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Television broadcasting activities: "Television without Frontiers" (TVWF) Directive

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The "Television Without Frontiers" Directive (TVWF Directive) is the cornerstone of the European Union's audiovisual policy. It rests on two basic principles: the free movement of European television programmes within the internal market and the requirement for TV channels to reserve, whenever possible, more than half of their transmission time for European works ("broadcasting quotas"). The TVWF Directive also safeguards certain important public interest objectives, such as cultural diversity, the protection of minors and the right of reply. In December 2005 the Commission submitted a proposal to revise the TVWF Directive.

ACT

Council Directive 89/552/EEC of 3 October 1989 on the coordination of certain provisions laid down by law, regulation or administrative action in Member States concerning the pursuit of television broadcasting activities. [See amending acts]

SUMMARY

DIRECTIVE 89/552/EEC - "TELEVISION WITHOUT FRONTIERS"

The Directive aims to ensure the free movement of broadcasting services within the internal market and at the same time to preserve certain public interest objectives, such as cultural diversity, the right of reply, consumer protection and the protection of minors. It is also intended to promote the distribution and production of European audiovisual programmes, for example by ensuring that they are given a majority position in television channels' programme schedules.

General principle

The Directive establishes the principle that Member States must ensure freedom of reception and that they may not restrict retransmission on their territory of television programmes from other Member States. They may, however, suspend retransmission of television programmes which infringe the Directive's provisions on the protection of minors.

Broadcasting and production quotas

In order to encourage the distribution and production of European television programmes, Member States must ensure where practicable that broadcasters reserve for European works a majority proportion of their transmission time, excluding the time allocated to news, sports events, games, advertising and teletext and teleshopping services (Article 4).

Broadcasters must also reserve at least 10% of their transmission time or 10% of their programming budget for European works from independent producers (Article 5).

The Commission is responsible for ensuring compliance with these two provisions. Member States are therefore required to provide it with a report every two years, including a statistical statement on fulfilment of the quotas referred to in Articles 4 and 5.

Under certain circumstances, Member States are authorised to lay down stricter rules where necessary for purposes of language policy.

Television advertising and sponsorship

The provisions on advertising relate to:

  • duration: 15% maximum of daily transmission time, 20% maximum within a given one-hour period;
  • procedures for interrupting programmes;
  • ethical considerations (in particular the protection of minors);
  • compliance with certain criteria concerning advertisements for alcoholic beverages.

Advertising of tobacco and prescription medicines is prohibited.

Sponsorship of television programmes is permitted, provided it complies with certain rules. The sponsorship must not affect the broadcaster's editorial independence. In addition, sponsored television programmes must not encourage the purchase of the sponsor's products or services. Lastly, news and current affairs programmes may not be sponsored.

Protection of minors

Programmes involving pornography or extreme violence are prohibited. This ban applies to all other programmes which are likely to harm minors, unless they are broadcast at a time when they will not normally be seen by minors or protective technical measures are in place.

Right of reply

Any person whose legitimate interests have been damaged by an assertion of incorrect facts in a television programme must have a right of reply. This right shall exist in relation to all broadcasters under the jurisdiction of a Member State.

REVISED DIRECTIVE OF 1997

In June 1997, the European Parliament and the Council adopted a new "Television Without Frontiers" Directive which aims to ensure greater legal certainty and to update the initial rules. The main elements of this revision relate to the following points:

  • principle of jurisdiction: the Member State responsible for television channels is determined by the location of the head office and the place where programming decisions are made;
  • events of major importance for society (such as sporting events): the revised Directive sets out conditions allowing events which are considered to be of major importance for society to be broadcast freely to the public. Each Member State may therefore draw up a list of events which have to be broadcast in unencoded form, even if exclusive rights have been purchased by pay-TV channels;
  • teleshopping: teleshopping is subject to most of the rules relating to television advertising. Windows for teleshopping programmes broadcast by a general channel must be of a minimum duration of 15 minutes and be clearly identifiable. The maximum number of windows per day is eight, and their total duration must not exceed three hours per day;
  • protection of minors: the revised Directive places greater emphasis on the protection of minors. It specifies, for example, that Member States must ensure that programmes which are likely to impair the development of minors and are broadcast in unencoded form are to be preceded by an acoustic warning or identified by a visual symbol.

REVISION UNDER WAY

The TVWF Directive has been the subject of a review procedure since 2001, which has involved a number of phases..

Fourth report on the application of the TVWF Directive

The process of updating the rules on audiovisual content and services was effectively launched with the fourth Communication [COM(2002) 778 final] on the application of the TVWF Directive. The report analyses the main effects of the application of the Directive in 2001 and 2002. On the whole, the report's assessment of the application of the TVWF Directive is satisfactory.

The report is accompanied by a work programme setting out the specific themes in need of more thorough examination. These were the subject of an extensive public consultation in the Member States and the candidate countries in 2003.

Public consultation in 2003

The public consultation focused on several themes including the promotion of cultural diversity and the competitiveness of the European audiovisual programme industry, advertising rules, the protection of minors and public order.

