PositionTelevision Without Frontiers Directive - Interview

The European Council of culture ministers is to try and establish a common position on the revision of the Television Without Frontiers Directive at the end of May 2007. Socialist and Liberal MEPs agree on the basic elements of the draft although the proposal voted on by the European Parliament could have certain technical details changed. Below is an interview with Catherine Trautmann (PES, France), member of the Culture Committee and Ignasi Guardans, shadow rapporteur (ALDE, Spain).

Europolitics: The television advertising market is facing competition from new internet and video on demand media. Should the directive include a regulatory role?

Ignasi Guardans: The result of the parliamentary vote in December is only a compromise to protect the media from two main threats. A directive containing too many restrictions, inspired by linear broadcasting systems which have dominated since the fifties and impossible to apply to the current technological context, would have been the first stumbling block. On demand video is going to expand significantly over the next few years for which advertising rules still need to be defined. The second stumbling block concerns the uncontrolled opening of the advertising market. A crazy liberalism which would have led to European television channels becoming just like American channels. The directive imposes the necessary barriers to prevent this afrom happening.

Can television continue to be an area conducive to creativity?

European culture is protected. In article 5, the directive imposes certain obligations for television channels to include European content and invest in cultural and cinema projects in Europe. As a film enthusiast, I am delighted by this. The danger was that the same restrictions would be imposed on the new technologies, such as television on the internet or on-demand videos. Trying to impose quotas on the web would never work.

Films and tele-films, among others, can be interrupted every 30 minutes by advertising. Is this a reasonable compromise between content creators and funding?

Commercial television channels must be able to continue broadcasting good films. When they buy the films, they immediately consider the advertising revenue that they will receive in return. Without advertising breaks, they would resort to films which no longer have any market value such as Fernandel or the first De Funes. We want more diversity. The only financial point to be clarified in second reading is that...

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