended guidelines to the attention of all relevant private and public sector stakeholders.

Appendix to Recommendation CM/Rec(2009)…

Guidelines

I. Providing safe and secure spaces for children on the Internet

7. The development of new communication technologies and the evolution of the Internet have led to a vacuum in appropriate measures to protect children against content carrying a risk of harm. While the protection against content in the offline world is, in most cases, much easier to guarantee, it has become significantly more difficult to do so in the online world, especially considering that every action to restrict access to content is potentially in conflict with the right to freedom of expression and information as enshrined in Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ETS No. 5). It should be recalled that this fundamental right and freedom is a primary objective of the Council of Europe and its member states; at the same time states also have a legitimate right, and even an obligation, to protect children from content which is unsuitable or inappropriate.

8. While parental responsibility and media education are of primary importance in effectively protecting children, there are also tools and methods which can assist parents and educators in their efforts to inform and guide children about the Internet and Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). The provision of safe and secure spaces (walled gardens) for children on the Internet and the Council of Europe’s online game “Through the Wild Web Woods” are notable examples of such tools and methods.

9. On this basis, member states, in co-operation with the private sector, the media and civil society, are encouraged to develop safe and secure spaces on the Internet for children safely to explore and participate actively in the information society, in particular by:

– creating safe and secure websites for children, for example by developing age-appropriate online portals;

– developing professional standards for the maintenance of such Internet websites and portals, particularly with regard to links and references to other sites;

– raising awareness of these safe and secure Internet websites for children, in particular among parents, educators, content developers and their respective associations;

– considering the integration of the benefits of these safe and secure Internet websites in school curricula, and in educational materials such as The Internet literacy handbook, a Council of Europe publication.

II. Encouraging the development of a pan-European trustmark and labelling systems

10 There is an increasing demand for systems which help to protect children from content carrying a risk of harm. The development of Internet content filters has provided one form of protection which subsequently led to the adoption of Recommendation CM/Rec(2008)6 of the Committee of Ministers on measures to promote the respect for freedom of expression and information with regard to Internet filters.

11. Apart from automated content rating and filtering, there are initiatives which exist to label online content on a voluntary basis and labelling which is performed by the content creator. Among them, the Internet Content Rating Association (part of the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI)) and PEGI Online (part of the Pan European Game Information (PEGI) plus system), both of which have led to the development of systems which promote descriptions of online content.

12. The labelling of online content contributes to the development of safe and secure spaces for children on the Internet. However, the effectiveness and trustworthiness of labelling systems greatly depend on the accountability of those responsible for these systems and their interoperability. The development of a Pan-European trustmark for responsible labelling systems – prepared in full compliance with the right to freedom of expression and information in accordance with Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights – would enhance these systems and initiatives, facilitate the provision of safe and secure spaces for children on the Internet and avoid and/or mitigate their exposure to content and behaviour carrying a risk of harm.

13. Online content which is not labelled should not however be considered dangerous or less valuable for children, parents and educators. Labelling has limited scope and should be seen as one possibility, among others, to promote the democratic participation and protection of children on the Internet in countering content and behaviour that carry a risk of harm.

14. On this basis, member states, in co-operation with the private sector, the media and civil society, are encouraged to develop and promote the responsible use of labelling systems for online content, in particular in:

– creating a pan-European trustmark for labelling systems of online content. Criteria for this trustmark would include:

    - adherence to human rights principles and standards, including the right to provide for effective means of recourse and remedy, for example the possibility to re-assess labelling when users and/or creators/authors of online content claim that content has been incorrectly labelled;

    - labelling systems are provided and used on a voluntary basis, both by creators/authors and users;

    - the inadmissibility of any form of censorship of content;

    - respect for the editorial independence of media and media-like online content services;

    - regular review of the labelled content, for example by introducing a maximum length of time of the validity of the label;

– promoting initiatives for the interoperability of labelling systems, including the creation of a unique pan-European logo which signals the suitability of content for different age-groups;

– developing principles for the age-appropriate rating of content, taking into account the different traditions of member states;

– promoting research and development, in particular as regards the possibility to label content through metadata;

– raising awareness among parents and educators about the advantages of labelling content in order to facilitate access to safe and secure spaces for children on the Internet;

– assessing and evaluating labelling systems and their effectiveness, in particular with regard to their compliance with Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the accessibility and affordability of the services emanating from these systems for the general public.

