Time up for Member States to tune TV rules to digital age
Date: Mon, 01/04/2010 - 14:45
Two years after the adoption of modernising EU TV rules removing outdated restrictions on digital TV over the internet, video on demand and mobile TV, only three countries – Belgium, Romania and Slovakia – have officially notified the European Commission of measures putting them in place, as required under EU law
The Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMS Directive) rebooted EU rules on traditional TV broadcasting for the digital age. EU countries had until 19 December 2009 to turn the modernised rules for Europe's audiovisual industry into national law. The Directive creates a single market for all audiovisual media services, providing legal certainty for businesses and protection for consumers.
"Two years ago, industry and consumers were already waiting impatiently for new, more flexible EU rules that remove outdated bureaucratic red tape and take account of new technological developments," said Viviane Reding, EU Information Society and Media Commissioner. "We updated the EU TV rules to make Europe's audiovisual industry more competitive. I urgently call on EU countries to adapt their national laws to ensure that new advertising techniques enabled by the AVMS Directive are also possible – there can be no excuse for any more delay with their implementation. The Commission will not shy away from using its powers under the Treaty to ensure this happens effectively. Remember that the Court of Justice has said many times that a lot of these rules can apply directly as of 19 December 2009, meaning that businesses and consumers can count on them even if their country's laws have not yet taken account of the modernised Directive."
After the two year period given EU countries to transpose the new EU rules on TV and TV-like services like video on demand and mobile video, only Belgium, Romania and Slovakia have notified the Commission of full implementation. Denmark, France, Luxemburg and the UK have notified the Commission of some measures taken to put the AVMS Directive in place. Hungary's legislative process came to a complete halt after the draft law did not pass in Parliament. The Directive has been partly put in place by Austria, Germany, Ireland, Malta and the Netherlands without the Commission being notified. In other countries, the draft law is still being discussed, has just been published, or is still in public consultation (see annex).
Under EU law, Directives are binding legal instruments for Member States that allow national authorities to choose the form and methods that achieve their objectives. The European Court of Justice says that parts of a Directive may be directly effective after the deadline in an EU country even if it has not (or not adequately) been implemented. To this end, it has to set out individual rights and be clear, precise and unconditional. If so, people can hold public authorities to such parts of a Directive.
The new EU audiovisual rules make it easier for producers and providers of TV programmes to access financing from new forms of advertising such as split screen advertising or product placement, which is allowed in all programmes except news, documentaries and children's programmes. Broadcasters have more flexibility in programming with the removal of rules imposing a twenty minute period between advertising breaks. The new EU rules strengthen Europe's TV and audiovisual industry by reducing regulation and creating a level-playing field for audiovisual media services "without frontiers". They ensure that public interest rules, like the protection of minors and human dignity, apply to all audiovisual services, including on-demand, over fixed, mobile or satellite networks.
The Commission opens infringement proceedings against any EU country that fails to officially notify the Commission of measures taken to apply EU Directives in national law. Under old EU law, this could lead to a fine after two judgements of the Court of Justice of the EU. Since 1 December 2009, under the Lisbon Treaty, when the Commission brings such a case against an EU country before the Court, it may specify a lump sum or penalty payment to be paid by the Member State concerned.