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Brussels, 25 June 2007

“Television Without Frontiers” Directive: in Finland more people will be able to see major sporting events on TV

Today the Commission approved the list of major events notified by Finland. Finland is therefore the seventh EU Member State, following in the steps of Austria, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Italy and the UK) to offer viewers the possibility of seeing major sporting events on TV, in accordance with the Television Without Frontiers Directive. Whichever Member State has jurisdiction over them, broadcasters with exclusive rights to show the listed events must offer the general public free to air broadcasts of major sporting and other events.

“Major sporting events bring Europeans together. It is in the general interest that all TV viewers should have the opportunity to see them on free to air TV, as provided for in the Television Without Frontiers Directive. I am pleased to see that Finland is making use of this possibility, and I call upon the other Member States to offer the same right to all viewers”, said Viviane Reding, the Commissioner with special responsibility for the Information Society and Media.

Apart from traditional major sports events such as the Winter and Summer Olympics, the FIFA World Cup, the EUFA European Football Championship, the Finnish list includes other sporting events such as the IIHF World Ice Hockey Championship, the Nordic World Ski Championship (comprising cross-country skiing, ski jumping and the Nordic combined event), the IAAF Athletics World Championship and the European Athletics Championships.

Member States which wish to make use of Article 3a of the Television Without Frontiers Directive must notify the European Commission of their national list. The Commission’s decision will ensure that the national list and the rules for implementing it apply to all European operators liable to acquire broadcasting rights for these events on Finnish territory. In accordance with the Infront ruling of 15 December 2005 handed down by the Court of First Instance of the European Communities, the Commission must now take a formal decision for or against these measures, according to whether or not they are in conformity with Community law.

Since the Infront ruling was made, Finland is the first EU country to notify the Commission of its national list of major events. The sporting events in question are particularly important to the Finnish public. Many Finnish athletes take part in them, and the television stations which broadcast these programmes generally have high audience ratings: all these factors had a favourable influence on the Commission’s decision.

The new Audiovisual Media Services Directive on which the Council reached political agreement on 24 May (see IP/07/706) makes no change to the rules concerning major events. It will enter into force at the end of 2007 and, in accordance with the principle of the right to information, will guarantee the right for broadcasters to be able to show the highlights of major events in their news bulletins.

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