European policymakers said Sept. 13 that new technologies such as video-on-demand could make the European Union's broadcasting quota system redundant.


BRUSSELS (The Hollywood Reporter) -- European policymakers said Sept. 13 that new technologies such as video-on-demand could make the European Union's broadcasting quota system redundant.

At a European Parliament hearing, Euro MPs, officials and broadcasting executives were warned that the Television Without Frontiers directive -- which sets quotas on Hollywood imports -- would be difficult to stretch to on-demand broadcasting and Internet services.

The European Commission's director general in charge of media, Fabio Colesanti, said the key aim of the TWF directive was to ensure a vibrant open broadcasting environment. He said the best way to ensure that was not necessarily with new quotas, but by offering improved access for producers and broadcasters. "Better access need not go hand-in-hand with increased regulation," he said.

The Commission -- the EU's executive body -- is currently revising the TWF directive.

Many Euro-MPs said that video-on-demand could provide the media pluralism the directive tries to create in Europe. They said the example of online music services like iTunes showed that customers appreciate systems that offer them catalogs that include rare and obscure works.

Telecom Italia Media president Riccardo Perissich argued that quotas would be counter-productive to new services.

"It would limit catalogs and investments, transferring onto the new services the logic of scarcity that characterizes traditional broadcast services," he said.

He pointed out that although broadcasters were meeting quotas of showing European productions at least half of the time, these tended to be national productions. Non-national European productions account for less that 10% of daily programming and are notably absent from primetime, he said.

"By contrast, video-on-demand services can be an extraordinary tool for sustaining the circulation of non-national European cinema," Perissich said. "The problem that regulation must face is not how to force the provision of European productions, but rather how to ensure their actual availability."

Olivier Courson, head of film at Canal Plus, warned that overregulation could stifle the emerging technology in the sector. However, Yvon Thiec, head of cinema network Eurocinema, said that although traditional quotas may not be technically feasible for video-on-demand systems, regulation of new media was still needed.