Europe TV policy takes a beating

French communications minister Alain Carignon has called for a rewriting of the European Television Without Frontiers directive, which he described Wednesday as being riddled with “deficiencies and weaknesses.”

Carignon was addressing 60 top execs from the Gallic TV and film industries in an effort to coordinate the French position vis-a-vis the upcoming European Union consultative Green Paper on the future of Europe’s TV policy.

But in yet another sign of tension between Carignon and culture minister Jacques Toubon, the latter expressed astonishment at Wednesday’s meeting and complained that his office had not been consulted.

TV honchos, including Canal Plus prexy Andre Rousselet and newly appointed pubcaster topper Jean-Pierre Elkabbach, listened as Carignon lambasted Television Without Frontiers.

Carignon said that three years into the directive’s life, it is clear that Europe had not given itself the legal or economic means to develop its television industry.

In particular, he suggested that steps have to be taken to defend countries receiving TV images sent from other countries who are not “respecting the spirit or the letter” of the directive.

The French government, which applies the strictest quota rules among the European Union members (60% European programming), has been an outspoken critic of countries such as the United Kingdom, where the directive has been applied in a more relaxed manner.

Carignon complained that the directive has “considerably limited” the efficiency of the quota system by stipulating that broadcasters should screen a majority of European product “where practicable.”

Citing Ted Turner’s U.K.-based TNT and Cartoon Network, the minister questioned whether European legislation should favor the host country, which may take a lenient approach to the directive, or the receiving nation, which may have a stricter interpretation.

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