III. Promoting Internet skills and literacy for children, parents and educators

15. Safe and secure spaces on the Internet and the labelling of online content can contribute to making the use of the Internet an enjoyable and confidence-building experience for children. It should, however, be accepted that it is not possible to eliminate entirely the danger of children being exposed to content or behaviour carrying a risk of harm, and that consequently media (information) literacy for children, parents and educators remains a key element in providing coherent protection for children against such risks.

16. On this basis, member states, in co-operation with the private sector, associations of parents, teachers and educators, the media and civil society, are encouraged to promote media (information) literacy for children, young people, parents and educators, in order to prepare them for possible encounters with content and behaviours carrying a risk of harm, in particular by:

– raising awareness and developing critical attitudes about both the benefits and risks for children freely using the Internet and ICTs;

– adapting school curricula to include practical learning about how best to use the Internet and ICTs, and encouraging teachers to analyse and counter sexism in online content which shapes children’s attitudes;

– informing children, parents and educators about safe and secure spaces on the Internet and trustworthy labels for online content;

– fostering knowledge and practical understanding of the human rights dimensions of labelling systems and filtering mechanisms, and their potential risks to freedom of expression and information, inter alia by drawing the attention of all relevant stakeholders to the Council of Europe’s standard-setting instruments and tools in this field.

Appendix 3

Comments by the Steering Committee on the Media and New Communication Services (CDMC)
on Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1855 (2009) on the regulation of audiovisual media services

1. The CDMC warmly welcomes Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1855 (2009) on the regulation of audiovisual media services. It agrees in broad lines with the Assembly’s position as regards the revision of the European Convention on Transfrontier Television. Moreover, the CDMC especially appreciates the Assembly’s foresight in respect of certain emerging issues which, while broadly related to audiovisual media services, may well exceed the current understanding of what those services are.

In line with the CDMC’s own thinking, the Recommendation also signals new areas for Council of Europe work linked to the freedom of expression and information regardless of frontiers guaranteed by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The CDMC believes that the Parliamentary Assembly recommendations merits favourable consideration from various bodies concerned, having also regard to the observations set out below.

2. The CDMC notes that the Parliamentary Assembly considers that Internet radio or Web television should not be subject to licensing. The CDMC has not had the opportunity to gather information on the situation across Europe and to hold an in-depth discussion on the subject. It notes that Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights permits states to require the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises. The CDMC understands from the relevant case law of the European Court of Human Rights, that licensing may be used as an instrument to manage limited resources (e.g. in terms of radio-frequency spectrum) in the common interest (i.e. so as to ensure media pluralism and diversity). However, all such measures must meet the tests of legality, necessity in a democratic society and proportionality. It goes without saying that regulation concerning Internet radio and Web television must meet these general requirements. The CDMC will have to come back to this issue in the future.

3. The CDMC notes the Parliamentary Assembly’s support for the Committee of Ministers Declaration on the allocation and management of the digital dividend and the public interest, adopted on 20 February 2008 (cf. paragraph 7 of the Recommendation). Council of Europe member states should indeed be encouraged to have regard to this important Declaration when participating in the activities of relevant international bodies (e.g. those referred to in paragraph 14 of the Recommendation, as well as the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations - CEPT).

4. The CDMC fully endorses the remarks made in paragraph 9 of the Recommendation. It would add that there should be broad alignment between the provisions of the European Union Directive on Audiovisual Media Services and the European Convention on Transfrontier Television; it would be undesirable and unworkable for member states to be bound by two conflicting regulatory frameworks.

