European Union

Audiovisual and media

Like other goods and services, audiovisual media - film, TV, video - are subject to certain EU-wide rules to ensure they can circulate freely and fairly in the single European market, regardless of how they are delivered (traditional TV, video-on-demand, internet, etc.).

This is the aim of the EU's audiovisual & media policy, and more particularly the audiovisual media services directive

The EU is also investing €1.4bn in the audiovisual and cultural sectors through the Creative Europe programme.

Audiovisual media services directive


The audiovisual media services directive requires EU countries to coordinate national legislation with each other to:

  • create comparable conditions in all countries for emerging audiovisual media
  • protect children & consumers
  • safeguard media pluralism 
  • combat racial & religious hatred
  • preserve cultural diversity
  • ensure national media regulators remain independent.


Each country is encouraged to follow minimum standards for the following:

  • Advertising - rules and restrictions in place for certain products (e.g.alcohol, tobacco, medicines) and no more than 12 minutes' advertising per hour
  • Major events - events like the Olympics or the football World Cup must be available to a wide audience, not just on pay-TV channels
  • Protecting children - violent or pornographic programmes scheduled late at night or limited access through parental controls.
  • Promotion of European films and audiovisual content - at least half of TV broadcasting time should be allocated to European films and television programmes.Video-on-demand services should also promote European works.
  • Accessibility - media companies should make their audiovisual content accessible to people with visual or hearing impairments 

In 2013, the Commission held a public consultation on the implications of the convergence between traditional TV and the internet.Feedback from this consultation was published and the next step is to carry out a REFIT evaluation of the Directive. 

Promoting European films and programmes

The audiovisual media services directive promotes cultural diversity by supporting the production and distribution of European films and other audiovisual content:

  • requirement for broadcasters to devote at least half their broadcasting time to European films and programmes (excluding news, sports events, games, advertising, teletext and teleshopping services).
  • Video on-demand services should also contribute to promoting European works, by allocating specific space for European content in catalogues or otherwise promoting these works. 

Internationally, the EU is party to the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions and has secured an exemption from the WTO's free-trade rules (the ‘cultural exception’), that entitles EU countries to limit imports of cultural items like films.

Public service broadcasting

EU countries are committed to public broadcasting services - the 1999 Treaty of Amsterdam recognised their role in providing for democratic, social and cultural needs that are not met by the market, and preventing the industry from being dominated by one or more big players.

Government grants to public broadcasters are therefore exempt from the EU's strict rules on state subsidies, as long as the funding is used for public service goals and does not unfairly disadvantage private sector broadcasters.

Creative Europe programme

The 7-year Creative Europe programme aims to strengthen Europe’s cultural and audiovisual sectors by providing funding for at least:

  • 250, 000 artists and cultural professionals
  • 2, 000 cinemas
  • 800 films
  • 4, 500 book translations

It will also make up to €750 million available to small businesses in the sector as guaranteed bank loans.

The main aims of the Creative Europe programme are to:

  • promote European cultural and linguistic diversity
  • drive economic growth and competitiveness in the creative sectors
  • help the creative and cultural sectors make the most of digital technologies and develop new business models
  • bring creative works to a wider audience in Europe and internationally

Safeguarding Europe’s film heritage

The EU wants to conserve and protect major works of cultural importance - including film.To do this, it issued a recommendation on Europe's film heritage, asking EU countries to collect, catalogue, preserve and restore films.This means future generations will also be able to enjoy these works.

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