Hammering out the European Union’s new audiovisual media services directive, member states’ digital policy ministers have reached an agreement on the controversial EU content quota to video-on-demand (VoD) platforms.

The ministers’ meeting on May 23 was important, moving towards a decision on the existence of an increased quota in the catalogues of VoD services in favour of European content.

Ahead of the ministerial meeting, many northern European EU member states, including the Netherlands, Finland, Ireland, Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Luxembourg and Sweden, moved against any content quota, arguing it would be “counterproductive”.

Mandatory quotas would force even non-EU VoD providers such as Netflix and Amazon to buy European content for the European market. A year ago, the European Commission’s initial proposal had set a minimum quota obligations of 20% for VoD providers.

“What is more important is to achieve a compromise,” said European Commissioner Digital Single Market, Andrus Ansip, during the public session of the Council.

Meanwhile, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Lithuania and Romania tabled an amendment, calling on the European Council to revise the Commission’s proposal so the quota is raised to at least 30%.

Greece's EU works amendment
Greece’s EU works quota amendment 

Greece was initially pushing for 40%, but forming a bloc with other member states convinced Athens to settle on 30%, which is closer to the 20% quota already proposed by the Maltese presidency and Minister for Justice, Culture and Local Government, Owen Bonnici.

“We appreciate that you have changed the quota, it was of crucial importance to us to move to the European Parliament direction,” said the French representative at the meeting.

“We cannot leave European audiovisual works unprotected, turning Europe into a field of unequal competition with international productions,” said Nikos Pappas, Greece’s minister for digital policies, telecommunications and information.

The proposal suggests the promotion of European works is a cornerstone of Europe’s cultural policy. And, since large VoD platforms were already close to 30%, this wouldn’t distort the market, whereas setting up a de facto lower target would not be a substantial contribution to the effective promotion of European works.

Several EU member states already have national broadcasting quotas. For instance, France, which pushed towards lifting the quota, already requires both broadcasters and VoD platforms to have at least 60% of European works in their catalogues.

The May 23 European Council accepted the amendment as Spain, Poland, Latvia and Croatia agreed on the 30%, while Bulgaria was also in favour of the quotas.