The protection of minors from harmful content is a matter of strong public interest. Children, and not only the very young, are more vulnerable to influence than adults and, in the modem world, do not always have the guidance of their parents. Traditionally, to deal with this and related questions, societies relied on a practice of public responsibility by licensed broadcasters, or, in some contexts, a public service monopoly, especially in television. Broadcasting regulation supported parental supervision through the establishment of guidelines governing the portrayal of harmful content, the development of a specific programme schedule or watershed policy, and the classification and consequent announcement (acoustic or visual) of programmes.
At the European level, these principles are enshrined in Article 22 of the Television Without Frontiers Directive, as amended in 1997. These approaches, originally established for terrestrially based mass audience channels, became much more difficult to maintain as the sources of television programming multiplied and new technologies made the prospect of regulation far more unmanageable. New mechanisms and paradigms appropriate for a multichannel and digital environment need to be considered.
Worldwide, in the late 1990s, there was a search for alternatives, often for technical devices that would empower parents to make decisions more easily about television within their households. A shift from the state to the home of the instruments of control and responsibility was considered possible. In Canada, the United States, and elsewhere, the device known as the V-chip was adopted as a technique of choice. The question was whether European law should adopt a similar approach. To determine policy in the European Union, in 1997, the European Parliament enacted Article 22b.2 of the amended Television Without Frontiers Directive to carry out an investigation of the possible advantages and drawbacks of further and new measures for facilitating parental or guardian control over the programmes that minors might watch. According to the Directive, this survey was to consider, inter alia, the desirability of requiring new televisions to be equipped with a technical device enabling parents or guardians to fil