European Parliament
Texts Adopted by Parliament
Final Edition : 04/10/2001

Television without frontiers


European Parliament resolution on the third report of the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament and the Economic and Social Committee on the application of Directive 89/552/EEC 'Television without Frontiers' (COM(2001) 9 - C5-0190/2001 - 2001/2086 (COS))

The European Parliament,

-  having regard to the report from the Commission (COM(2001) 9 - C5-0190/2001),

-  having regard to Directive 97/36/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 June 1997 amending Council Directive 89/552/EEC on the coordination of certain provisions laid down by law, regulation or administrative action in Member States concerning the pursuit of television broadcasting activities ('Television without Frontiers')(1),

-  having regard to the fourth communication from the Commission on the application of Articles 4 and 5 of Directive 89/552/EEC 'Television without Frontiers' for the period 1997-8 (COM(2000) 442),

-  having regard to its resolution of 6 September 2000 on the Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, "Principles and guidelines for the Community's audiovisual policy in the digital age' (COM(1999) 657 - C5-0144/2000 - 2000/2087(COS))(2),

-  having regard to its resolution of 5 October 2000 on the Commission communication 'Study on Parental Control of Television Broadcasting' (COM(1999) 371 - C5-0324/1999 - 1999/2210 (COS))(3),

-  having regard to the report of the Committee on Culture, Youth, Education, the Media and Sport and the opinions of the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Consumer Policy and the Committee on Legal Affairs and the Internal Market (A5-0286/2001),

A.  whereas the audiovisual sector is not only of fundamental importance for democracy, freedom of expression and cultural pluralism, but also, due to its impact on employment and to technological innovation in this field, represents a key sector from the point of view of the economy and jobs in the European Union and for the functioning of the single market;

B.  whereas European rules on the audiovisual sector take no account of worldwide broadcasting systems such as the Internet, nor do they provide for the possibility of the same or similar content being broadcast by different technological platforms;

C.  whereas the rules governing the audiovisual sector in the digital age must take account of synergies and interaction between conventional television and the new systems for picture and sound transmission, and whereas, therefore, a suitably open and flexible approach continues to be necessary, consistent with wide choice, and public availability;

D.  whereas digital television has a range of advantages - including better-quality television service and signals (digital signals), increased capacity for supply and choice of services and programmes as a result of its greater broadcasting capacity and greater choice and availability of new product and service packages - and is an extremely useful means of promoting the Internet in homes;

E.  whereas, despite the rapid pace at which the digital revolution is proceeding, it is likely that conventional television will continue for some time to be the most important audiovisual transmission medium for a large proportion of households in Europe;

F.  whereas the importance and impact of the audiovisual sector on the European cultural landscape is strongly affected by the ownership of media and its concentration within a few large corporations;

G.  whereas, in the Commission's judgment, the 'Television without Frontiers' directive is generally being applied satisfactorily and the audiovisual sector as well as citizens have benefited from the adoption of the directive into the legal system of the European Union, the free movement of television broadcasting services within the Community having essentially been ensured;

H.  whereas the 'Television without Frontiers' directive should be reviewed as a matter of urgency;

I.  whereas, in addition to technological developments, the televisual media are witnessing developments in the content of programmes such as 'reality' shows which are on occasion humiliating to their participants and which usually dominate the prime-time television schedules;

J.  whereas implementing the articles of the 'Television without Frontiers' directive which relate to advertising controls is highly problematic in some countries such as Greece, Spain and Italy and whereas, despite the opening of infringement procedures, the situation is getting worse in those countries, which are now failing to comply with other aspects of the legislation as well;

K.  whereas in connection with the advent of digital television, the Commission's fourth communication to the Council and the European Parliament on the implementation of Articles 4 and 5 of the 'Television without Frontiers' directive refers to difficulties encountered in monitoring compliance with quotas by channels in the Member States, particularly in the cases listed below:

-  specialist channels (channels devoted to very specific content may fail to meet the quota for European works)

-  video-on-demand (where the same schedule is broadcast 20 times back-to-back)

