Television Without Frontiers


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Television Without Frontiers

  1. 1. Audiovisual Directive of European Union By Bunly Meas and Austen Uwosomah The Directive and its actors Since the early 1980s, media technology especially audiovisual sectors have evolved very significantly into business orientation. To response to that flow, the European Union (EU) has initiated a number of regulations to strengthen the economic and cultural aspects of the audiovisual industry (Biltereyst & Pauwels 2007:58). The most updated one is the EU audiovisual Directive 2007 administered by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union. The Directive was amended from the early EU legal framework Television without Frontiers initiated in 1989 and was revised many times later (Biltereyst & Pauwels 2007:27). The 2007 Audiovisual Directive is a documented supranational treaty or ordinance that resulted from EU state members’ consensus. The main actors of this Directive are the EU body− the designer, member states− the enforcers, and TV broadcasting industry− the implementers. First, the European body makes sure that there is consensus among member states and they later on integrate the Directive into their national policies. Second, member states are the main enforcing organizations among themselves and towards national and regional TV broadcasting industry. Although states could translate the Directive into their national policies, they need to make sure that EU policies are addressed. In the Directive, for example, states have to ensure fair business competition, protect minor and human dignity, avoid media concentration, and so on (EU 2007). Finally, the third main organization is the TV broadcast industry, which refers to “analogue and digital television, live streaming, webcasting and near-video-on-demand, whereas video-on- demand, for example, is an on-demand audiovisual media service” (EU 2007). What it tries to achieve There were three main problems facing the EU broadcasting industry. First of all, EU media regulation was non-liberalizing and there was no consensus among member states. There were strong disagreements among states who wanted to liberalize the audiovisual industry such as UK, Germany, Luxembourg, and Denmark and those who opposed the attempt such as France, Italy,
  2. 2. Belgium, and Spain (Levy 1999 quoted in Hardy 2008:159). This kind of fragmentation made European TV broadcasting less competitive to other countries especially the United States. Secondly, the EU always worries about American broadcast dominant in the EU continent (Biltereyst & Pauwels 2007:27). There have been fast growing of US broadcasting in terms of content and ownership dominates the weaker EU industry, which later on the EU concerns of US media concentration in Europe. Finally, as the result of that dominance, European culture is hard to survive in the storm of US cultural spreading. It is even serious when the local EU broadcasting could not or do not have capacity to compete with US media. . The Directive was set up to response to those problems. Overall, its purpose is to promote strong, competitive and integrated European audiovisual industry and enhance media pluralism (EU 2007) by, for instance, reducing national regulatory burdens, allowing flexibility in advertising, and encouraging new media business together with free flow of information in EU (Biltereyst & Pauwels 2007:34). In addition, it was also designed to balance between TV commerce and EU cultural conservations in order to maintain culture diversity. The EU strongly addresses the issue of media cultural business very critically that ‘media cultural programs convey identities, values and meanings, and must therefore not be treated as solely having commercial value’ (EU 2007). How the Directive achieve its Objectives There are three main EU instruments to reach the goals, which are the legal framework, industrial policies, and competition policy ((Biltereyst & Pauwels 2007). Firstly, the Directive itself is the legal framework that harmonizes EU broadcasting sector across member states’ border, which promote increment of productions. The previous framework of TV Without Frontier, for instance, increased European work related productions up to more than 60 percent in 2002; and with this tradition, the new Directive will continue the implementation (Biltereyst & Pauwels 2007:30). Furthermore, the framework allows member states to interact with each other media’s market, which promote a freer competition environment. For example, it allows rebroadcasting content from one state to another without any interference (EU 2007). Secondly, the EU develops broadcasting industrial policies focusing on production and finance of media in member states. They invest in media capacity training and technology development to boost EU media productions and its competiveness. One of the main EU program is MEDIA,
  3. 3. which provide funds to EU audiovisual industry to be competitive in regional and global scale. It is expected to fund €1 billion for the period of 2007 to 2013 ((Biltereyst & Pauwels 2007:39). The EU has set audiovisual competition policy favoring its member states’ benefits and conserving its identity and culture. One of the main strategies is the attempt to avoid broadcasting concentration. The policy sets merger and acquisition rules, which comply with each member state’s national policy (Biltereyst & Pauwels 2007:44). For example, France could maintain its rules that individual could own no more than 49 percent share in a nationwide terrestrial TV service (Hardy 2008:150). This can avoid media monopoly and dominant foreign media acquisition. Development of European Union media policy Development of media policy in Europe has had two dominant areas of conflicting sides. First, in the aspect regarding tension existing between economic values and culture, and second, in the aspect of tension related to the integration of the directives by member states into their national policy. In all the phases of European media policy development, the goal of European Union (EU) from the time it took stance on regulating media practice across European states was to create common grounds for member states to preserve European cultural values and market from alienation. The Audiovisual (AV) Directive is another major re-regulatory input from the EU that further lay concrete framework for ensuring that the aforementioned goal is achieved. The Directive is one of the great efforts by EU to promote European cultural diversity within Europe in face of rising of globalization of cultural products from America. The AV Directive not only creates and gives room for healthy economic coexistence with regards to competition between European media, taking into account of “the impact of structural change, the spread of information and communication technologies (ICT) and technological developments on business models, especially the financing of commercial broadcasting, and to ensure optimalconditions of competitiveness and legal certainty for Europe’s information technologies and its media industries and services, as well as respect for cultural and linguistic diversity” (AVD 2007).
  4. 4. Conclusion The Directive reiteration of the abolishment the member states’ national sovereignty in other to facilitate liberal movement of broadcasting service and homogenization of media contents and policy within Europe brings about policy convergence, shared internationalization and open market expansion for all member states” (see Hardy, 2008 :159). This has inordinately open grounds for states to become actively involved shaping national media policy or suit domestic comparative advantages. It is now evident that various states in Europe adopt different media policy within the macro context of EU directive to suit structure domestic media to meet national reality. For instance, France insistence to restrict media content to a higher percentage of local program is clear example state’s protectionist grip on it national media. But be that as it may as there is liberal flow of international flow of content within Europe, France audience is still able see foreign content. Liberalization of technology is such as it is encompass in the EU me media policy is a key force that is moving national media regulatory policies to be more capitalist in nature. References: 1. Biltereyst, D. & C. Pauwels (2007). Our Policies on Reinventing the Past: An Overview of EU Policy-Making in the Audiovisual Domain. In L. d’Haenens & F. Saeys (Eds) (2007). Western Broadcast Models: Structure, Conduct and Performance (pp. 25-61). Berlin/New York. 2. European Commission (2007). Audiovisual Media Services Directive. Available at cited on the 26 February 2008. 3. Hardy, J. (2008). Western Media System. London and New York: Routledge.