15th EPRA Meeting in Brussels

posted on 17 May, 2002   (public)

The 15th meeting of the EPRA took place in Brussels on 16 and 17 May 2002

119 participants from 35 countries participated in the meeting, which was hosted jointly by the Belgian Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel de la Communauté française (CSA) and the Vlaams Commissariaat voor de Media. 45 regulatory authorities were represented and joined by the permanent observers from the Council of Europe and the European Commission.

The plenary session focused on the influence of politics on broadcasting. Professor Ian Hargreaves, from the University of Cardiff, opened the session by providing a detailed analysis of the very complex and fluctuating relationship between politics and broadcasting. He illustrated his analysis by commenting on some current manifestations of political influence on television in Italy, France, the United Kingdom, and Germany. This stimulating presentation was followed by a lively debate between the participants during which the modes of appointment of members of regulatory authorities, the rules regarding conflicts of interest and the issue of accountability were recurring themes. Some participants also emphasised that broadcasting content was much less endangered by politics than economics.

Two separate working groups convened simultaneously during the afternoon of the first day. The working group on DTT opened with a presentation by Olof Hultén from the Swedish SVT, on the current challenges of DTT for viewers, traditional broadcasters and national governments. He characterised the present and medium term perspective on the conversion to digital television in Europe as rather chaotic and uncertain, due to a lack of consultation of the viewers and a lax attitude of engineers and politicians. Still, he considered that DTT was a good idea in the long run. As an illustration of the topic, Ms Lisa di Feliciantonio, from the AGCOM, briefly introduced the main features of the DTT regulatory framework in Italy. During the course of the discussion, DTT pioneers, i.e. the UK, Sweden, Spain and Finland, shared their experience with representatives from other countries about to launch DTT. The lack of realism of many switch-off dates set by national governments was also emphasised.

In the second working group, Évelyne Lentzen of the Belgian CSA, presented different scenarios of cross-border advertising and programme windows currently existing in Europe. An intense discussion centered on the question whether the Convention on Transfrontier Television should, if it does not do so already, protect smaller countries against the loss of audience share and advertisement revenues resulting from programme windows transmitted by broadcasters licensed in significantly larger neighbouring countries. The point was illustrated with the example of the Swiss advertising window of M6, a French broadcaster, exclusively targeting the French speaking part of Switzerland.

On the second day, following a presentation by the European Commission (DG Education and Culture and DG Internal Market) and the Council of Europe (Media Division) of their recent activities, video examples of topical violations provided the basis for a practical discussion between members.

The next EPRA meeting will take place on 24 and 25 October 2002 in Ljubljana at the joint invitation of the Slovenian Broadcasting Council and the Telecommunications and Broadcasting Agency of the Republic of Slovenia.