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Crucial time for TVWF negotiations

The negotiations on the Television Without Frontiers Directive have reached a stage where they must be watched carefully to ensure no ‘behind doors deals’ are made.

Both the Culture Committee of the Parliament and the Culture Ministers of all the Member States met this week. Some positive amendments to the draft by Ministers have rendered a situation whereby print and online media, whose principal purpose is not the distribution of AV content, will not be included in the scope of the Directive. This wording goes much further than previous drafts and is very welcome. However, it is not the end of the debate and Ministers must get the agreement of Parliament and the Commission to see this wording in the final text. AOP will continue to lobby to ensure that this text remains intact.

On a less positive note, the ‘Country of Origin’ principle, which means that if you comply with the law of your home state you are considered to comply with the law in all other Member States, is under threat. Although the latest text is a fairly sensible compromise, there are those (both from the Parliament and the Member States) who would amend it further and create a situation where countries could block content beamed into them very easily. It is reported that the MEP leading the negotiations has called for a dialogue between the Parliament, Council and Commission to hammer out a deal. This will be done behind closed doors and is of considerable concern.

Even if AOP members are eventually considered to be outside the scope of TVWF, any threat to ‘Country of Origin’ in this Directive will have ramifications for other pieces of EU legislation which are directly relevant to print and online media. Both the E-commerce Directive and the Data Protection Directive have a Country of Origin clause. Both are due for review in the near future. Member States who want to keep their markets closed to foreign entrants can do this easily if they force the removal or weakening of the ‘Country of Origin’ principle in the TVWF Directive. This will set a precedent for future negotiations on Directives such as E-Commerce.

It is imperative that European business, including the media, works to ensure that the ‘Country of Origin’ principle remains a key component of the legislative lexicon. AOP has contacted the UK negotiating team on the TVWF dossier to alert it to potential problems. We will also work with FAEP to ensure that other Member States are alert to the problem.

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