Brussels, 17 March 2005
A pan-European drive to combat incitement to hatred in broadcasts was agreed by national broadcasting regulators meeting in Brussels today on the initiative of EU Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding. Measures agreed by the broadcasting regulators include stepping up information exchange and cooperation to ensure that EU rules which guarantee freedom of the media on the one hand and prohibit broadcasts which contain an incitement to hatred on the other hand, are enforced swiftly, effectively and consistently. The case of the Al Manar and, more recently, Sahar 1 channels, prohibited by the French authorities for inciting racial hatred, illustrate the need to act in concert to combat racial and religious hatred both in Europe and in other parts of the world. The broadcasting regulators called on the European Commission to take this issue into account when proposing a modernisation of the EU “Television without Frontiers” Directive later this year.
Welcoming the agreement, Commissioner Viviane Reding underlined the principles governing the common EU approach: “The right to freedom of speech and freedom to information, enshrined in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, and now also entrenched in the EU Constitution, is a cornerstone of a democratic and pluralist society, especially in the audiovisual field. However, the respect of human dignity is a European value of equal importance. We therefore cannot tolerate racist audiovisual content in Europe.”
To ensure that EU rules are applied effectively, regulators from the 25 EU Member States, the candidate countries and the countries of the European Economic Area agreed to exchange information, via national contact points on which channels are authorised in their respective jurisdictions. In the medium term, they could interconnect their channel authorisation databases, or even establish a central database, and set up a restricted internet forum in which to discuss problematic cases.
The Commission undertook to address this issue in its modernisation of the “Television without Frontiers” Directive and to bring it up in relations with all countries bordering the EU.
Incitement to hatred on grounds of race, sex, religion or nationality is prohibited by EU law and notably Article 22a of the “Television without Frontiers”’ Directive of 1989. In accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, it is up to the EU Member States to ensure that this rule is respected. Member States and the competent regulatory authorities are responsible for channels under their jurisdiction, which includes television channels from third countries if they use either a frequency, satellite capacity or an uplink which is under the control of that Member State.
This division of tasks means that close cooperation among national regulatory authorities and the Commission is essential to ensure that the Directive is implemented correctly. “The Commission has always attached great importance to the work of national broadcasting authorities and I am sure that we can find effective ways of further deepening our cooperation”, added Commissioner Reding.
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