Against this background, it should be borne in mind that Council of Europe member states which are party to the European Convention on Transfrontier Television and that are also bound by European Union law must apply the latter in full compliance with the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights and the relevant case law of the European Court of Human Rights. The Standing Committee on Transfrontier Television (T-TT) must be especially attentive to these requirements during its subsequent interpretative work (including in respect of various recommendations made in paragraph 10 of the Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation).

5. It is important that the Standing Committee should be allocated sufficient resources (cf. paragraph 12.2 of the Recommendation) to meet its actual needs and level of activity.

As already suggested by the Parliamentary Assembly itself (cf. paragraph 10.6 of the Recommendation), decisions that may have a bearing on the exercise of the right to freedom of expression and information regardless of frontiers require significant procedural safeguards. In the CDMC’s view, this requirement applies mutatis mutandis to the use by the T-TT of the proposed reinforced powers (cf. paragraph 10, in particular sub-paragraphs 1, 3 and 6, of the Recommendation).

6. Due attention has to be paid to Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights also in respect of on-demand services and issues relating to circumvention (cf. paragraph 10, sub-paragraphs 4 and 5, of the Recommendation). A restriction to the exercise of Article 10 freedoms on the basis of the provisions in the revised European Convention on Transfrontier television and those in the European Union Audiovisual Media Services Directive must, nevertheless, satisfy the Article 10 tests. The T-TT might be invited to provide in due course further guidance on this matter.

7. In line with its own views expressed on past occasions, the CDMC agrees that non-member states should be invited to accede to the revised Convention with a view to extending the scope of this Convention to other countries. Efforts might usefully be made to this end through awareness raising and technical assistance to countries which are at the source of audiovisual media services received within member states or the recipients of equivalent services emanating from Europe. Given common interests in this respect, European Union institutions would be an excellent partner. In the first instance, efforts could focus on selected southern Mediterranean countries, especially those that have already expressed interest in the European Convention on Transfrontier Television. Moreover, the CDMC would underline the importance of encouraging the fourteen Council of Europe member states that have not yet ratified the Convention to do so.

8. In so far as it concerns the CDMC, the recommendation to the Committee of Ministers contained in paragraph 12.4 of the Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation is very timely. The CDMC is currently finalising the preparation of the 1st Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Media and New Communication Services that will take place in Reykjavik, Iceland, on 28 and 29 May 2009. It will be the occasion to map out future Council of Europe work on media and new media or comparable media-like mass-communication services. The objective should be to reinforce their protection from undue interference, including in a cross-border context, in compliance with Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and, on the other hand, to ensure that the providers of those services are adequately informed of their duties and responsibilities which also stem from Article 10.

Further, a people-centred approach also requires that individuals are allowed to exercise their right to free expression and information and use new communication services to participate in social, political, cultural and economic life without undue restriction. Enabling them to exercise their rights without infringing the rights of others requires, as proposed by the Parliamentary Assembly, paying attention inter alia to media literacy.

9. The Parliamentary Assembly recommendation to analyse the feasibility of elaborating common standards among Council of Europe member states for both commercial audiovisual content which falls outside the revised Convention on Transfrontier Television and for publicly shared user generated audiovisual content merits particular attention. The CDMC trusts that the Ministers who will participate in the above-mentioned Reykjavik Conference will consider this matter and, if appropriate, offer the necessary political backing for this standard-setting activity.

10. Finally, it is expected that issues referred to in paragraph 13 of the Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation, in particular in sub-paragraph 3 thereof, will feature among the topics to be addressed during the above-mentioned Ministerial Conference and its outcomes.

11. The CDMC looks forward to further discussions on at least some of the above matters at the Reykjavik Conference. In view of this, it feels that it would be desirable that representatives of the Parliamentary Assembly – who will be present in Reykjavik for a Sub-Committee on the Media meeting just before the Ministerial Conference – also attend and take part in the 1st Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Media and New Communication Services.

1 This document has been classified restricted until examination by the Committee of Ministers.


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