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Audiovisual Media Services Directive is passed

A new Directive that will regulate TV advertising and product placement across the EU was passed by the European Parliament yesterday. The Audiovisual Media Services (AVMS) Directive will cover internet TV and on-demand services.30 Nov 2007

The European Parliament approved the Council's common position on the Directive yesterday. Member States now have two years to make the Directive national law. It replaces the 1997 TV Without Frontiers Directive.

The rules do not apply to private websites. They cover an "audiovisual media service" that is "under the editorial responsibility of a media service provider". Editorial responsibility requires "effective control both over the selection of the programmes and over their organisation either in a chronological schedule, in the case of television broadcasts, or in a catalogue, in the case of on-demand audiovisual media services." A site like YouTube will not be caught by the rules.

TV programmes offered 'on demand' from the internet will be covered by rules concerning protection of minors and product placement though not rules concerning the amount of time allowed for advertising.

Product placement, where a specific product is placed in TV programmes for commercial purposes, will be allowed only in a limited range of programmes, and then only under strict rules. It would be prohibited in news and current affairs programmes, children's programmes, documentaries and programmes providing advice. Signals must appear when a programme containing product placement starts, when it ends and after commercial breaks. Members states can still choose to have a ban on product placement.

Commercial breaks will be permitted every 30 minutes in TV films, cinematographic works and news programmes. In children's programmes, commercial breaks will not be allowed unless the programmes are more than 30 minutes long. There are no insertion rules for other types of programmes, such as serials. The maximum of amount of advertising permitted under the new rules would not exceed be 12 minutes an hour.

Member States and the Commission are required by the Directive to encourage media service providers to develop codes of conduct towards children, for example to preclude junk food commercials aimed at children.

Parliament also ensured that a provision on access to media services for disabled people was included in the legislation itself, and not just the introductory remarks, and included an the obligation for Member states to ensure that the Directive's application is overseen by independent regulatory bodies.

The European Commission welcomed the Parliament's vote.

"Today the dawn of Europe's convergent audiovisual services industry is breaking," said Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media. "With these modernised rules that improve legal certainty and reaffirm the country of establishment principle, Europe's audiovisual policies will better meet the demands of a fast-moving and dynamic industry while maintaining high consumer protection standards."

"There will be less regulation, better financing for content and greater visibility to cultural diversity and the protection of minors," she said.

The new rules will apply fully in 2009.