Legal foundations, organizations and
Society’s approach to youth media protection and media education is linked to various expectations, positions, conventions, regulations and laws.
We put togehter the basics, details and the current state of knowledge.
In Germany there is a complex network of regulations in youth media protection. Additionally there are european and international standards to think of. Get an overview of the important legal frameworks and regulations.
The German Interstate Treaty on the Protection of Human Dignity and the Protection of Minors in Broadcasting and in Telemedia (JMStV) came into force as an interstate treaty between the German federal states on 1 April 2003. It defines the standards of protection for broadcasting and telemedia. On 7 November 2020, amendments to the Interstate Treaty on the Protection of Minors in the Media (JMStV) came into force. Main elements of the modification of the JMStV are new regulations for video-sharing services such as YouTube, announcement and labelling obligations for programmes distributed in telemedia as well as requirements for advertising of unhealthy food in the environment of children’s programmes.
The Interstate Treaty on Media has been ratified by all 16 German federal states and came into force in 2020. The MStV replaces the Interstate Treaty on Broadcasting (Rundfunkstaatsvertrag) and is an essential part of the national efforts to modernise the media landscape and to make the German legislative framework fit for the next level of digital media.
On 1 April 2003, the German Act on the Dissemination of Publications Harmful to Young Persons (GjS) and the German Act on the Protection of Young Persons in Public Life (JÖSchG) were replaced by the JuSchG. This is a federal law and includes, among other things, the legal provisions for the protection of young people in carrier media (representational communication media, offline products). It also governs the various brackets for age labelling.
The modified version came into force on 1 May 2021.
The purpose of the TMG is, among other things, the ongoing development of German regulation of the media through the consolidation of the business-oriented regulations governing teleservices and media services. To take into account new services evolving both in business terms and technologically, the underlying parameters for electronic commerce are in future to be kept open to further development, irrespective of the distribution method, making them easier to manage for providers and users alike.
The German Criminal Code is a federal law containing a wide variety of penal provisions applicable in Germany. Included here are elements that impose limits on, or prohibit disseminating or making available certain types of content over the Internet. Many infringements of the law governing youth media protection are sanctioned as regulatory offences, either additionally or solely.
The StGB and the OWiG are available on the German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection website.
Providers of telemedia must ensure in particular that their content offers do not breach the following provisions:
- Articles 86, 86a StGB: Dissemination of propaganda material of unconstitutional organisations and using symbols of unconstitutional organisations
- Article 111 StGB: Public incitement to commit criminal acts
- Article 129 StGB: Supporting or recruiting for a criminal organisation
- Article 129a StGB: Forming, being involved in, supporting or recruiting for a terrorist organisation
- Article 130 StGB: Incitement of the people
- Article 130a StGB: Instructions to commit criminal acts
- Article 131 StGB: Depictions of violence
- Article 184 StGB: Ordinary pornography
- Article 184a StGB: Violent pornography or animal pornography
- Article 184b StGB: Child pornography
- Article 184c StGB: Juvenile pornography
- Article 184d StGB: Distribution of pornographic performances by broadcasting, media services or telecommunications services
- Article 120 OWiG: Soliciting for prostitution
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is one of the Human Rights Conventions of the United Nations and is the most important human rights instrument for children. Among the obligations it creates for contracting states worldwide is one to take steps to protect children from all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse.
The Directive on combating the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and child pornography applies in the European Union. Within the EU, it harmonises the definition of a criminal offence in relation to the sexual abuse and exploitation of children, and contains provisions for combating child pornography on the Internet. It also determines minimum rules for sanctions and regulates some aspects of prevention and of providing assistance for victims.
The Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) coordinates legislation for the audiovisual media market throughout Europe. The aim is to harmonise and simplify the cross-border provision of audiovisual media services. The directive is based on the “Television Without Frontiers” Directive (TVWF Directive) from 1989, which was limited to the regulation of television broadcasting. In 2007, the scope of the directive was extended with the growing importance of internet services (Directive 2010/13/EU, renamed: Audiovisual Media Services Directive). In 2015, the EU Commission announced the revision of the AVMSD in order to take account of the changed audiovisual media landscape. The revised directive was published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 28 November 2018 (Synopsis of Institute of European Media Law). The requirements must be transposed into national law by 19 September 2020. The directive lays down requirements for TV broadcasts, on-demand services and also for video platforms, for example legal requirements concerning youth media protection such as the protection of minors from inappropriate content (cf. Art. 6a, Art. 28b).
The Directive on electronic commerce unifies provisions within the EU concerning various aspects of electronic commerce. It contains no special precepts for the protection of minors, concerning itself instead with the regulation of aspects of electronic commerce that are of equal importance for all consumers, such as advertising, online orders and contracts, and the liability of service providers.
Who is who
Numerous institutions, organisations and supervisory bodies are responsible for or involved in the protection of minors in Germany. We provide an overview of the most important organs.
