Tesla and other carmakers must offer TV channels in Germany

The German media regulator has decided that cars are TVs and radios on wheels. Tesla got special attention and was classified as a “media platform,” which requires reserving a third of its capacities for offerings from public television stations, private TV programs, or regional broadcasters.

The German broadcasting authority ZAK (Commission for Registration and Supervision) concluded that infotainment systems on cars fall under the regulation of the country’s media law and now must include public and regional broadcasters' offerings.

ZAK classified the in-car entertainment systems from Audi, BMW, Mini, and Tesla as user interfaces and additionally classified the “Tesla Media Player” as a media platform.

“In doing so, the ZAK is setting a milestone because, for the first time, the Commission has exercised its duty to supervise the media offerings of car manufacturers,” ZAK said in a press release.

According to Germany’s Interstate Media Treaty, media platform providers “must ensure that within a technical capacity amounting to a maximum of one third of the overall capacity available for the digital transmission of broadcasting.” The capacities must be available to public and commercial television services, regional and local television services, and other public channels.

This is the first time the ZAK has exercised its supervisory duty over the media offerings of car manufacturers, according to heise.de.

User interfaces have obligations to ensure free and non-arbitrary access to media offerings. Public and regional broadcasters must be easy to find on the “user interfaces.”

“The broadcast transmitted via a user interface has to be directly accessible and easy to find in its entirety on the first selection level. Within broadcasting, the statutorily defined contribution-funded programs, the broadcast programs that have to receive the window services, as well as the commercial programs that make a particular state-wide contribution to the diversity of opinions and offers, must be easy to find,” the law requires.

According to this ruling, Tesla must reveal to broadcasters and authorities how allocations and technical implementations are specifically done.

“It may sound strange at first, but it's true: In-car entertainment systems are in the focus of media supervision for good reasons. After all, these interfaces determine which media offerings can reach the ears of listeners in the car. So we are dealing with new gatekeepers, which is why the legislator has consistently placed them under media supervision,” said Dr. Eva Flecken, Chairperson of the ZAK.

For Dr. Thorsten Schmiege, Coordinator of the Committee on Infrastructure and Innovation, “radio plays a central role in the car.”

“It's about access to local news or current warning messages, but also about users who expect to easily find radio and content worth listening to in the car. With these displays, automakers are committing to their responsibility to practically implement media diversity in the car as well. We assume and will also emphatically demand that other automakers follow suit soon,” he reasoned.

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