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EU countries asked for details on audiovisual laws compliance

Out-Law News | 02 Sep 2011 | 4:12 pm | 2 min. read

The European Commission has asked eight EU member states to provide it with information on how they are complying with EU media laws.

The Commission has sent Austria, Cyprus, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Luxembourg "fact-finding letters" seeking "information about their implementation of the Audiovisual Media Services (AVMS) Directive", it said. The countries have 10 weeks to reply.

The AVMS Directive sets out a European-wide standard on governing audio and visual content that is under the editorial responsibility of a media service provider. It sets out laws on issues such as the protection of minors, advertising, product placement and news reporting.

Under the Directive media providers are generally only subject to the rules that apply in their country of origin, but can be subject to the laws in other countries if they transmit material deemed to have incited hatred. Countries can also ban the retransmission of unsuitable content that was not prohibited in the country it originated in.

The Directive, which replaced the 1997 Television Without Frontiers Directive when it was passed by the European Parliament in 2007, does not regulate video content found at private website addresses, or sites such as YouTube.

The European Commission said that its fact-finding mission was not an indication that the countries had necessarily failed to fully implement all of the Directive's requirements. EU countries had until 19 December 2009 to transpose the Directive into national law.

"The fact-finding letters are part of the Commission's efforts to ensure that the national media laws of all Member States correctly implement all aspects of the AVMS rules," a European Commission statement said.

"The issues raised vary from one Member State to the other. The requests for information do not imply that the Directive has been incorrectly implemented by the Member States concerned but simply that, at this stage, the Commission has some outstanding questions concerning their implementation of the Directive," the statement said.

The Commission said that it wanted the countries to clarify how they had implemented rules on issues including "the country of origin principle and jurisdiction issues concerning audiovisual services", product placement, sponsorship television advertising and teleshopping, and the protection of minors.

The Commission previously wrote to 16 EU member countries, including the UK, in March asking them to provide information about their implementation of the Directive.

Slovenia has failed to notify the Commission whether that any of the Directive's rules have been transposed, and Poland has "only partially notified some measures". Both are "currently subject to infringement procedures," the Commission said. "The Commission is still analysing the measures notified by Portugal," it said.

The European Commission has the power to initiate legal proceedings against EU members for failure to enact EU laws. The first stage of proceedings is to send formal notice letters to countries the Commission identifies as not introducing the laws. The letters require member states to detail their views on any infringements they may have made.

Countries that do not comply with the requirements of EU law can be referred to the European courts. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) can order EU member countries to implement EU Directives and fine them if they fail to comply with the order