Statement of the Association of Commercial Television on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the transparency and targeting of political advertising

JULY 2022

With regard to the ongoing negotiations on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on transparency and targeting of political advertising, we consider it necessary to emphasise at the outset that the problems of the internal market relating to political advertising concern only the online environment, and our opinions, which we set out below, follow from this real situation.

In our opinion, a clarification of the definition of political advertising in the sense that political advertising in the proposal will mean exclusively online political advertising is essential for the establishment of a healthy market, inter alia in order to ensure that the current well-functioning regulatory frameworks and national definitions of political advertising are not undermined or affected. Given the fact that political advertising is enshrined in national legislation in the Member States in some way, we emphasise that it is essential to assess very carefully how the proposed legislation corresponds to the existing national definitions of political advertising.

We welcome the intention to address non-transparent political advertising and its impact on the democratic process and democratic society. In line with the stated objectives and the impact assessment, we see that internal market issues are essentially linked to the online sphere, while traditional political advertising in traditional media, if it is allowed, is limited to the national level and strictly regulated.

We also emphasise that it is absolutely essential that online platforms are also directly responsible for all advertising content – political or other – shown to consumers through them and that they make this assessment themselves rather than relying on third-party statements. This solution would be much more effective; in this context, it should be noted that at present, this requirement is already imposed on us as linear broadcasters, and therefore, the different rules contribute to inequality in the market, which we consider highly inappropriate. We, as commercial broadcasters, play a major role in informing the public by providing diverse, credible and verified news and political coverage while being regulated to the maximum extent possible. There is no reason for digital platforms to shirk responsibility for the advertising content they select, place, promote and ultimately profit from.

We understand that the underlying rationale for the regulation is to address the online sphere, i.e. addressing the gap between unregulated and regulated players, and we therefore welcome efforts to set rules for online providers of political advertising services. This can best be achieved by focusing the measures on online service providers, specifically by aligning obligations for video sharing platforms and social networks. We thus call for the adoption of a regulation that maintains the existing frameworks for regulated (traditional) players, thereby respecting the national regulatory framework and applying equivalent rules for unregulated players.

In respect of unlabelled political advertising, we believe, like other European associations of linear broadcasters, that it should not be published at all unless it meets the rules of transparency.

We believe that it is essential that online political advertising service providers should be able to link specific unlabelled political ads to legal or natural persons, i.e. they should verify the identity of customers before publishing the ads. Platforms must therefore be obliged to maintain transparent and up-to-date repositories.

We believe that the proposed regulation should not aim to facilitate the cross-border provision of political advertising services. Political advertising is not a service like other services, given its impact on our democracy. The aim should be to redress imbalances and protect national democratic debate, not to promote cross-border business models.

Like our partner association ACT, we welcome the clarifications proposed by the French Presidency in Recital 19 and Article 2 (2) regarding political views expressed in programmes and alignment with the definitions in the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD).

We also support all other proposals for changes to ensure that audiovisual media services are not disproportionately affected and are consistent with the AVMSD.