Media sector hits out at plans for TV convention

Author (Person)
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Series Details Vol.4, No.7, 19.2.98, p7
Publication Date 19/02/1998
Content Type

Date: 19/02/1998

By Peter Chapman

EU BROADCASTERS and advertisers are fighting plans for a pan-European television convention, claiming it will erect legal barriers to cross-border transmissions between existing member states and Union applicant countries.

Lionel Stanbrook, deputy director-general of the UK Advertising Association, fears diplomats are about to abandon a key part of the EU's own 1989 Television Without Frontiers Directive in favour of a wider convention which would include Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Turkey and San Marino.

His fears are echoed by other industry groups, including the Association of Commercial Television and the European Association of Advertising Agencies.

Stanbrook says the current draft of the convention drawn up by the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe abandons a hard-won 'country of origin' principle under which a broadcast is legal in a country it is transmitted to if it is legal in its state of origin.

The proposed convention would not affect broadcasts within the EU as these would still be covered by the directive. But it would govern transmissions from the Union to other signatory countries.

The accord is supposed to guarantee the free circulation of television broadcasts and advertisements.

But Stanbrook argues that a convention which does not contain the country of origin principle would allow governments to block programmes which they deemed to fall foul of their own, possibly restrictive or protectionist broadcasting laws.

His association claims it would hinder the free circulation of television services in Europe, discourage new investment and deny viewers a wider choice of programmes.

"To reverse the principle of country of origin is very damaging. If there is not a country of origin rule, the result will be laws that limit imported services - and countries will end up with poor-quality, compartmentalised TV," said Stanbrook.

EU member state Greece and applicant Poland are among those supporting the move to give signatories to the convention jurisdiction over incoming broadcasts.

Diplomats from France, Germany, Italy, Finland and the UK also appear ready to sign up to the accord even though the industry in these countries is opposed to abandoning country of origin rules.

"I was stunned when I heard that the UK's department of culture, media and sport was supporting it. We have written to them saying we are dead against it. I have not come across anyone in the industry who supports this," said Stanbrook.

The race is now on for the TV sector to push its case for changes to the draft convention, which is due to be finalised at the 7 April meeting of diplomats on the Council of Europe's standing committee on audio-visual issues.

EU broadcasters and advertisers are fighting plans for a Council of Europe Convention which they claim will erect legal barriers to cross-border transmissions between EU Member States and applicant countries.

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