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Media law case before the European Court of Justice

Our Dispute Resolution team has represented a foreign entity that provides media services worldwide at the Court of Justice of the European Union. Previously, the Vilnius regional administrative court has granted our request and referred a media law case to the Court of Justice of the European Union for a preliminary ruling.

The Lithuanian Radio and Television Commission issued a decision to oblige re-broadcasters of programming schedules within 12 months of the decision‘s entry into force, to disseminate the programming schedule only in the programming schedule packages which are disseminated for an additional payment. This resulted in a factual restriction of the freedom of reception of a TV program for a period of time.

The preliminary ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union is of great importance for the sector of media – the Court presented valuable clarifications regarding previously ambiguous notions of the Audiovisual media services’ legislature.

In the preliminary ruling the Court clarified how it should be ascertained who has the editorial responsibility for the choice of the audiovisual content of the audiovisual media service and determines the manner in which it is organized, i. e. is the media service provider within the meaning of Article 1(1)(d) of Audiovisual media services directive 2010/13. If such a question arises a national court should ascertain where the workforce involved in the pursuit of the services at question operates.

Moreover, the Court of Justice of the European Union clarified that a Member State cannot defend its decision relying on article 4 of the Audiovisual media services directive 2010/13 if the Member State did not fulfill the requirements of the Article 4 in the decision itself.

Lastly, the Court gave the preliminary answer for the Vilnius regional administrative court stating, that the measure at question (as it is formulated in the article 33 of the Law on the provision of information to the public) does not fall under the notion of restriction of a freedom of reception of the Article 3(1) of the Audiovisual media services directive 2010/13. Therefore, if the measure applied by the decision of the Lithuanian Radio and Television Commission did not constitute a restriction of freedom of reception, the procedure pursuant to Article 3(2) of the Audiovisual media services directive could have not been followed. Vilnius regional administrative court will have to assess inter alia these factual circumstances in order to adopt a final ruling.

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