The 14 state media authorities in Germany are responsible for the approval, supervision, building up and further development of private radio and television in Germany and for supervision in the telemedia sector, in particular the Internet. For the coordination and fine-tuning of basic issues extending across state borders, the media authorities collaborate in a variety of committees and commissions. Since 16 March 2011, these collective bodies and committees of the state media authorities have been operating under the name “die medienanstalten” (“the media authorities”).
The Commission for the Protection of Minors in the Media is a central authority responsible for the implementation of the JMStV in broadcasting and telemedia. The KJM is made up of 12 members: six delegated from among the directors of the state media authorities, four from the supreme state authorities responsible for youth protection and two from the supreme federal authorities responsible for the same area.
jugendschutz.net is an institution operating across state borders and set up as a joint authority by the Youth Ministers of all the federal states. In organisational terms, it is linked to the German Commission for the Protection of Minors in the Media (KJM). jugendschutz.net is responsible for the checking of Internet content offers. If it finds any breaches of the provisions of the JMStV while carrying out these checks, it informs the KJM and, if necessary, the responsible self-regulation organisation.
The German Association for Voluntary Self-Regulation of Digital Media Service Providers (FSM e. V.) is a non-profit registered association concerned with the protection of young people in online media. The FSM has been an officially recognised voluntary self-regulation association since 2005 and as such is part of the regulated self-regulation system that operates in Germany.
The Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle Fernsehen (Voluntary Self-Regulation of Television, FSF) is an association whose members are among Germany’s largest commercial television broadcasters. Providers submit their programming to the FSF examining boards for review. Based on the youth media provisions in force in Germany, independent examiners decide at what time a particular programme may be broadcast and what content is not admissible.
The Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle der Filmwirtschaft (Voluntary Self-Regulation of the Film Industry, FSK) is responsible for carrying out age rating checks for films, videocassettes, DVDs and similar picture carriers that it is planned to present or distribute. The age ratings decided by the FSK govern the presence of children and adolescents at public presentations and whether or not pictures carriers may be released to the relevant age group. The FSK has also been recognised under the German Interstate Treaty on the Protection of Minors in the Media (JMStV) since September 2012.
Together with the supreme state youth authorities, the USK is responsible for the age labelling of computer games. These are examined with a view to their approval for specific age groups. Age ratings for computer games have been required by law since 1 April 2004, which means they must have an age label before they can be distributed. In addition to recognition under the Germany Protection of Young Persons Act (JuSchG) for this form of carrier medium, the USK has also been recognised under the German Interstate Treaty on the Protection of Minors in the Media (JMStV) since September 2011.
The German Press Council is the voluntary self-regulation organisation of the print media. The Council handles complaints about editorial publications and the behaviour of journalists on the basis of a press code developed itself and containing the basic principles of journalism and guidelines for editorial work.
The German Advertising Council is an industry body founded by the Zentralverband der Deutschen Werbewirtschaft e. V. (German Advertising Federation, ZAW). It settles conflicts between advertising companies and members of the general population with complaints by passing valid criticisms on to the relevant companies, which must then change or discontinue the advertising in question.
The Centre for Protection against Unfair Competition is an association with decades of experience under its belt. It was founded as a self-regulation organisation for the business community to ensure fair competition. As a cross-sector association of companies and industry organisations, the Centre promotes commercial interests throughout Germany, dealing with complaints and following up violations of the rules of competition.
Annual awareness days
Internationally, there are several annual awareness days that draw attention to the topics of online safety and youth media protection. Here you will find information on the two most important days of action.
In Europe and worldwide
Safer Internet Day (SID) is the international day of action for more online safety. It has taken place every year in February since 2005. Numerous events and actions online and offline are held under the motto “Together for a better Internet”. Actions take place every year in about 180 countries and territories worldwide.
All institutions, educational institutions, youth organisations, associations, companies and private individuals are invited to actively participate in Safer Internet Day. In Germany, Safer Internet Day is coordinated by the EU initiative klicksafe. All activities related to Internet safety can be entered in the klicksafe event overview. In addition, all interested parties are cordially invited to follow the diverse information online, for example, under the hashtag #SaferInternetDay, to like and share posts or to create their own posts and thus help to raise awareness for topics around a better Internet.
FSM and its partners in the Safer Internet DE association provide information about their support services on the occasion of Safer Internet Day.
The next Safer Internet Day will take place on 6 February 2024.
The European Day on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse was initiated by the Council of Europe in 2015 and takes place annually on 18 November. The aim is to raise awareness among people and institutions in Europe to take action online and offline against the sexual exploitation of children.
In cooperation with the partner hotlines of the Safer Internet DE association, FSM uses the action day as an opportunity to answer questions on combating sexual exploitation and sexual violence and to raise awareness for the work of the Internet hotlines.