Europe's controversial Television Without Frontiers directive has had little impact on the viewing patterns of audiences there who still prefer to see American imports rather than programming from oth


BRUSSELS (The Hollywood Reporter) -- Europe's controversial Television Without Frontiers directive has had little impact on the viewing patterns of audiences there who still prefer to see American imports rather than programming from other EU countries, a new report released May 26 reveals.

However, the directive has helped boost the presence of European programming on broadcasters throughout the region, the study on the Television Without Frontiers directive said.

The study showed European programs rose from 52.1% of broadcasting time on major channels in 1993 to 57% in 2002. It also showed that the proportion of independent European programs rose from 16.2% to 20.2% over the same period.

EU's Television Without Frontiers directive, which sets quotas on Hollywood imports, says European productions should account for at least half of broadcasts where practicable, and that independent European producers should be granted at least 10% of broadcast time.

The report -- prepared by British consultancies David Graham & Associates and Oliver & Ohlbaum, France's Carat Expert and Spain's Arena Audiovisuel -- found that certain countries are stricter than others in applying the rules. Belgium, Finland, France, Italy, Portugal and the United Kingdom are the strictest in that they both impose additional requirements and are prescriptive in their monitoring methods, the study said.

But the report did not find a significant shift in the viewing habits of European audiences towards a more pan-European cultural identity. "There is a greater appetite for U.S. programming among European audiences than for programs produced in other EU members," the report said. "It was suggested to us that U.S. program storylines have broad appeal, whereas European production has a national cultural appeal which does not travel well."

The study counted 86 primary channels and 432 secondary channels (audiences of under 3%) in the EU. The United Kingdom had the largest number of registered secondary channels, with 118, followed by France with 69.

Total revenue from European programs in 2002 was €61.1 billion ($7.7 billion), or 0.66% of EU GDP. Total expenditure on production of content was €5.8 billion ($7.3 billion), and of this figure, €2.8 billion ($3.5 billion) was spent on national local news. The estimated deficit from the import and export of TV programs was €1.7 billion ($2.1 billion) in 2002.

The Television Without Frontiers directive allows EU governments to take "national measures" to guarantee the free broadcast of events considered of major importance to society. It also regulates the amount of advertising permitted onscreen, the number and form of advertising breaks, and the content and presentation of commercials and program sponsorships.

Last July, the European Commission -- the EU's executive body -- confirmed that broadcasters were consistently meeting their legal targets for showing European programs, with an average two-thirds of programs shown on television made in Europe. However, it also revealed there were variations among EU countries, with Ireland's average in 2002 at 48.67% while Austria was 79.13%.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

Print