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
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,
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,
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
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).
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
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
on the 26 February 2008.
3. Hardy, J. (2008). Western Media System. London and New York: Routledge.