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Brussels, 17 March 2005

EU Rules and Principles on Hate Broadcasts:
Frequently Asked Questions

What are the rules on hate broadcasts in Europe?

The free movement of TV broadcasting services in the EU is governed by rules that aim to promote the growth of an EU-wide market in broadcasting and related activities. These rules are set out in the "Television without Frontiers" (TVWF) Directive (89/552/EEC), adopted on 3 October 1989 by the Council and amended on 30 June 1997 by European Parliament and Council Directive 97/36/EC. The TVWF Directive provides for Community coordination of national laws in areas such as promoting the production and distribution of European works, public access to major (sports) events, television advertising and sponsorship, protection of minors and the right of reply.

Of course, the respect for the fundamental rights recognised by the European Union, in particular in the Charter for Fundamental Rights, is of utmost importance in the application of the TVWF Directive. Freedom of expression and of the Media on the one hand and respect for human dignity on the other hand are essential values underlying the EU rules.

On the specific issue of hate broadcasts, Article 22a of the TVWF Directive states: “Member States shall ensure that broadcasts do not contain any incitement to hatred on grounds of race, sex, religion or nationality”.

A similar rule is laid down in Article 7 of the Council of Europe’s European Convention on Transfrontier Television (ECTT): “(1) All items of programme services, as concerns their presentation and content, (...) shall not (b) give undue prominence to violence or be likely to incite to racial hatred”[1].

Who is responsible for enforcing these rules?

In accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, the rules of the TVWF Directive have to be applied in the Member States by the competent national broadcasting authorities. These thus have the possibility to take the specific characteristics of the national media landscape into account.

Each broadcaster is regulated only in one Member State, the so-called “country of origin”. The responsible Member State has to ensure that broadcaster under its jurisdiction respects the rules. The TVWF Directive makes it clear under which Member State's jurisdiction a given television broadcaster falls.

To this end, a series of practical criteria (“establishment” criteria in TVWF Article 2), are designed to determine by an exhaustive procedure which Member State has the jurisdiction:

These criteria are:

  • the location of the head office of the provider of services,
  • the place where decisions on programming policy are usually taken,
  • the place where the programme to be broadcast to the public is finally mixed and processed, and
  • the place where a significant proportion of the workforce required for the pursuit of the television broadcasting activity is located.

Who has jurisdiction over satellite broadcasts from third countries?

Besides these establishment criteria, the Television without Frontiers Directive includes additional criteria (Article 2 paragraph 4 TVWF) which have to be applied if a broadcaster is not established in one of the EU Member States – these are normally third country programmes. Member States must ensure that these broadcasters comply with the EU rules if:

  • they use a frequency granted by that Member State,
  • they use a satellite capacity appertaining to that Member State or
  • they use a satellite up-link situated in that Member State.

Which TV channels from outside the EU are broadcast in Europe?

Most of the third country programmes use satellite capacities provided either by Eutelsat or by Astra. Due to this fact the ranking under Article 2 (4) means that two countries, France and Luxembourg, have jurisdiction over a large number of third-country programmes received in Europe. The lists of third country programmes are available on the respective websites.

What was the Al-Manar case, and what has the Commission done to resolve it?

In 1991, shortly after Hezbollah actively entered the Lebanese political scene, Al Manar was launched as a small terrestrial station. Although legally registered as the Lebanese Media Group Company in 1997, Al Manar has belonged to Hezbollah culturally and politically from its inception. Today, the terrestrial station can reach Lebanon in its entirety and broadcasts programming eighteen hours daily.

Moreover, Al Manar's satellite station, launched in 2000, transmits twenty-four hours a day, reaching the entire Arab world and the rest of the globe through several major satellite providers. One of the satellite providers which have transmitted Al Manar has been the French satellite Hot Bird 4, owned by the Eutelsat Satellite organisation.

Al Manar has several times been accused of broadcasting programming that preaches hatred and violence. In December 2004, the US Department of State put Al-Manar on the Terrorist Exclusion List due to the channel's "incitement of terrorist activity".

On 13 December 2004, the French “Conseil d'Etat”, the highest administrative Court in France, ordered the French-based Eutelsat Company to shut down Al Manar broadcasts following accusations that its programmes were anti-Semitic and could incite hatred. The “Conseil d’Etat” order was based on a decision by the French regulatory authority the “Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel”. On 14 December Al-Manar obliged voluntarily, in order to avoid that other Arab programmes of the same multiplex would have been shut down.

The TVWF Directive assigns responsibility for ensuring that its rules are respected to the Member State that has jurisdiction. In this case the French authorities were responsible for prohibiting the broadcasts of Al Manar because Al Manar was transmitted via the French satellite system within the satellite organisation Eutelsat.

During this French procedure the European Commission worked very closely together with the French authorities and supported the strict and effective application of European law.

The Commission welcomed the fact that measures have been taken to ensure respect of the material rules of the Directive, in line with the division of responsibilities between the Commission and the national authorities on such matters.

Who participated in today's meeting on hate broadcasts?

Commissioner Viviane Reding has invited the presidents/chairpersons of the broadcasting authorities of the 25 EU Member States, of the candidate countries and of the countries of the European Economic Are.

Details at, specifically, have broadcasting regulators agreed today?

The regulators and the European Commissioner decided to implement the following measures.

First, they agreed on an information exchange regarding channels authorised in Member States in order both to determine which Member State has jurisdiction and to ensure effective application of EU rules.

In the short term, such information exchanges could be made more effective by establishing a contact point within each national authority. The contact point should provide the necessary information to other authorities and the European Commission regarding channels coming under its jurisdiction. In particular, Member States to whom a satellite capacity appertains must be in a position to provide information on all the channels using this capacity.

In the medium term, interconnection of Member States’ channel authorisation databases could be foreseen, or even the establishment of a central database of such information. In this context, co-operation with the European Platform of Regulatory Authorities (EPRA) would be important and useful.

The regulators also agreed on a mutual and immediate information exchange between Member States’ audiovisual regulators, together with close co-operation in cases where an authorisation is withdrawn or a channel is banned.

They decided furthermore on the establishment of a restricted Internet forum, reserved for regulators and the European Commission, with a view to deepening exchanges of views on cases considered problematic.

Can rules which apply only to broadcasters be effective, considering that similar audiovisual content is freely available via the Internet?

No. This will be very difficult. That is the reason why Commissioner Reding announced for the end of 2005 a modernisation of the Television without Frontiers Directive which should take account of technological developments.

The concept of an overarching framework is underpinned by the fact that some policy objectives now pursued by the TVWF Directive seem to be essential minimum standards with which any form of delivery of audiovisual content should comply. The public consultation last year showed that for instance the protection of minors and human dignity (e.g. prohibition of incitement to hatred) enjoy wide acceptance.

What about third country broadcasts which can be seen in Europe because of satellite spill over from other countries? What can the EU do about these?

The spill-over effects are one reason why the cooperation of regulatory authorities within Europe is not enough. Such cooperation needs to be complemented by a constructive dialogue with regulators from third countries. Therefore the regulators and Commissioner Reding underline their desire for close co-operation with the relevant authorities in third countries, for instance through the Mediterranean Regulators’ Group. They invite the competent authorities to declare, with due regard to the freedom of expression and of the media, the fight against audiovisual content inciting religious and/or racial hatred to be a priority in the relations with third countries.

In addition, the Commissioner for Information Society and Media will continue the dialogue with other Commissioners in order to take this problem into account in all other relevant policies, notably external relations, in particular pre-accession policy, neighbourhood policy and the Barcelona process.

See also IP/05/325

30 States have ratified the convention and are therefore bound by it.

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