-  new channels

-  music channels (difficulty in determining the origin of a music video)

-  film channels (which focus on high-budget, predominantly American films)

-  subsidiaries of companies from third countries

-  a range of programmes available on screen simultaneously;

L.  whereas application of the rules laid down in the 'Television without Frontiers' directive is the responsibility of the competent national authorities for the audiovisual sector, and whereas the dialogue between Community bodies and national institutions provided for in the directive has proved extremely helpful and effective;

M.  whereas the dialogue with the Council of Europe and other competent international bodies in the field is also helping promote and extend exchanges and discussion on rules in the audiovisual sector at the Europe-wide level;

N.  whereas the fourth communication from the Commission referred to, which was drawn up in order to comply with a formal requirement laid down in the directive, is confined to examining the way in which the 'Television without Frontiers' directive was applied in general during the period from 1997 to 1998, which is expressly described as a 'period of transition';

O.  whereas the Commission proposes renewed consultation on, and a review of, the 'Television without Frontiers' directive, and intends to submit an appropriate proposal not later than by the end of 2002, with consultation and hearings in preparation for this to be held at the start of 2002;

P.  whereas in the five years since the directive was last amended, the climate in which the television industry operates has changed dramatically (new services using new technologies, an increase in the volume of business and advertising, a huge increase in the number of broadcasters, etc);

Q.  whereas the Commission has already carried out intensive preliminary work ahead of such consultation, and in 2001 has commissioned three major studies on new advertising techniques, support for European works and technological and market developments in the audiovisual sector;

R.  whereas differences in technical standards for digital television transmission creates barriers;

S.  whereas these comprehensive studies carried out at an early stage form the basis for fully involving interested sections of the public, through a transparent, pertinent dialogue, in the preliminary work in connection with the review of the 'Television without Frontiers' directive;

T.  whereas these studies will for the first time give a comprehensive overview of national provisions within the Community on the protection of minors with regard to the audiovisual sector,

1.  Calls on the Commission, the Council and the Member States to take account of the following points:

(a)  Welcomes the Commission's generally careful assessment of the way in which the 'Television without Frontiers' directive, which constitutes the legal basis for the development of the European audiovisual sector, is currently being applied;

(b)  Regrets that the remit of this report as specified in the directive, did not allow the Commission to look beyond the mere application of the directive and also give an albeit interim assessment of the achievement of the underlying policy objectives;

(c)  Regrets the lack of analytical conclusions in some parts of the report, for example the common place description of vertical and horizontal integration in the audio-visual sector without a summarising assessment of the overall level of concentration and its implications;

(d)  Notes the information given by the Commission concerning the implementation of Article 3a on events of major importance for society, the implementation of Articles 4 and 5 and the rules on advertising laid down in Articles 10 to 20 and the provisions on the protection of minors and parental control laid down in Articles 22 to 22b of the 'Television without Frontiers' directive;

(e)  Regrets that the Commission has only included scant and long-available information on the candidate countries' efforts to implement the acquis in the audio-visual field, and that it has not dwelt on the need for their stepping up of these efforts;

(f)  Welcomes the positive impact of the protection of major national events, so they can be watched by all, irrespective of their social group, and calls for the extension of the safeguard to other events of particular interest to European audiences to be examined;

(g)  Desires that all Member States and countries applying for accession step up their efforts as regards the process of adjustment in connection with applying the 'Television without Frontiers' directive, and at the same time prepare for the new operational phase of the directive due to take place after 2002;

(h)  Supports the Commission in its intention to submit proposals concerning a formal review of the 'Television without Frontiers' directive; calls however for the target date (end of 2002) to be brought forward as much as possible;

(i)  Stresses the urgent need to amend the 'Television without Frontiers' directive in tandem with revision of the 1999 communications and the electronic commerce directive, in order to ensure a consistent approach towards all communications services, promote the competitivity of the European audiovisual market in the new environment and create quality products and interactive services;

(j)  Considers that, to that end, a structured, effective dialogue with the audiovisual sector, national institutions, broadcasters and users continues to be essential;

