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Brussels, 27 November 2008

Commission takes court action to prevent excessive spot-advertising on Spanish TV

The European Commission today decided to bring Spain before the European Court of Justice for failing to comply with the rules on advertising in the EU's "Television without Frontiers" Directive. This is the final stage of an infringement procedure started in July 2007 (IP/07/1062). The main publicly funded and the commercial TV channels in Spain regularly fail to limit advertising and teleshopping spots to 12 minutes per hour, often by several minutes. While recognising the need to finance commercial programmes with advertising, the "12-minute-rule" was set up by the EU so that viewers would be protected from excessive spot-advertising on TV. The European Parliament and the Council of Ministers confirmed the "12-minute-rule" during the recent modernisation of the Directive (IP/07/1809).

"In spite of our calls for action, Spain has not put the European limit of 12 minutes of spot-advertising per clock hour in place," said Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media. "By excluding short forms of so-called 'telepromotions' and 'advertorials' from this European limit, the Spanish administration is contributing to a saturation of viewing time in Spain with what should be treated, under European law, as spot advertising. Apart from the negative effects this is likely to have on advertising spending – a major source of financing for free-to-air broadcasters – this sustained bombardment is bad for viewers. The Commission therefore asks the European Court of Justice to oblige Spain to take the necessary measures to make sure that Spanish citizens can benefit from the common EU rules and enjoy their evening in front of the television as much as the EU citizens in other Member States.”

In the European Commission’s view, Spain has misinterpreted the EU's "Television without Frontiers" Directive by defining “advertising spot” too narrowly. This means that it does not count various forms of advertising like micro-slots, short telepromotions and advertorials within the 12 minute per hour limit. These familiar features of Spain's audiovisual landscape are subject to a different 17 minute per hour limit, despite having all the characteristics of spot adverts.

The Commission monitored Spanish compliance with the EU's "'Television without Frontiers" Directive between May 2005 and July 2006, finding that the 12 minutes per hour limit was regularly broken to a serious degree. It sent a warning to Spain on 11 July 2007 (IP/07/1062) and a reasoned opinion on 6 May 2008 (IP/08/700). The Spanish authorities replied on 8 and 16 September 2008 but did not agree with the Commission's analysis.

Today’s decision comes nearly one year after the entry into force of the new "Audiovisual Media Services without Frontiers" Directive on 19 December 2007, which reaffirms the "12 minute-rule". The Commission and the Member States are working actively to prepare the prompt and consistent transposition of the new Directive into national law. Next month, the Commission will mark its anniversary with an update on the state of its implementation across the EU.


The EU's "Television without Frontiers" Directive was adopted in 1989 (IP/91/898) and revised for the first time in 1997 (IP/97/552). On 13 December 2005, the Commission proposed a new revision in order to take account of rapid technological changes and developments in the audiovisual services market such as video on demand, mobile television and audiovisual services via digital television (IP/05/1573, MEMO/06/208). On 24 May 2007, the European Parliament and the Council agreed on the proposal (MEMO/07/206). The new Directive on Audiovisual Media Services entered into force on 19 December 2007 (IP/07/1809). Member States have until 19 December 2009 to incorporate its provisions into national law. The new Directive reaffirms the limitation of TV advertising to 12 minutes per hour.

For further information:

Press Pack on the new Directive on audiovisual media services without frontiers:

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