The Commission received a considerable number of replies. Most recognise that the Directive was a satisfactory and flexible regulatory instrument for the Member States and that it had had a favourable effect on the free circulation of televisual services within the European Union. However, they also highlighted the need to examine certain aspects in more detail, such as the diversity of national legislation, new advertising techniques and the protection of minors in the context of the on-line environment.).

Communication on "The Future of European Regulatory Audiovisual Policy"

In December 2003, the Commission published the conclusions of the public consultation in a communication entitled " The future of European Regulatory Audiovisual Policy ".

The communication proposed a dual approach for the review process:

  • short term: adoption of an interpretative communication on the provisions of the TVWF Directive's provisions relating to television advertising and publication of an updated recommendation on the protection of minors.
  • medium term: more in-depth examination of a number of issues. To this end, the Commission has consulted experts and has ordered independent studies.

Focus groups and independent studies

Focus groups met in 2004 and 2005. Their work centred on:

  • the scope of future regulations on audiovisual content;
  • establishing legal competence;
  • the regulation of advertising;
  • the right to information;
  • the promotion of European content.

In parallel, studies were carried out into:

  • the impact of the development of new advertising techniques [PDF ];
  • the impact of measures concerning the promotion of the distribution and production of television programmes under the TVWF Directive;
  • co-regulatory measures in the media sector;
  • the regulatory treatment of interactive television.

Towards new Community legislation on audiovisual content

In December 2007 the Commission presented revised TVWF Directive. Its main aim is to update the current rules to take account of technological and market developments in the European audiovisual sector.

It also aims to relax the current rules, in particular on advertising and draw a distinction between "linear" services (conventional television, Internet, mobile telephony) and "non-linear" services (on-demand television and information).

REFERENCES

ActEntry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Directive 89/552/EEC03.10.1991-OJ L 298 of 17.10.1989

Amending act(s)Entry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Directive 97/36/EC [adoption: codecision COD/1995/0074]30.07.1997-OJ L 202 of 30.07.1997
Directive 2007/65/EC19.12.200719.12.2009OJ L 332 of 18.12.2007

RELATED ACTS

REPORTS ON THE APPLICATION OF THE DIRECTIVE

Every two years the European Commission presents a report on the application of the "TVWF" Directive.

  • Fifth Report COM(2006) 49 final - [not published in the Official Journal];
  • Fourth Report COM(2002) 778 final - [not published in the Official Journal];
  • Third Report COM(2001) 9 final- [not published in the Official Journal];
  • Second Report COM(97) 523 final- [not published in the Official Journal];
  • Report COM(95) 86 final- [not published in the Official Journal].

REPORTS ON THE APPLICATION OF ARTICLES 4 AND 5 (BROADCASTING AND PRODUCTION QUOTAS)

Member States are required to submit to the Commission every two years a report on the application of Articles 4 and 5 of the Directive. On the basis of these national reports, the Commission draws up a summary report highlighting the extent to which Member States have applied the provisions of Articles 4 and 5.

Sixth Communication of 14 August 2006 on the application of Articles 4 and 5 of Directive 89/552/EEC "Television without Frontiers" as amended by Directive 97/36/EC, for the period 2003-2004 - [COMM(2006 459) - Not published in the Official Journal].

The average broadcasting time reserved for European works by European TV broadcasters was almost 65% in 2003 and about 63% in 2004. Therefore, for the first time, the level of programming of European material has fallen slightly in Europe.

However two factors should be taken into account here:

  • for the first time, the 2004 figures included data from the ten new Member States in which neither broadcasters nor regulatory authorities had experience in applying Article 4;
  • the method of calculation has been altered inasmuch as secondary channels with audience shares below 3% are now included in the average proportions of European works.

The Commission therefore emphasises that, notwithstanding the slightly downward short-term trend, scheduling of European works has stabilised in the EU at a level of over 60% of total transmission time.

The proportion of works by independent producers broadcast substantially increased on all European channels during the reference period (about 31.5 %). However the previous reference periods were marked by a significant downward trend in broadcasting this type of programme. By contrast, the average proportion of recent European works by independent producers is increasing on television channels in the Member States.

Sixth Communication of 28 July 2004 on the application of Articles 4 and 5 of Directive 89/552/EEC "Television without Frontiers" as amended by Directive 97/36/EC, for the period 2001-2002 - [not published in the Official Journal].


In this report the Commission gives a very positive account of the application of Articles 4 and 5 of the Directive. The report shows that, as regards the programming of European works, the average broadcasting time was almost 67% in 2001 and 66% in 2002, which is well above the threshold of 50% prescribed by the TVWF Directive. The production of European works by independent producers has stabilised at one third of the total authorised broadcasting time or, in general terms, at 50% of all European works (by independent producers and others). This is well above the 10% set by the Directive.

Fifth Communication COM(2002) 612 final - [not published in the Official Journal].
Period 1999 and 2000.

Fourth Communication COM(2000) 442 (01) [not published in the Official Journal]. Period 1997 and 1998.

Third Communication COM(98) 199 final [not published in the Official Journal].
Period 1995 and 1996.

Second Communication COM(96) 302 final [not published in the Official Journal].
Period 1993 and 1994.

Communication COM(94) 57 final [not published in the Official Journal].
Period 1991 and 1992.

Last updated: 09.09.2008

See also

Further information is available on the European Commission's Audiovisual and Media policy website .

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