Brussels, 11 December 2007
The Commission sent Italy today a letter of formal notice for violating EU advertising rules under the Television without Frontiers Directive. This is the first stage of the EU's infringements proceedings in this case.
"Broadcasters need advertising and advertisers need broadcasters, but we must also have effective consumer protection. What we actually need is responsible advertising," said Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media. "If Europe is to benefit from the less detailed and more flexible advertising rules of the forthcoming Audiovisual Media Services without frontiers Directive, Italy, like all Member States, has to respect and comply fully with the EU rules in force."
Italy has not taken the necessary steps to implement correctly and ensure effective compliance with the rules of the EU's Television without Frontiers Directive. Independent monitoring revealed that Italian broadcasters do not comply with the Directive's quantitative advertising rules, in particular the hourly 12 minute limit for advertising, the rule on 20 minute minimum intervals between advertising breaks and the rule on inserting advertising in films. Italian legislation does not include teleshopping spots in the hourly limit for advertising – which leads to more advertising than allowed by the Directive – and also does not respect the minimum duration of 15 minutes allowed by the Directive for "teleshopping windows" (i.e. teleshopping programmes on a generalist TV channel). Moreover, in contrast to the Directive, self-promotion – including advertising by broadcasters for their own programmes or products – is not considered to be advertising under Italian law. This results in programmes like news being unduly interrupted and longer advertising breaks, in violation of the Directive's rules limiting insertion of advertising. In addition, basic advertising rules of the Directive, like those ensuring respect for human dignity and non-discrimination, do not apply to self-promotional messages broadcast on Italian TV.
The effectiveness of the procedure foreseen in Italian legislation for penalising breaches of the TV advertising rules has also been called into question by the Commission, as it is too weak to have a deterrent effect and to protect efficiently consumers in Italy.
The Commission has therefore sent Italy a letter of formal notice outlining their incorrect implementation and non-respect of the Television without Frontiers Directive. The Italian government has two months to respond to the concerns expressed by the Commission.
The "Television without Frontiers" Directive was adopted originally in 1989
and revised in 1997 (see IP/97/552).
On 13 December 2005 the Commission proposed modernising the Directive to address
significant technological and market developments in audiovisual media services
Political agreement was reached on this new Audiovisual Media Services Directive
on 24 May 2007 (see IP/07/706)
and the final text was voted by the European Parliament on 29 November 2007 (see
The Directive, which will have to be transposed into national legislation by the
end of 2009, provides a minimum set of common rules across the EU to encourage a
healthy and responsible single market for television and for all audiovisual
media services. The Directive reaffirms important elements of the current
Television without Frontiers Directive such as the hourly 12 minute limit for