Programme producers and broadcasters have reacted enthusiastically to the European Union's action plan for the introduction of advanced television services in Europe, adopted in mid-1993 by Council Decision 93/424/EEC of 22.7.1993. This action programme aims to support the introduction of the wide-screen (16:9) format as the common basis of TV technologies irrespective of the transmission standards and broadcasting modes used. It has been estimated that an investment of ECU 405 million is necessary to trigger a critical mass of wide-screen services. The action plan offers an EU contribution of ECU 228 million over four years to meet an equivalent amount of private sector funding. It encourages both broadcasting services and programme production and conversion (the two types of activity are assessed separately under different provisions of the plan). In order to be eligible for EU funding, candidates must first ensure their own financing for the rest of the extra cost of the proposed wide-screen services. The large number of proposals which the Commission has already received demonstrates the interest of operators to switch to the new format. The first call for proposals was published in September 1993 (OJ No C 237 of 1.9.1993) resulting in over 1,000 proposals for a total of 5,000 hours of programmes and 100,000 hours of broadcasting. Because of the limitation of resources under the initial phase of the action programme to ECU 25 million, the Commission decided to restrict the funding period for broadcasting to nine months and to restrict TV programme funding to projects scheduled for production in 1993-1994. As announced in the call, special emphasis was given to priority categories, such as independent producers, programmes from Member States having a low production capacity, and languages covering a limited area. Following the selection process, the Commission has decided, in the first stage of the action programme, to contribute to the conversion of 1,000 hours of programmes from the existing 4:3 format to the 16:9 format, to support the production of 1,600 hours of new programmes in 16:9 format, and also to give support to the broadcasting of 9,000 hours of 16:9 programmes. Other suitable projects were deferred for resubmission in future calls for proposals. The next call is timetabled for publication in February 1994. ECU 53 million in financial aid for programme production and conversion and a further ECU 30 million for wide-screen broadcasting is foreseen in the action programme's 1994 budget.
Policy making and guidelines
Council adopts action plan for the accelerated development of the market for advanced television services
17 August 1993