Sweden loses EU booze ad fight

Sweden has lost the fight in Brussels to get adverts for alcohol and commercials aimed at children banished from TV screens across Europe.

Swedish law already bans alcohol adverts and ads aimed at youngsters. These rules are circumvented, however, by two of the largest Swedish commercial TV channels – TV3 and Kanal 5 – which broadcast from Britain, which has less stringent rules.

Sweden had wanted a new EU directive to ban booze ads and commercials aimed at children across the 25-member bloc.

It has also argued that the new directive should force broadcasters to take account of regulations in the receiving country – something that could have forced not just TV3 and Kanal 5, but also a host of international broadcasters, to adapt themselves to Swedish laws.

Sweden and a handful of other countries voted against the proposal, put forward by media commissioner Vivianne Reading, but they were defeated.

“We didn’t get as far as we would have liked, and that’s why we voted no and made this protest,” said culture minister Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth.

If the current proposal makes it through the European Parliament, Sweden will be able to keep its current rules, but other countries will not have to pay attention to them when broadcasting programmes here.

British minister Shaun Woodward made clear that the UK would not force TV companies to obey Swedish rules, and vowed to fight the Swedish proposals.

The failure of Adelsohn Liljeroth to push the changes through means that TV4 will remain the only Swedish channel subject to Swedish rules. But TV4 insists that it will not move abroad, and also says that it has no desire to broadcast ads for children or alcohol commercials.

“Our problem is the injustice over the amount of time allowed for adverts. Th companies that broadcast from the UK can allow 15 percent of broadcasting time to go to advertising, while we are only allowed to broadcast ten percent of the time,” said TV4’s communications director, Göran Ellung. He would like to see the Swedish rules changed to allow this.