Brussels, 28 October 2010
Digital Agenda: Commission welcomes French regulator's moves against incitement to hatred; ends legal action
The European Commission has welcomed the fact that France is now correctly applying the EU's broadcasting rules and has decided to close an infringement case related to incitement to hatred by Al-Aqsa TV. On a regular basis since 2006, Al-Aqsa TV broadcast programmes which incited hatred on the basis of religion, nationality and/or race. Such incitement is prohibited by Article 6 of the EU's Audiovisual Media Services (AVMS) Directive. Following measures taken against the satellite operator by the French audiovisual regulatory authority, the CSA, Al-Aqsa TV is no longer broadcasting in Europe via the Eutelsat satellite. The CSA acted following a 'letter of formal notice' under EU infringement procedures which the Commission sent to the French authorities in June this year. The Commission will continue to monitor new developments in close cooperation with the national authorities.
Al-Aqsa TV was broadcast via the Atlantic Bird 4 satellite, which is operated by Eutelsat, a French company, with an uplink located outside the EU. The TV station could be received in southern Europe with standard user equipment, and all over Europe with larger satellite dishes. Under the provisions of the EU's AVMS Directive (2010/13/EU) Al-Aqsa TV was subject to French and EU jurisdiction.
In 2008, the French regulator, the Conseil Supérieur de l'Audiovisuel (CSA) noted that Al-Aqsa TV was broadcasting programmes containing incitement to hatred in violation of French law and EU legislation. But despite the steps taken by the CSA, Al-Aqsa TV continued to broadcast the offending programmes.
The Commission therefore sent a letter of formal notice on 3 June 2010 to the French authorities asking the CSA to use its powers and ensure that the EU's rules banning programmes containing incitement to hatred were respected. On 8 June, the CSA published a decision whereby Eutelsat was ordered to stop the transmission of Al-Aqsa TV. On 24 June, Al-Aqsa ceased transmitting its programmes in Europe via Eutelsat.
The "Television without Frontiers" Directive was adopted in 1989 (IP/91/898) and amended for the first time in 1997 (IP/97/552). In December 2007, an amending Directive was adopted (see IP/07/1809, MEMO/08/803). Member States were given until the end of 2009 to incorporate its provisions into national law. On 10 March 2010, the provisions of the original "Television without frontiers" Directive were merged with the provisions contained in the amending directives to form the codified version of the now called "Audiovisual Media Services" Directive. The provision banning incitement to hatred has existed unaltered since the first Directive in 1989.
The text of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive is available at:
For more information on EU infringement procedures, see MEMO/10/530.