Since the announcement of the Prime Minister's so-called renegotiation, the EU has delayed its legislative programme until after the referendum to avoid controversy, only proposing non-controversial measures. However, one of these proposals has been controversial despite its intention. The proposal in question is subjecting Netflix and Amazon Prime to a specific quota of European content, and allowing more prime-time adverts.
These policies are poorly thought out, as they hurt consumers in their pockets and damage the quality of programming. It is not only the suitability of these proposals which is objectionable, but also, why is the EU bringing them in at all? Surely this is not an issue which needs to be decided at EU level. We would of course argue nothing needs to be decided at EU level, as most policies should be determined nationally, with co-operation rather than legislation occurring internationally. But if you believe certain situations require EU laws, surely this does not fall into such a situation.
Laws about Netflix, Amazon Prime and TV adverts should not be determined in any sphere other than nationally. We at Get Britain Out simply cannot think of a reason why these rules cannot be determined by our elected Government at Westminster, rather than 28 unelected EU commissioners in Brussels.
The EU has a word for this 'subsidiarity'. This means the EU will only act if "the objectives of the proposed action cannot be sufficiently achieved by the Member States, either at central level or at regional and local level". These new EU regulations clearly conflict with their own treaty obligations, but this is not a surprise. The EU does this time and time again. This is because the only thing the EU cares about is grabbing more and more power, flatly ignoring any treaty provision conflicting with the objective of marching towards a federal superstate. The EU is fundamentally undemocratic, wanting laws to be created by its unelected elites rather than the elected Governments of individual nation states. To get around subsidiarity rules the EU has made a spurious justification - television is becoming more international, therefore we must regulate it at an EU level.
The most controversial aspect of the proposed regulation of Netflix and Amazon Video means the EU is forcing them to reserve at least 20% of their catalogues for European content, and ensuring adequate prominence of such works. This is despite the fact Netflix and Amazon already pass this 20% threshold - Netflix with 21% and Amazon with 27%. Worryingly, the directive will also allow Member States to impose financial contributions to on-demand services in their jurisdictions to fulfil this objective.
Forcing these companies to guarantee at least 20% of their content comes from EU Member States will achieve a grand total of nothing - apart from increasing the price for the customer. The compulsory quota of EU content will allow production companies operating in these areas to hold on-demand video businesses to ransom, pushing up the price of their films due to limited supply and increased demand. Requiring Amazon and Netflix to pay for the development of this content will further increase the price of the subscription to consumers. Additional rules forcing this content to be given prominence may result in poorer films overshadowing good quality content customers may prefer to watch.
In relation to TV broadcasting, the proposal is to remove the current rule limiting advertising to a maximum of 12 minutes per hour, with a rule to allow advertising to form up to 20% of content between 7am and 11pm per day. The replacement of the rule regulating adverts per hour with adverts per day could be very frustrating for viewers. TV companies could put fewer adverts on during the daytime when there are fewer viewers yielding smaller fees, and instead add more advertising during primetime programming in order to receive maximum revenue. These adverts may also be prevented from "advertising foods and beverages containing nutrients and substances with a nutritional or physiological effect, excessive intakes of which in the overall diet are not recommended, in particular fat, trans-fatty acids, salt or sodium and sugars", depending on the code the EU wishes to put forward. This would create more EU rules preventing choice for the rational consumer - and an escalation of the EU "nanny state"!
On top of this, the directive requires Member States to ensure programmes which "may impair the moral development of minors" are only made available in a way to ensure minors will not normally hear or see them. This is concerning, as the European Court of Justice will determine what is moral. It is a dangerous interference in our lives, with the EU having the power to determine what your children may watch, banning anything they consider to be immoral from their eyes and ears.
Perhaps the EU thinks Euroscepticism is immoral - if so this article may not be available for your children in the coming years!
This is all just another example of pointless regulations from the EU damaging consumers in their pockets and interfering in our lives. These rules are not only a waste of time, propping up failing film industries, but it is an area which should be regulated at national level. Once again this displays how the UK has lost control of its lawmaking powers while being a member of the EU. Our laws should be created by our elected MPs at Westminster, not by 28 unelected EU commissioners. It is clearly time to Get Britain Out of the EU as soon as possible.
Matthew Ellery is a Research Executive at Get Britain Out.