Sir: David Elstein ("Channel 5 chief dishes up the other half of the Sky debate", 3 December) claims that "Sky's entertainment channels already offer more than 40 per cent EC content". The Department of National Heritage's own figures show that only Sky One is projected to go over 40 per cent in the year 1996-7. Other channels such as Sky Soap carry nugatory EU content. Mr Elstein goes on to assert that Channel 4 "only managed 50 per cent". The actual figure from the most recent annual report was 58 per cent - and much higher during peak hours.
Mr Elstein argues that second-hand TV content is as cheap from Europe as it is from the United States. It isn't. American companies have large production stocks, often with high production values, that can be sold into European markets cheaply. By this stage, the production costs have already been recovered in the home US market.
He argues that 51 per cent EU quotas would offer no industrial, cultural or consumer benefits. Since 1990, the deficit in the audio-visual market between the EU and the US has grown from virtually nothing to $6.3bn.The growth in the number of TV channels has not been accompanied by a growth in European TV content. New unregulated channels such as Sky have chosen to import programmes from the US because they are cheaper. Had they used European programmes, it could have created thousands of jobs throughout the EU. If the UK government were to enforce EU quotas, BSkyB would have to invest over pounds 50m in our cultural industries in the same way as Canal Plus invests pounds 80m in French and European TV content.
CAROLE TONGUE MEP
(London East, Lab)