Brussels, 7th January 2003
What changes will be made to the Community's audiovisual policy? Work programme for reviewing the "Television without frontiers" Directive
On a proposal from Viviane Reding, the Commissioner responsible for culture and audiovisual affairs, the College today adopted a report on the application of the "Television without Frontiers" (TVSF) Directive, together with a work programme for 2003 aimed at reviewing the Directive. The latter was adopted in 1989 and amended in 1997. The 2003 work programme will consist of a series of consultations with a view to arriving at operational conclusions on the relevance bearing in mind economic and technological developments of the existing Community rules, in particular concerning matters such as access to events of major importance to society, the promotion of cultural diversity, television advertising and the protection of minors.
As Viviane Reding has stated, "The Community's audiovisual policy has a dual aim. On the one hand, it concerns the internal market and the industry itself, the objective being to ensure the free movement of programmes within the Community and strengthen the European audiovisual industry. However, it also has a cultural and social objective, since it is also designed to protect certain general interests, both of the population as a whole and of specific social groups. I believe this dual aim should be maintained and that the TVSF directive is well adapted to the current economic and technological situation of the audiovisual industry in Europe".
She then went on to say: "But we have to look ahead: what framework will the audiovisual industry need by the end of this decade? Over the last two years, I have had intensive consultations with both politicians and experts. The work programme which the College adopted today is the product of these consultations. I hope the debate will produce concrete guidelines that will enable me to submit a communication to the College at the end of 2003 clarifying certain points and, if necessary, proposing major or minor changes to the TVSF Directive".
Application of the TVSF Directive: satisfactory overall picture
The report adopted by the Commission begins by drawing a picture of the audiovisual landscape in Europe. Apart from the well-documented explosion in the number of channels (there were over 660 with national coverage at the beginning of 2001, a number that has probably now risen to over 800), it finds that an increasing number of channels are received in more than one EU country, mainly via satellite. However, despite this huge increase in the domestic and transnational supply of programmes, the average viewer's behaviour shows little change: there has been no switch to new media at the expense of television watching; the TV audience is concentrated around a limited number of channels; the respective market shares of public and private channels have remained stable.
Another finding is the weak presence of terrestrial digital television in the EU whereas increasing numbers of viewers receive digital programmes via satellite, with more than 19 million households connected out of the 33 million that receive their programmes via satellite (49 million households receive programmes by cable).
As for content, there has been an increase in "prime time" broadcasting of domestic TV fiction and "reality shows", while fiction products from the United States maintain a strong showing at other times. In 2000, our trade deficit with the United States on the television rights market was 4 billion dollars (8 billion dollars for all audiovisual services).
Radio and television turnover in the EU in 2000 was around EUR 62 billion, whereas the television advertising market amounted to around EUR 22 billion.
The TVSF Directive has now been properly transposed in all the Member States. How is it being applied?
Review of the TVSF Directive: main themes of the work programme
The work programme will be implemented by means of a vast public consultation exercise in the Member States and candidate countries.
In terms of the future of European regulation, two general considerations must be taken into account: the scope of regulation and the linkages between the various relevant Community instruments.
The discussions will focus, inter alia, on linkages between legislative measures, co-regulation and self-regulation. Some of the general interests protected by the Directive may be protected more effectively through a more direct involvement of the actors in the sector, either by supplementing regulation with commitments that they enter into or by relying on self-regulation.
Apart from these general considerations, the consultation exercise will deal with the following specific themes:
Context of the TVSF Directive: linkage with the MEDIA Plus programme and its future the possibility of an "audiovisual package"
The TVSF Directive is not the only element in the internal dimension of the EU's audiovisual policy. It has to operate in conjunction with other instruments. Here, mention should be made of the 1998 Recommendation on the protection of minors in audiovisual and information services, which calls on the Member States, broadcasters, on-line service providers and the industry to develop and implement parental control measures and codes of conduct.
In addition, the MEDIA Plus programme (2001-2005) provides financial support for the development of the European audiovisual industry and the promotion of cultural diversity (see, for example, IP/02/104 of 23 May 2002), while the joint "i2i Audiovisual" initiative of the Commission, the European Investment Bank and the European Investment Fund seeks to strengthen funding of the sector and facilitate its transition to digital technologies.
The conclusion of the work programme will coincide with the date on which the Commission is to present a proposal on the programme that is to succeed MEDIA Plus in 2006, and with the adoption of a report evaluating the Recommendation on the protection of minors. If, as a result of the work programme, the Commission were to propose amendments to the TVSF Directive, an "audiovisual package" would be submitted to the College at the end of 2003 or the beginning of 2004.