Thursday, March 8, 2007

European Commission Charts "Television without Frontiers" Directive

The European Commission reported growing consensus about the future legal framework for Europe's audiovisual sector as outlined in a modernized "Television without Frontiers" Directive under consideration by the European Parliament.

The goal to create a new level-playing field in Europe for emerging audiovisual media services (video on demand, mobile TV, audiovisual services on digital TV). European TV- and filmmakers will be given more flexibility to produce digital content which they can then make freely available to consumers thanks to advertising. The new Directive would also reaffirm the pillars of Europe's audiovisual model, which are cultural diversity, protection of minors, consumer protection, media pluralism, and the fight against racial and religious hatred,. The Commission also proposes to ensure the independence of national media regulators. The consolidated text of the new Directive will now go into a second reading by the European Parliament and Council.

At the heart of the new Directive is the country of origin principle, which was already the cornerstone of the original "Television without Frontiers" Directive of 1989. This principle has played a pivotal role in boosting cross-border satellite TV and the progressive establishment of pan-European TV channels since the end of the 1980s.

The EC believes this country of origin principle will in future also ensure that audiovisual media service providers other than broadcasters (such as providers of video-on-demand, news-on-demand, sport-on-demand or providers of downloadable audiovisual content for mobiles) will have to comply only with the legislation of the country where they are established, and not with 27 different national legal systems.

The new Directive also enhances media pluralism in the 27 EU Member States by opening up national media markets to more competition from other EU countries and by facilitating a diversified offer of TV- and audiovisual on-demand content from all over Europe.

Under the new Directive, rules on TV advertising are to be less detailed than they have been since 1989. In line with the drive for better regulation by the Barroso Commission, the decision on when and how to interrupt free-to-air TV programmes by advertising is left to broadcasters and filmmakers and not predetermined in Brussels. The overall quantity of advertising remains limited to 12-minutes in any given hour. Films, children's programmes, current affairs programmes and news are not to be interrupted by adverts more than once every 30 minutes.

"Thanks to the ambitious work of the European Parliament and the intense efforts of the German Presidency over the past months, Europe's new legal framework for a more competitive, more diverse and more pluralistic audiovisual media sector is now within reach," said Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding. "I am confident that we will now achieve political agreement on the new "Audiovisual Without Frontiers" Directive by the end of May. Europe's internal market would then be truly open for providers and consumers of audiovisual services by the end of 2008 at the latest."

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