TV platforms in Europe ordered to clearly label ads and promoted content

MW
Mike Wheatley

European regulators are clamping down on TVs and other software platforms, insisting that they comply with the EU’s Digital Services Act, which states that “recommendations” and adverts must be labeled as such.

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It’s relevant because Smart TV platforms such as Google TV, webOS and Tizen have recently begun promoting recommended content and ads that promote other content and services much more heavily. The problem is that it’s unclear to viewers if the platform has been paid to promote such content, or if the recommendation is based on their viewing habits.

As an example, Google TV, which powers televisions from brands including Sony, Philips, Xiaomi and TCL to name just a few, constantly provides recommendations and shows ads from partners who pay the company to promote their content on the homescreen.

In a statement this week, the European Commission said it’s aiming to protect users online by insisting that “very large online platforms” are more transparent about advertising and paid promotions. The DSA regulations also extend to content being shown on search engines and social media networks.

The European Commission designates very large online platforms as those that reach 45 million monthly active users or more. They include Alibaba Express, Amazon Store, Apple AppStore, Booking.com, Facebook, Google Play, Google Maps, Google Shopping, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitter, Wikipedia, YouTube and Zalando, as well as the Bing and Google search engines. Each of the 19 platforms now has four months to make sure they comply with the DSA’s rules.

Apple and Google both provide TV services, though the former says its tvOS App Store only reaches one million monthly active users in Europe, so it shouldn’t fall under the DSA rules. However, Apple said it will voluntarily meet the requirements of the act on all of its app stores.

For now, Smart TV platforms such as LG’s webOS and Samsung’s Tizen are not considered to be very large online platforms, but reports say the EU is likely to expand the DSA’s framework to cover those services as well, meaning they would also have to comply at some point.

According to Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice President for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age, the DSA rules are designed to ensure that technology serves consumers, as opposed to consumers serving those platforms.

“The Digital Services Act will bring about meaningful transparency and accountability of platforms and search engines and give consumers more control over their online life,” Vestager said. The designations made today are a huge step forward to making that happen.”