Broadcasters attack new EU content rules
Tuesday, December 5th, 2006
European Union plans to update its rules on audiovisual content would allow a member state to block broadcasts from another to weaken the single market, an alliance of media companies said today.

The European Parliament is due to hold a first reading vote on the “television without frontiers” rules later this month. But nearly 60 media firms and industry associations say the changes being proposed would allow states to block any broadcasts on the grounds of “general public interest” - a term which they say is too broad and easily exploited.

“This derogation gives member states carte blanche to summon up ‘general interest’ as an excuse to block any content from other countries,” said Angela Mills-Wade, executive director of the European Publishers Council.

The alliance includes Bertelsmann, Belgacom, BT, RTL Group, ProSiebenSat.1 , Sky and many industry associations. It says the changes being proposed to the current rules would effectively end the single market in broadcasting by weakening their fundamental “country of origin” tenet. Under the current rules, a broadcaster is only regulated by the watchdog in the country where it is based, even though it may be beaming programmes to another member state.

“Without this principle of mutual recognition based on home country control, media service providers will be subject to content control from outside their own jurisdiction,” Mills-Wade said.

Some 13 member states have lobbied to include the general-interest provision, often for different reasons.

(Source: Reuters)