A comparative analysis of the manner in which France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK have implemented the provisions in 1989 Television Without Frontiers Directive for television advertising and sponsorship shows that there are obstacles for the development of a Single European Market in television advertising.
Although 1989 Television Without Frontiers Directive allowed transfrontier television advertising, the regulation of television advertising remains nationally based. Furthen-nore, Member States have different levels of advertising expenditure, selling practices and television market structures.
There is a tension between the provisions for television advertising and sponsorship in the Council of Europe Convention on Transfrontier Television and those in the Television Without Frontiers Directive. Member States have indicated their commitment to one text over the other in the detailed choices for their national rules. The European Court of Justice resolved some of the contradictions and ambiguities in the 1989 Television Without Frontiers Directive, and these have been reflected in the revised 1997 text. But there is still an ambiguity so as to what level of sponsor presence is adequate to ensure both transparency, and the protection of a broadcaster's editorial independence.
Rules about the frequency and quantity of advertising differ between the five countries and four of them set different competitive requirements according to the type of broadcaster. There are marked differences in the rules about advertising breaks in feature films and other audiovisual works. National rules on sponsorship also vary, especially those on centre credits and the promotional mentions of the sponsor within the programme. So do the detailed provisions. National regulators decide when and what type of commercial presence constitutes surreptitious advertising. In some countries, it is only payment that renders product placement illegal, whereas in others the product has to be editorially justified and not given undue prominence.
Direct offers to the public have proved to be a grey area in Member States where their economic value was high. Teleshopping is likely to become a significant source of programming, especially if Member States effectively expand their limits on airtime as allowed in the 1997 text.
Although some differences have been resolved in the 1997 revision of the Television Without Frontiers Directive, there are still difficulties in establishing an effective level playing field for European television advertising.