EU TV Liberalisation Doesn't Go Far Enough, Complains RTL

02 January 2006

"I am not hungry; but thank goodness, I am greedy," quoth the legendary British humorous magazine Punch back in 1878.

Over a century later, the same sentiment can be ascribed to Bertelsmann-controlled RTL Group, Europe's largest TV conglomerate.

Although the European Commission earlier this month published a wide-ranging review of EU TV regulations, including the abolition of many restrictions, it does not go far enough for RTL's liking.

Among the EC's controversial proposals are the extension of ad-free periods during children's programming and news bulletins. It also proposes to limit the introduction of lucrative "isolated spot commercials" to sports fixtures only - for example, screening these only during natural breaks such the taking of a corner kick.

None of which pleases unhungry RTL chief executive Gerhard Zeiler: "We are truly disappointed. We think they have missed an opportunity really to modernise advertising rules in a fast-moving environment with new technologies and competition."

Along with other broadcasters, RTL has lobbied loudly for greater "flexibility" with commercials, arguing that the restriction of advertising during news broadcasts and kids' shows might threaten programme-making in those sectors.

The review, however, offers a raft of concessions to broadcasters - among the most potentially lucrative of which are the lifting of a ban on ads during the first twenty minutes of programmes, and granting permission for paid product placement.

The latter has already triggered an avalanche of protest from opponents who fear it will lead to American-style TV, awash with commercials and blatant product-plugging during programme content.

If adopted by the European Parliament and member states, ther new rules are expected to become law in 2009.

Data sourced from Financial Times Online; additional content by WARC staff