An update of European broadcasting law could extend content rules to the Internet, the European Commission revealed July 12.


BRUSSELS (The Hollywood Reporter) -- An update of European broadcasting law could extend content rules to the Internet, the European Commission revealed July 12.

The European Union's executive body published provisional ideas in its ongoing consultation on how to revise broadcasting law in the era of the Internet, mobile phones and other new technologies. The commission issued five papers that call for new rules for Web downloads covering taste, decency, accuracy and impartiality.

The proposed rules would require EU governments to take measures to ensure that media content -- in television, radio, Internet and other broadcasts -- is not offensive to minors and does not incite racial, sexual, ethnic, religious or other hatred. Governments would be encouraged to put in place systems of co-regulation or self-regulation as well as systems of filtering, age verification, labeling and classification of content.

Broadcasters and other interested parties have until Sept. 5 to respond to the issues raised in the five papers, which were drawn up after consultation with broadcasters, advertisers, consumer groups and other interested parties.

A major audiovisual conference scheduled for Sept. 20-22 in Liverpool, England, will feature debate on these issues and will feed into the draft EU directive on new broadcasting rules. The new directive will be published at the end of this year.

The commission acknowledges that many EU broadcasting rules are out of date at a time when telecoms can deliver TV-quality services. EU information society and media commissioner Viviane Reding said she wants to give Europe's media industry the most modern and flexible rules in the world.

At the same time, the papers say there is little need to change the rules governing the frequency and amount of advertising on TV, currently limited to 12 minutes an hour.

The proposals come as the commission conducts its revision of the 1989 Television Without Frontiers directive, which sets quotas on Hollywood imports and independent European productions. It also regulates the amount of advertising permitted onscreen, the number and form of advertising breaks, the content and presentation of commercials and program sponsorships.

The papers note a broad consensus that the current EU rules banning tobacco and limiting alcohol advertising were justified and should be applied to all audiovisual media. They also note a consensus that advertising and teleshopping should be "recognizable as such" and "kept quite separate" from other parts of programs.

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