The European Union’s Television Without Frontiers directive, designed to harmonize TV legislation across Europe, has been put on ice until the end of 2004, it was revealed Friday. The decision was jointly taken by the EU Council of Ministers and the European Commission – the Union’s executive arm.

Daniel Krebber, public affairs manager of the Brussels-headquartered World Federation of Advertisers, hailed the move: “I think that’s good news because the advertising industry has already achieved a lot across Europe.” Krebber’s delight is the greater because the postponement also shelves a ban on advertising to children and limitations on the frequency of commercial breaks.

Ross Biggam, director general of the Association of Commercial Television, is less certain. “The current rules of advertising are OK, but they could be better. They need to be severely updated.”

But he too expressed satisfaction at the delay: “It gives us another two years before opening the Pandora's Box on all these debates.” The proposed directive limits the frequency of commercials and fails to address new media, such as interactive TV, Biggam opines.

The mooted directive restricts commercial breaks to a maximum of one break per twenty minutes for dramas and documentaries, and for movies a break every 45 minutes. “Do we need this level of detail at the European level?”, Biggam asks rhetorically. “Does it matter if a broadcaster in Portugal has a slightly different break pattern than a broadcaster in Finland?”

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff