Pay-per-view broadcasters must comply with the European Union's controversial rules on broadcasting quotas in the overall choice of films they offer, the EU's highest court said June 2.


BRUSSELS (The Hollywood Reporter) -- Pay-per-view broadcasters must comply with the European Union's controversial rules on broadcasting quotas in the overall choice of films they offer, the EU's highest court said June 2.

The EU's Court of Justice in Luxembourg rejected a claim by Dutch cable operator Mediakabel that its pay-per-view service, Filmtime, was an interactive service and therefore exempt from the EU's Television Without Frontiers directive that sets quotas on Hollywood imports.

The court said Filmtime is a TV broadcasting service because subscribers can only view the films at times set by Mediakabel rather than at times set by viewers. "The fact remains that it, like any operator broadcasting television programs intended for reception by the public, chooses the works which it broadcasts," the court wrote. "The provider knows his overall transmission time and can thus comply with the obligation imposed on him to reserve for European works a majority proportion of his transmission time."

But this effectively means that the broadcasting quotas can be considered as met if a majority of films offered are European. "The directive requires television broadcasters to comply with a broadcast quota for European works," the court wrote. "It cannot be intended to require television viewers to actually watch those works. Although it is undeniable that Mediakabel does not determine the works which are actually chosen and watched by the subscribers, the fact remains that it, like any operator broadcasting television programs intended for reception by the public, chooses the works which it broadcasts."

Mediakabel set up Filmtime in 2000, but the service was scrapped in 2003, effectively stymied by the quota rules.