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EC threatens action vs. U.K. over quotas

The European Commission said Wednesday that it would take legal action against the United Kingdom for failing to implement correctly the European Union’s Television Without Frontiers directive. This is the first time the Commission has taken action against a member state over the directive, which went into effect on Oct. 3, 1991.

In a surprise move, the Commission did not, as expected, oppose the U.K. decision to issue broadcasting licenses to the TNT/Cartoon Network. The U.S.-owned satellite channel is believed to contravene quota provisions for non-EU programming in the Television Without Frontiers directive.

Instead, the commission decided to take legal action against the U.K. for failing to fulfill Article 2 of the directive, which relates to the jurisdiction of member states over broadcasters.

According to EC sources, the U.K. is undermining the Commission’s goal of creating a “one-stop license,” which would allow broadcasters that have obtained a license in one EU nation to broadcast throughout the EU.

Unless the U.K. modifies its position, the case will be taken to the European Court of Justice by the Commission’s legal service.

A spokesman from the U.K.’s Department of National Heritage said he was mystified by the Commission’s move, having expected that if the EC took any action, it would be taken directly against Turner’s TNT/Cartoon Network.

If the commission succeeds in imposing its will, it will become harder for the U.K. to prevent the broadcast of channels that have been licensed in other EU countries, regardless of whether it regards them as undesirable.

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