European Parliament Committee on culture weakens the Accessibility Act

13 July 2016

The Committee voted to remove TV programmes and digital books from the text

This morning, the Culture Committee of the European Parliament voted to remove Audiovisual Media Services, including TV programmes, and e-books from the European Accessibility Act meaning that they do not need to be accessible. The Committee approved the proposal of its responsible Rapporteur on the Act, Petra Kammerevert MEP (S&D) and the European People's Party’s spokesperson in this Committee Sabine Verheyen MEP, which significantly limits the scope of the Act.

This way, 80 million people with disabilities in Europe are at risk of being denied access to TV programmes and digital books, which are crucial gateways to culture and information in our societies. This constitutes social exclusion and discrimination and goes against the rights enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) that the EU has ratified. Among other, in its article 30, the UN Convention clarifies that: ‘Stat es Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities enjoy access to television programmes, films, theatre and other cultural activities in accessible formats’.

Reacting to this morning’s vote, EDF President, Yannis Vardakastanis, stated: “The European Parliament has always fought to defend the rights of persons with disabilities. We count on the European Parliament and its Internal Market Committee, who has the main responsibility on the Act, to be compliant with the CRPD and to not exclude 80 million Europeans with disabilities from access to audiovisual media services and digital books. The EU has the obligation to be in line with the CRPD that it has ratified. Denying persons with disabilities access to TV programmes and digital books and therefore access to information and cultural activities is clear discrimination, social exclusion and an infringement of the CRPD”.

THE MAIN ARGUMENTS

The Culture Committee’s main arguments on this issue are:

  • Audiovisual media services should not be covered by the European Accessibility Act but by the Audiovisual Media Services Directive

However, the European Commission has proposed to revise the Audiovisual Media Services Directive and delete from it the only article on accessibility, so if nothing changes, accessibility of audiovisual media services will not be covered by any of the directives.

EDF calls for a stronger article on accessibility with clear and mandatory targets in the Audiovisual Media Services Directive. This will be complemented by the detailed accessibility requirements for audiovisual media services in the European Accessibility Act. It is not a question of one or the other – both proposals are complementary in ensuring that audiovisual services and e-books are accessible for persons with disabilities. The long-awaited European Accessibility Act would complement - not replace - sector-specific accessibility requirements in EU law, such as those in the Audiovisual Media Services Directive. The Act adds clarity to what “ accessibility” means to a level of detail that cannot be expected of sector-specific legislation such as the Audiovisual Media Services Directive.

  • Making audiovisual media accessible conflicts with the protection of cultural diversity

However, accessibility does not conflict with the protection of cultural diversity; the content of a TV programme, a film or a digital book will never change because of being accessible. It will simply allow more people to access cultural activities. Moreover, accessibility won’t be a barrier for small producers as the Accessibility Act has safeguards for them.

BACKGROUND

The European Accessibility Act is a long-awaited law which will provide requirements to make products and services accessible for persons with disabilities in the European Union (EU). Last December, the European Commission published its proposal of the Act which is now discussed by the European Parliament. While at the European Parliament the Internal Market Committee has the main responsibility on the Act, other Committees can also give their opinions or even have exclusive competence on some parts of the proposed law. For example, as mentioned above, the Culture Committee gives its opinion specifically on the accessibility of Audiovisual Media Services.

MORE INFORMATION

Watch the video of the Culture Committee’s vote

European Commission’s proposal for the European Accessibility Act

EDF’s initial response on the European Commission’s proposal for the Act

EDF's statement on the proposal for the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive

EDF response to the European Commission's public consultation on the Audiovisual Media Services Directive

EDF’s campaign on Freedom of Movement

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