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February 2004

Latest Developments

Commission details focus groups’ remits

The work of focus groups set up to review the TVWF directive has now been detailed as follows:

Focus group debates:

  • regulation of audiovisual content
  • the level of detail in the regulation of advertising
  • the right to information and right to short reports

The EPC has requested that the Commission involve it in focus group meetings where audiovisual content is under discussion.

Studies will be available on the following issues:

  • comparative study on the impact of control measures on the television advertising markets in EU member states and certain other countries (due for completion 2005)
  • study services covering the following domains: I) study on national systems of State aid for film and audiovisual productions; ii) study on co-regulation measure in the media sector; iii) study on “must carry” requirements for radio and television services
  • study on the impact of measures concerning the promotion of the distribution and production of TV programmes (meeting taking place 24 April)
  • study on co-regulatory measures in the media sector
  • study on the regulatory treatment of interactive television

The issue:
Last revised in 1996, the TV Without Frontiers Directive is the cornerstone of EU legislation covering audiovisual and advertising industries.

The main aspects are:
1. Programming quotas: broadcasters should, where practicable, reserve a majority of airtime for European programmes. Additionally, 10% of a broadcaster’s schedule should be programmes made by independent producers.

2. Advertising: There are detailed rules on the content of television advertising:

  • No advertising is allowed for tobacco or for prescription drugs, advertising needs to be separated from programmes and surreptitious or subliminal advertising is not allowed.
  • Nor is advertising allowed to discriminate on grounds of race, gender, or nationality or be offensive to human dignity or beliefs.
  • Advertising of alcohol, advertising to children, and programme sponsorship are all permitted only if detailed conditions are met.

There are also rules on the amount of advertising, and the patterns in which advertising breaks are allowed to interrupt programmes, and on the maximum amount of teleshopping programmes.

States should ensure that programmes seriously detrimental to minors should not be shown, and that programming suitable only for an adult audience should be identified before and/or transmission.

Finally, any viewer who has their legitimate interests harmed by an incorrect allegation in a television programme has a “right to reply”.

The directive lays down certain advertising content and scheduling rules and sets quotas for independent and European production.

The review process:
The last review took place in 2002. There appears to be only two serious options on the table: extending the directive to allow ongoing adaptation of regulation on a case by case basis as new forms of advertising appear; and the creation of a completely new directive which would be extended to all media. This would probably be very difficult to apply: different industry sectors start from different levels of regulation. Broadcasters, for example, are very heavily regulated whereas the Internet is largely left to self-regulation and the general law.

Whilst there is work underway in Italy and the UK to put regulation of all media sectors under one roof, this is not the case for most countries - implementing and enforcing this directive would be extremely difficult. Although the Commissioner for Culture, Viviane Reding, decided to leave an immediate review and instead produce a work program for future action (see below).

Three studies have been published as part of the review process:

For details on these studies, please consult:

  • Bird & Bird study, The development of new advertising techniques. Preliminary conclusions on advertising presented earlier this year have identified the definition of advertising as a key issue: not all new forms of advertising fall into obvious categories currently regulated under the directive.
  • Uyttendaele, Gérard et Doutrelepont, Evaluation of the impact of measures concerning the promotion of distribution and production of television programmes in the European audiovisual sector.
  • Arthur Andersen, Outlook of development of the Market for European audiovisual content and of the regulatory framework concerning production and distribution of this content.

Key Players:
Commissioner Viviane Reding
Ruth Hieronomy MEP
Roy Perry MEP


For further information FOR JOURNALISTS on this or other topics, please contact Heidi Lambert Communications on Tel: +44 1245 476 265 or

FOR EPC MEMBERS AND GENERAL ENQUIRIES please contact Angela Mills on Tel: +322 231 1299 or +44 7785 32 7878.

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