Last week (31st August), the European Commission published a Eurobarometer survey on “Cross-border access to online content”. The survey came up with some interesting results.
Vice-President Ansip frequently mentions that 20% of European internet users use VPNs and that one of the main reasons they do this is to access content unavailable in their country. The latest survey comes up with a somewhat different figure. Only 8% of those consulted had even tried to access online services targeted at another European country. Of those 8%, 22% had experienced some difficulty accessing the content but had found a way, for example, by using a VPN. 22% of 8% is not the same as one fifth of all internet users.
The striking thing for us is the answers of those who hadn’t tried to access content in another member state. 54% claimed it was because they aren’t interested in accessing online content from another country. When pressed further on what kind of non-national content they might be interested in accessing, 47% said they were not interested in accessing any non-nationally available content. 50% were interested in accessing some form of content, with audiovisual the most popular at 29%.
This is the issue that needs tackling. How can we increase the interest among Europeans for European works from neighbouring countries? This is what would help develop a real, sustainable digital single market with benefits for everyone. Simply catering for the 8% who have tried to access any sort of content across borders is not going to bring about a revolution with large numbers of Spaniards watching hours of Polish films.
To be fair, the Commission is doing something about this already. The observation that European works are not travelling well enough is not a new one. The Media programme is a relatively small programme but it plays a vital role in helping the distribution of European works.
On top of the Media Programme, the Audiovisual Media Services Directive also includes provisions on promoting European works both for broadcasters and on-demand platforms. The Commission is currently consulting on the Directive so maybe the result of that can be new impetus in ensuring European works are visible and actively promoted, particularly on on-demand platforms.