The EU audiovisual policy must respect various — sometimes contradictory — interests and priorities, such as competition rules (especially regarding State aid), the principles of public service or the enhancement of European culture. The European audiovisual market is also facing a number of problems, including:
- the language barriers preventing free movement of programmes in Europe;
- an unwieldy decision-making process which generally requires unanimity;
- the need to make considerable investment to anticipate technological developments, which requires international alliances and/or mergers.
The EU action in the audiovisual field has developed in two broad directions:
- on the legal front, the Audiovisual Media Services (AMS) Directive, provided a harmonised framework to promote the free movement, production and distribution of European television programmes.
- support schemes through the Community MEDIA programme (Measures to Encourage the Development of the Audiovisual Industry). Set up in 1991, this programme aims to support the European audiovisual industry by encouraging the development and distribution of European works. It also finances schemes to improve the training of professionals in the sector.
The programme currently in place is MEDIA 2007, which has been allocated a budget of almost EUR 755 million and is to cover the period 2007–2013.