A report released today by the Commission confirms that the EU's rules on TV advertising need close monitoring. In 2007 and 2008, the Commission took legal action and initiated infringement procedures against Spain and Italy for not applying EU rules that limit TV advertising to the 12-minute maximum per hour and not integrating these rules into their national laws. This is the final report on the EU's Television without Frontiers Directive, which since 1989 has ensured the free circulation of broadcasting services, as well as guaranteed an appropriate level of consumer protection and promotion of European television programmes and films. Its EU policy successor, the Audiovisual Media Services Directive, is expected to be fully implemented across the EU by December 2009.

Today's report looks at the application of the Television without Frontiers Directive in the Member States in 2007 and 2008. During this two-year period, the Commission was required to initiate legal action against Spain and Italy in accordance with the Directive. The European Commission decided to bring Spain before the European Court of Justice for not abiding by EU advertising rules that limit advertising and teleshopping spots to 12 minutes per hour (IP/08/1801). The main publicly funded and commercial TV channels in Spain regularly exceed the 12-minute limit. An infringement procedure, resulting in a letter of formal notice, was also launched against Italy for failure to respect the 12-minute advertising limit, the minimal duration of teleshopping windows, the insertion rules and for its ineffective sanction procedure. More recently, in March this year, the Commission also warned Estonia that it was not respecting the 12-minute rule.

Today's report also adds current analysis to the ongoing evolution of the television market. For example, during the 2007-2008 period pay-TV operators have generally reaped significant rewards while traditional free-to-air and public service broadcasters have suffered from stagnating or declining revenues. The report also provides a market share breakdown for EU broadcasting companies: public service 39%, free-to-air commercial 28%; pay-TV 22%; thematic and teleshopping 11%.

According to the data collected over the two years, although some TV viewers are switching to new channels and on-demand services, there were no major changes in overall viewing patterns. However, TV viewing time did increase in the UK, Spain and Romania between 2006 and 2008 while it decreased in the Czech Republic, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands. On average, Hungarians watched the most TV (260 min/day), while Austrians and Swedes spent the least amount of time watching TV per day (148 and 160 min/day respectively).

The report also shows that almost three quarters of prime-time TV viewing was devoted to European programmes (IP/09/840). EU-wide average broadcasting time for European programmes and films increased from 63.52% in 2005 to 65.05% in 2006. In addition, the average share of independent producers’ works broadcast by all European channels in all Member States rose from 36.44% in 2005 to 37.59% in 2006.

The next report on Europe's audiovisual market will be at the end of 2011. It will mark the start of the new Audiovisual Media Services Directive, which replaces the Television without Frontiers Directive and is expected to be fully implemented across the EU by December 2009. The new directive now also covers on-demand television services and includes updated rules on television advertising. In addition, it reaffirms the 12-minute hourly ceiling for advertising time and adds rules on product placement (MEMO/08/803).


Under Article 26 of the Television without Frontiers Directive, the Commission is obliged to submit a report on the application of the Directive every two years. EU Directive 2007/65/EC, adopted in December 2007, amends the Television without Frontiers Directive of 1989 and renames it the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (IP/07/1809). Today's report briefly describes the new provisions. The new EU rules, which are to be integrated into all national legislations by December 2009, enlarge the scope of the Directive to include non-linear services and provide policy regarding the protection of minors, incitement to hatred, and commercial communication. The Directive also introduces new rules on accessibility for the sight- and hearing-impaired, short reporting, promotion of European works for on-demand services, product placement, advertising in broadcasting services, advertising of unhealthy food, self regulation and independent regulators.

The seventh application report and more information are available on the Audiovisual and Media Policies website