Plattformregulierung, symbolisiert durch eine Smart-TV-Bedienungsoberfläche

Platform Regulation

The purpose of platform regulation is to ensure diversity of the content offered on media platforms. As this is an area of great importance to forming public opinion, platform regulation covers a range of matters – from findability to accessibility.

Objectives of platform regulation

Television viewers should be able to freely use the diverse broadcasting services. Consequently, the Media Authorities regulate the platform providers or operators. An organisation is considered to be a platform provider if it bundles broadcast programmes and comparable, i.e. broadcast-style telemedia into one complete package to offer it to customers.

In other words, platforms bundle different media services. Because this involves making choices and the platforms are the interface between viewers and programme makers, they are monitored by the media services to assess accessibility and findability of the media services. Examples of platform providers include cable network operators such as Vodafone and OTT providers such as Zattoo.

Broadcasting and telemedia providers should be granted equal access to the digital transmission channels. There are hardly any capacity problems these days, which essentially means that all broadcast services can obtain platform access. The requirements therefore concentrate on a small number of programmes that must be transmitted (so-called Must Carry).

Platform regulation is intended to ensure that all providers of broadcast content are subject to the same commercial terms for accessing the platforms. This requires the platform operator to treat all content in a non-discriminatory manner.

Platform regulation serves to guarantee open access, equal opportunities and non-discrimination; thereby ultimately allowing unrestricted opinion-forming.

Platform providers

Platform providers must submit notification about their platforms to one of the 14 Media Authorities. The Media Authority will then examine the platform notification and forward it to the ZAK. The ZAK directors will decide whether the platform complies with the Interstate Broadcasting Treaty and if so, which type of platform it concerns.

An operator of digital cable networks is one example of a typical platform provider. Platforms on the open internet are exempt from certain regulatory requirements if they do not occupy a dominant position on the market.

Definition of a platform provider

Pursuant to Article 2 Paragraph 2 No. 19 of the Interstate Media Treaty, “provider of a media platform means someone who is responsible for selecting the offers of a media platform".

User interfaces and programme lists

The user interface provided by a platform provider, such as an Electronic Programme Guide (EPG), significantly influences the ease with which viewers can find television programmes. As a user interface, it stands between users and programme providers and can therefore influence formation of opinions. Any platform provider that offers an EPG must therefore ensure that programmes are displayed in a neutral manner, in turn to ensure equal findability. For instance, this is possible by offering several lists with different sorting criteria (by genre, alphabetically, etc.) or by enabling users to change the channel sequence and creating a Favorites list.

Since the entry into force of the State Media Treaty, Platform regulation also covers user interfaces of smart TVs or set-top boxes.

programme lists

Equal opportunities in keeping with commercial terms

The requirement for equal opportunities and non-discrimination applies not only to how the programmes are displayed on user interfaces, but also to the commercial terms applicable to the dissemination of broadcasting content.

The network operators' fee models for placement of the broadcasting content must take these stipulations into account for the benefit of diversity. Small-scale broadcasters with a limited reach and which essentially also contribute to diversity, must have a genuine opportunity to participate in the different models, the same as those with a wider reach.

Complaints in this regard can be submitted to the ZAK. The ZAK will not examine the actual quantity in the fee that a broadcaster must pay for having its content transmitted. Instead, it investigates how the terms are structured for the different broadcasters.