War declared on TV proposals to block broadcasts

- Advertisers and broadcasters have declared war on proposals to allow countries across Europe to block TV transmissions beamed in from beyond their borders.

- Advertisers and broadcasters have declared war on proposals to allow countries across Europe to block TV transmissions beamed in from beyond their borders.

They believe that if a convention being drawn up by the Council of Europe is approved, it will be doubly difficult to sweep away some of the continent's most contentious restrictions, notably France's Loi Evin, which bans alcohol advertising, and Greece's restrictions on toy advertising to children.

The proposals fly in the face of the EU's 1989 Television Without Frontiers directive, which rules that if a broadcast is legal in its country of origin it is also legal in any country to which it is transmitted.

The European Association of Advertising Agencies has declared its opposition to the initiative while Britain's Advertising Association has urged the UK Government to withdraw its support.

Both are pressing for changes before the draft convention is finalised at next month's meeting of the Council of Europe's standing committee on audio-visual issues.

Lionel Stanbrook, the AA's deputy director general, said: "All this is very disappointing for us. It will allow some countries to bring down the Iron Curtain on broadcasting."

Industry lobbyists claim that the reasons given by some countries for supporting the convention -- to guard children from unwelcome advertising and to prevent pornographic programming -- is really a smokescreen for unfair protection of national industries.

The convention would not affect broadcasts within the EU which would still be covered by the directive. But it could disrupt transmissions from within the EU to other member countries of the Council of Europe.

There are also fears that some supporters of the convention, particularly Turkey, could create problems if and when they become members of the EU.

"Of course we need a revised convention and I'm sure there are genuine concerns about cross-border TV," Stanbrook added. "But if we're to have a European single market for commercial communications, everybody has to be able to operate on equal terms."



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