After months of deliberation, the European Commission has moved to enforce its much-criticized “Television Without Frontiers” directive across the whole of the community.

The EC has written to all 12 member states urging that they fully and properly implement the directive, which is designed to set minimum programming standards, regulate advertising and stimulate cross-border broadcasting.

EC sources say the letters represent a “first step” toward enforcing Television Without Frontiers, which is a cornerstone of the EC’s audio-visual policy.

Legal actions could follow if the letters are ignored, though a gentle policy of persuasion is more likely. Many analysts doubt the EC’s power to legally force members to adopt the regulations.

A year after the October ’91 directive, most EC members have yet to pass their own legislation that would allow it to take hold.

The most problematic areas appear to lie in its demands that stations recognize a 50% European productions quota, a 10% independent productions quota plus restrictions on advertising breaks and sponsorship.

U.K. Acts on rule

The U.K.’s broadcasting regulations were brought somewhat into line with the directive by the 1990 Broadcasting Act. But in Spain, Germany and Denmark, progress has been either slow or nonexistent.

In Italy, a new law following the directive’s quota on advertising (15% of broadcast time) has been passed, though Italian broadcasters remain in breach of most of the other articles (Daily Variety, Nov. 16).

The directive has been heavily criticized by almost every state. In Spain, for example, its limits on non-European programming and commercials–under one article, spot advertising in a given hour should amount to no more than 20%, or 12 minutes–is felt to have ominous implications for both state and privately owned outlets.

A spokesperson for national net Antena 3, which made $ 48.9 million from ads in 1990, admits, “If this is passed we will close in a matter of weeks.”

Among its various letters, the EC charges the U.K. and France with discriminating against foreign broadcasters and alleges that Spain, Italy and Greece have contravened rules on TV advertising. The members have been given two months to respond to the letters.

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