The European Union's rules on broadcasting quotas were challenged in the EU's highest court Jan. 19 as outdated relics that are ill-suited to cope with the needs of pay-per-view technology.

BRUSSELS -- The European Union's rules on broadcasting quotas were challenged in the EU's highest court Jan. 19 as outdated relics that are ill-suited to cope with the needs of pay-per-view technology.

Dutch cable operator Mediakabel contested the rules at the EU's Court of Justice in Luxembourg, arguing that the minimum quotas for European-made productions are simply impractical to impose for pay-per-view, whose services are entirely consumer-driven.

Mediakabel said that pay-per-view should be considered an information-technology service and categorized under the EU's Electronic Commerce directive, rather than under the quota-setting Television Without Frontiers directive. "Quotas are simply not applicable when it comes to video-on-demand and the Internet," Mediakabel lawyer Marjolein Geus said in an interview. "We are saying that the wrong directives are being applied to us."

Geus said that Mediakabel set up a pay-per-view service, Filmtime, in 2000, but the service was scrapped in 2003, effectively stymied by the quota's rules. Mediakabel began legal proceedings in the Dutch courts against Dutch media authority the Commissariaat voor de Media for wrongly classifying pay-per-view as a TV service. The Dutch Supreme Court sent the case to the EU Court of Justice last year for clarification.

The Television Without Frontiers directive 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 court's advocate general is due to reach a provisional opinion on the issue March 10, and the full court will reach its verdict six months later. At issue is not just Mediakabel's case, but the definition of services like pay-per-view -- on TV, the Internet or on mobile phones -- and which EU rules are applied to them.

EU governments already have waded into the debate, with the Netherlands, France, Belgium and the United Kingdom all arguing that it falls under the remit of the Television Without Frontiers directive. However, the British also argued that the directive's quota rules should be relaxed in the case of pay-per-view as the directive says they should be applied only "where practicable."