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Brussels, 26 July 2002

Television : cross-border access to programmes is sometimes restricted by intellectual property rights

A considerable number of European citizens would like to obtain access, via satellite, to television programmes other than those originating in the Member State in which they reside, but are unable to do so. On a technical level, there is no problem broadcasting programmes by satellite beyond national borders, but the problems of accessing these broadcasts are often linked to ensuring that there is suitable cross-border protection of the rights of the creators of the programmes concerned. In contrast, the cross-border broadcasting of programmes by cable encounters far fewer problems. These are the main conclusions of the report which the Commission has adopted on the application within Member States of Directive 93/83/EEC, which enables creators and producers of audiovisual works as well as broadcasting bodies to benefit fully from the Internal Market.

According to the Internal Market Commissioner, Frits Bolkestein, « it is a basic principle of the free movement of services, and therefore of the Internal Market, that customers who wish to obtain a cross-border service are able to do so, if the service provider is able to provide it at an affordable price. We should give all Europeans the opportunity of keeping in touch with the culture of their country of origin or of discovering other cultures and other European languages by being able to watch television broadcasts from other Member States.»

The free movement of television services can take place only if creators are protected by a system of fair payment for any cross-border cable or satellite broadcast, and if the broadcasting bodies are able to broadcast the material in a context of total legal certainty.

This initial report on the application of the Directive has been adopted at a time when citizens are showing a marked interest in accessing television programmes other than those originating from the Member State in which they reside, either in order to stay in touch with their country of origin or to discover other European cultures.

According to the information available to the Commission, it appears that difficulties persist, particularly with regard to the satellite broadcasting of certain programmes: to the extent that the intellectual property rights for these programmes cannot be protected and that they can therefore be broadcast only in the Member State in which the broadcaster is established, broadcasting is restricted to that particular Member State.

The report also considers cable broadcasting, and puts forward proposals to improve the mechanism for settling disputes. In addition, it explains the benefit, for the Internal Market, of establishing a single point for the transfer of intellectual property rights.

This report marks the initial stage in a process of research and reflection to improve the movement of audiovisual services within the European Union, at a time when the information society is playing an increasingly important role in people's lives. This process will be continued, in the autumn, with the launch of working sessions, in close cooperation with the various interested parties and representatives of the relevant national authorities.

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