Top European Union policy makers and broadcasting executives gather in the northern England city of Liverpool Sept. 20 for a three-day conference on how to regulate Europe's fast-changing audiovisual


BRUSSELS (The Hollywood Reporter) -- Top European Union policy makers and broadcasting executives gather in the northern England city of Liverpool Sept. 20 for a three-day conference on how to regulate Europe's fast-changing audiovisual landscape.

The conference will be one of the last occasions to influence the European Commission -- the EU's executive body -- before it publishes long-awaited reform plans for the broadcasting sector in December.

It will gather media and culture ministers from the 25 EU countries, as well as EU media and information society commissioner Viviane Reding and business leaders such as BBC director general Mark Thompson and British Sky Broadcasting CEO James Murdoch.

The commission has indicated that new technologies have changed the terms of debate over broadcasting rules, forcing it to consider new measures to promote original programming, to regulate advertising, and to block unsuitable material.

The commission has already spent three years reviewing the EU's 1989 Television Without Frontiers directive, which still regulates the entire broadcasting sector. And even after it publishes its planned Audiovisual Content Directive, EU governments could spend a further two years rewriting it before they actually adopt formal regulations.

There are six key issues under discussion at the Liverpool conference:

(1) -- Rules for audiovisual content services: The commission has provisionally distinguished between linear -- or scheduled -- broadcasts and non-linear, which can be viewed at any time. It has also insisted that broadcasters need to be regulated in at least one EU country.

(2) -- Rights to information and short extracts: The commission is keen to ensure certain events -- political or cultural -- remain freely available for broadcasters to cover.

(3) -- Cultural diversity and promotion of European and independent audiovisual production: The commission says the quota rules that limit Hollywood productions on television have helped promote European productions, but it is cautious about whether it can apply to video-on-demand and other services.

(4) -- Commercial communications: Rules on advertising, sponsorship and product placement look set to be relaxed, but will still be in place.

(5) -- Protection of minors: The commission wants to hear about technical measures being devised to keep children from seeing violent, racist, or pornographic content on television and on the Internet.

(6) -- Media pluralism: The commission says this is "crucial for the democratic process," but it uncertain whether the EU is best placed to promote it.


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