EU win for Turner

Court nixes bid to block toon channel

BRUSSELS — The European Court of Justice confirmed Thursday that Belgium cannot block broadcasts of Ted Turner’s Cartoon channel from another EU member state, even though the channel does not meet Belgian and EU quota limits on non-EU product.

The court’s decision echoes a 1994 ruling in a case involving the United Kingdom. In that decision, it was ruled that jurisdiction over TV content is governed by the state where a broadcaster is established, rather than the country where it is transmitted.

Thursday’s case was brought by the Belgian government against Paul Denuit, the managing director of cable operator Coditel. The government claimed that by broadcasting Cartoon, which contains 100% U.S. product, Coditel was breaking Belgian legislation imposing strict TV quotas on non-EU product.

The court rejected the right of Belgian regulators to block broadcasts transmitted from other member states, and said the same principle should apply to the application of the EU’s TV Without Frontiers directive throughout the European Union.

“It is solely for the member state from which television broadcasts emanate to ensure compliance with the directive and the receiving state is not authorized to exercise its own control in that regard,” said the court.

Member states that want to block broadcasts transmitted from elsewhere in the EU should do so under Article 170 of the EEC Treaty, which gives them the right to challenge each other in the European Courts for failure to comply with EU directives, the court advised.

It remains to be seen whether Belgium will take legal action against the U.K. government, under whose authorization Cartoon is broadcast.

Alternatively, Belgium could ask the commission to take action under another treaty provision, but if past practice is anything to go by, the commission is likely to respond reluctantly to such a request. Both courses of action are politically charged, so Belgium is likely to think carefully before taking its case any further.

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