22nd May 2022

EU adopts new TV advertising rules

The European Union has rubberstamped new EU-wide rules on media services, relaxing TV advertising restrictions and allowing 'product placement' in television shows.

"Today the dawn of Europe's convergent audiovisual services industry is breaking," media commissioner Viviane Reding said at a press conference following the adoption by the European Parliament of the commission's proposal on Thursday (29 November).

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The new directive, which revises the legislation put in place in 1997 and covers all audiovisual media services, ranging from traditional TV broadcasts to emerging on-demand TV-like services, should be implemented by EU member states by the end of 2009.

"With these modernised rules that improve legal certainty and reaffirm the country of establishment principle, Europe's audiovisual policies will better meet the demands of a fast-moving and dynamic industry while maintaining high consumer protection standards," she added.

The new rules relax restrictions on TV advertising, with one novelty being 'product placement' - the placement of a specific product in TV-programmes for commercial purposes.

At the moment, product placement is banned in most EU member states. However, it has been common in the US since the 1970s, creating an unfair competitive advantage for US productions, say supporters of the new rules.

Under the new EU rules, product placement will be permitted, but not in informative programmes - like news and documentaries - or children's programmes. National authorities also retain the right to ban it completely.

An additional safeguard is that signals need to appear every time a programme containing product placement starts, when it ends and after commercial breaks.

A controversial part of the reform is the "country of origin" principle. Under this principle, broadcasters must follow the national rules of the home country when making programmes, even if shows are then transmitted in other states with different regulations.

For example, if a member state decided to ban product placement, programmes from other member states containing hidden advertisements cannot be blocked.

Concerning the amount of advertising allowed, the new rules keep the 12 minutes per hour cap on advertising, but abolish the upper limit of three hours' advertising a day.

Furthermore, commercial breaks will only be permitted every 30 minutes.

Some MEPs have criticised the new legislation as opening the door to more advertising in everyday life.

"American-style advertising and product placement are set to become the norm in

Europe under the legislation adopted by the European Parliament today," said German green MEP Helga Truepel.

2The Greens voted against the legislation, which will extend the creeping commercial incursion into private life," she added.

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