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Boosting the Diversity of European TV- and On-Demand services: Commission paves the way for the new Directive "Audiovisual without Frontiers"

European Commission - IP/07/311   09/03/2007

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IP/07/311

Brussels, 9 March 2007

Boosting the Diversity of European TV- and On-Demand services: Commission paves the way for the new Directive "Audiovisual without Frontiers"

The Commission has unveiled today a consolidated text of the modernised "Television without Frontiers" Directive. After a first reading in the European Parliament and the Council, there is now broad agreement with the Commission about the future legal framework for Europe's audiovisual sector. The new rules, which have been called for especially by the European Parliament, are a response to technological developments and create a new level-playing field in Europe for emerging audiovisual media services (video on demand, mobile TV, audiovisual services on digital TV). European TV- and filmmakers will be given more flexibility to produce digital content which they can then make freely available to consumers thanks to advertising. The new Directive reaffirms the pillars of Europe's audiovisual model, which are cultural diversity, protection of minors, consumer protection, media pluralism, and the fight against racial and religious hatred,. The Commission also proposes to ensure the independence of national media regulators. The consolidated text of the new Directive will now go into a second reading by the European Parliament and Council.

"Thanks to the ambitious work of the European Parliament and the intense efforts of the German Presidency over the past months, Europe's new legal framework for a more competitive, more diverse and more pluralistic audiovisual media sector is now within reach," said Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding. "I am confident that we will now achieve political agreement on the new "Audiovisual Without Frontiers" Directive by the end of May. Europe's internal market would then be truly open for providers and consumers of audiovisual services by the end of 2008 at the latest."

The modernisation of the "Television without Frontiers" Directive of 1989 was proposed by the Commission on 13 December 2005 (see IP/05/1573 and MEMO/06/208) and since then has made rapid progress in the European Parliament and in the Council of Ministers. The new Directive intends to help Europe's audiovisual industry to become more competitive by allowing all audiovisual media services to profit from the internal market, regardless of the transmission technology used. It also introduces more flexible rules for traditional TV broadcasting to accommodate technological and market developments, and changing viewing habits.

At the heart of the new Directive is the country of origin principle, which was already the cornerstone of the original "Television without Frontiers" Directive of 1989. This principle has played a pivotal role in boosting cross-border satellite TV and the progressive establishment of pan-European TV channels since the end of the 1980s. It will in future also ensure that audiovisual media service providers other than broadcasters (such as providers of video-on-demand, news-on-demand, sport-on-demand or providers of downloadable audiovisual content for mobiles) will have to comply only with the legislation of the country where they are established, and not with 27 different national legal systems.

The new Directive also enhances media pluralism in the 27 EU Member States by opening up national media markets to more competition from other EU countries and by facilitating a diversified offer of TV- and audiovisual on-demand content from all over Europe.

Under the new Directive, rules on TV advertising are to be less detailed than they have been since 1989. In line with the drive for better regulation by the Barroso Commission, the decision on when and how to interrupt free-to-air TV programmes by advertising is left to broadcasters and filmmakers and not predetermined in Brussels. The overall quantity of advertising remains limited to 12-minutes in any given hour. Films, children's programmes, current affairs programmes and news are not to be interrupted by adverts more than once every 30 minutes. "New forms of commercial such as product placement have the potential to provide significant revenues for TV broadcasters and the audiovisual industry as a whole," said Commissioner Reding. "I appreciate that both the European Parliament and the Council have supported the Commission's view that here, we need to support the competitiveness of European film, while at the same time clearly excluding product placement from children's programmes, news, documentaries, and current affairs programmes."

The new Directive also reaffirms the common policy objectives which have been at the heart of Europe's audiovisual policy since 1989. It requires Member States to take appropriate measures to protect minors, to promote European works and independent audiovisual productions, and to prohibit content that would incite religious or racial hatred. It also explicitly encourages industry self-regulation and co-regulation between state and non-state (see IP/07/138).

One of the open issues to be discussed in the second reading is the Commission's proposal to guarantee that national regulatory authorities are independent from national governments and from all audiovisual media service providers, and to ensure that they work impartially and transparently. The Commission considers that the independence of media authorities is essential to democracy and crucial for ensuring media pluralism (see IP/07/52). In the first reading the European Parliament strongly supported this proposal.

Background

On 13 December 2005, the Commission proposed the revision of the "Television Without Frontiers" directive to address significant technological and market developments in audiovisual services (see IP/05/1573 and MEMO/06/208). After a first discussion in May 2006 on the Commission's proposal, the Council agreed a general approach on a modernised draft audiovisual services directive on 13 November 2006. The compromise prepared by the Presidency and endorsed by the Council is broadly in line with the Commission proposal. On 13 December 2006 the European Parliament completed its first reading of the Directive, showing strong convergence both with the Commission's proposal and the general approach of Council. On 12 February 2007 in Berlin, an informal Council prepared the ground for adoption of a common position on the Directive on 24 May 2007.

Further information:

The consolidated text for "Audiovisual without Frontiers" Directive (in the form of a preliminary working paper) can be consulted on the following website:

http://ec.europa.eu/comm/avpolicy/reg/tvwf/modernisation/proposal_2005/index_en.htm

The full press package on the modernisation of the Television Without Frontiers directive: http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/newsroom/cf/itemlongdetail.cfm?item_id=2343


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