(k)  Notes with concern the continuing imbalance between material produced in Europe and that imported from the United States for the European Market;

(l)  Welcomes the wide preliminary work conducted by the Commission in connection with the public dialogue on the results of the application of the directive in all the Member States;

(m)  Welcomes, in particular, the fact that the Commission has commissioned three major studies on new advertising techniques, promoting European works and technological and commercial developments in the audiovisual sector;

(n)  Considers therefore that, in conjunction with the Commission's planned review of the 'Television without Frontiers' directive, a comprehensive analysis should also be made of the outcome of Article 3a concerning Member States' right to take national measures to exploit TV rights for events of particular importance to the community;

(o)  Awaits with interest the results of the studies, and welcomes the fact that the Commission is inviting discussion of these studies via a series of workshops as part of a transparent, informed, Community-wide dialogue;

(p)  Hopes that the results of these studies and the informed dialogue in this area will not only be helpful for the review of the 'Television without Frontiers' directive, but will also serve as a model for introducing for the whole of the audiovisual sector a transparent procedure for analysing the effectiveness of national and Community legal bases;

(q)  Considers premature, therefore, to anticipate the results of the debate on the future system for the audiovisual sector, but emphasises the importance of a large debate in the view of adopting a consistent, united position as regards balancing safeguarding European cultural diversity and the demands of the global market;

(r)  Recalls the importance of conformity with the directive as an element in the accession negotiations with the candidate countries, so that it shall have universal application in an enlarged European Union;

(s)  Welcomes the continuing cooperation with the European Platform of Regulation Authorities (EPRA) and the Council of Europe;

(t)  Regards the Commission's approach to the protection of minors, emphasising the powers of the Member States, as the right one, and welcomes the presentation of the study undertaken at the request of the Commission on the impact of television advertising and teleshopping on minors in all Member States (99/139-102855);

(u)  Calls, on that basis, on the Member States to step up the dialogue and cooperation with regard to the protection of minors in order to find common solutions and, as far as possible, to make the current complex system of rules and practices in the European audiovisual field less heterogeneous whilst maintaining Member States' independence with regard to national restrictions on protection of children;

(v)  Considers it necessary, in anticipation of the review of the 'Television without Frontiers' directive, that the Member States and the Commission should uphold within the various international bodies the principle of the special cultural and democratic importance of the audiovisual sector, having regard to the growth in worldwide trade and technological progress; and should conduct a study to ascertain the extent and implications of vertical and horizontal integration of the media that already exists within Europe;

(w)  Considers, therefore, that in reviewing the 'Television without Frontiers' directive, its scope should be broadened to cover the new audiovisual services;

(x)  Calls on the Commission to take into account in its review of the new developments in the sector, such as:

-  webcasting on the Internet;

-  video streaming;

-  decoders/Internet protocols (MHP);

-  electronic programme guides (EPG);

-  interfaces (API);

-  intellectual property (i.e. digital private copying and caching);

(y)  Considers that the Commission, together with the Member States, should facilitate the transition to digital technology both for audiovisual companies and individuals; this should be done by making it a requirement to have MHP-compatible technologies after a suitable transitional period and common interfaces for the different conditional access systems;

(z)  Urges those Member States which have not yet done so to incorporate the amended "Television without Frontiers" directive into their national legislation;

(aa)  Strongly recommends that the Commission proceed with its effective monitoring of compliance with the directive so as to guarantee free transmission within the European Union, the broadcasting of European works and limits on advertising;

(bb)  Believes that the protection of minors and public order cannot justify the need for national measures restricting free transmission, provided that the Union's common principles and values are not undermined;

(cc)  Recommends that the Commission analyse in particular the alignment of legislation in the applicant countries as regards the legislation on television without frontiers;

2.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission and the governments and parliaments of the Member States.

(1) OJ L 202, 30.7.1997, p. 60.
(2) OJ C 135, 7.5.2001, p. 181.
(3) OJ C 178, 22.6.2001, p. 279.