European Court Of Justice Declines Jurisdiction To Rule On Preliminary Reference From A National TV Regulator


On 22 December 2010, the European Court of Justice ("ECJ") declined jurisdiction to answer a question for a preliminary ruling referred by the Licensing and Control Authority (Collège d'autorisation et de contrôle) of the Belgian French-speaking Broadcasting Authority (Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel).

On 8 October 2009, a Belgian television viewer filed a complaint with the Investigatory Office of the Broadcasting Authority alleging that RTL Belgium SA ("RTL") infringed the rules on teleshopping. As the Investigatory Office concurred with the viewer, it requested RTL to communicate its observations in this respect. RTL replied that the Belgian regulator was not competent to examine the matter since it is not RTL which broadcasted the teleshopping programs but its parent company CLT-UFA, which is established in Luxembourg. The Licensing and Control Authority was therefore in doubt as to whether the Belgium or the Luxembourg authorities were competent to supervise RTL's activities. It thus referred a question for a preliminary ruling to the ECJ by which it sought clarification as to where jurisdiction lies.

As only courts or tribunals can refer questions for a preliminary ruling, the ECJ first examined whether the Licensing and Control Authority of the Belgian Broadcasting Authority can be considered to be a court or tribunal and, accordingly, whether the ECJ has jurisdiction to give a ruling on the question referred. The ECJ recalled that according to settled case-law, in order to determine whether a body making a reference for a preliminary ruling is a court or tribunal, a number of factors must be taken into account, such as whether the body is established by law, whether it is permanent, whether its jurisdiction is compulsory, whether its procedure is inter partes, whether it applies rules of law and whether it is independent.

In the present case, the main question examined by the ECJ is whether the body referring the...

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