Principles Governing the Use by States of Artificial Earth Satellites for International Direct Television Broadcasting

The Principles Governing the Use by States of Artificial Earth Satellites for International Direct Television Broadcasting, adopted in 1982 (Resolution 37/92), consider that such use has international political, economic, social, and cultural implications. They declare that a State intending to establish such a broadcasting service should notify receiving States and establish such a service only on the basis of agreements with those States. This form of broadcasting raises questions of national sovereignty, cultural independence, and free flow of information.

The use of communication facilities and computers is bound to change legal institutions within individual nations, and it seems likely that it will have an impact on international legal relationships as well. In order to gain some understanding of the impact of communications institutions on the formation of international law, let’s have a look for this new Space Law article at the Principles Governing the Use by States of Artificial Earth Satellites for International Direct Television Broadcasting.

Introduction

For years, it has been possible to send short wave radio messages from a transmitter directly to individual radio sets around the world. The reason for this is that short wave radio clings to the Earth’s circumference and allows broadcasting in rough proportion to the power of the transmitter. Artificial Earth satellites have changed this capacity, since they have allowed the sending of a television transmission to a satellite and then back to Earth thousands of kilometres away.

The possibility of long distance direct television broadcasting has sparked a debate in international legal circles which has lasted a decade and a half. Television, as we know, is an extremely powerful communications medium. It is a political and economic force. It is political in that it shapes the expectations of people who watch it. It is even suggested by many communication scholars that such a powerful medium has the capacity to “set the agenda”, or frame the basic politics of the people by identifying the issues and expectations to which they will pay attention.

Such a powerful medium have raised issues bearing on the cultural independence of individual nations, especially those which are less developed economically. Thus, the concerns of the world community began to emerge in negotiations discussing the use of these satellites. These concerns were, on the one hand, to preserve the essence of cultural self-determination or self-guidance, and, on the other, to assure continued and fertile international communications with all the benefits that these can bring to mankind.

The debate began in the late 1960s, but shifted into high gear when the Soviet Union put forth a proposal in 1972. This proposal set the stage for the formal and informal legal discussions on direct television broadcasting. The U.S.S.R. proposed an international convention. The United States of America and some other States opposed the U.S.S.R.’s proposal primarily on the basis that it violated a fundamental international norm or general principle safeguarding the free flow of information.

The United States of America urged that no special regulation of direct broadcast satellites was appropriate, and that whatever legal responsibility there might be for such broadcasts should be resolved by application of existing provisions of international law. The debate on direct television broadcast regulation appears to have come to a close in the fall of 1982, when a Resolution concerning direct television broadcasting was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly.

Principles Governing the Use by States of Artificial Earth Satellites for International Direct Television Broadcasting

Space law can be described as the body of law applicable to and governing space-related activities. Space law, much like general international law, comprises a variety of international agreements, treaties, conventions, and United Nations General Assembly resolutions, as well as rules and regulations of international organisations. The term “space law” is most often associated with the rules, principles and standards of international law appearing in the five international treaties and five sets of principles governing outer space which have been developed under the auspices of the United Nations. In addition to these international instruments, many States have national legislation governing space-related activities.

The Preamble of the Principles Governing the Use by States of Artificial Earth Satellites for International Direct Television Broadcasting notably states that “Considering that several experiments of direct broadcasting by satellite have been carried out and that a number of direct broadcasting satellite systems are operational in some countries and may be commercialized in the very near future”. It is interesting to note that the United Nations take into account it this Resolution the commercial aspect of this emerging activity. The text then reads “Taking into consideration that the operation of international direct broadcasting satellites will have significant international political, economic, social and cultural implications”. It recalls how delicate the question of International Direct Television Broadcasting is.

The Preamble of the Principles Governing the Use by States of Artificial Earth Satellites for International Direct Television Broadcasting then adds the following: “Believing that the establishment of principles for international direct television broadcasting will contribute to the strengthening of international cooperation in this field and further the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations”.

Paragraph 1 of the Annex on Principles Governing the Use by States of Artificial Earth Satellites for International Direct Television Broadcasting, regarding Purposes and objectives, states that “Activities in the field of international direct television broadcasting by satellite should be carried out in a manner compatible with the sovereign rights of States, including the principle of non-intervention, as well as with the right of everyone to seek, receive and impart information and ideas as enshrined in the relevant United Nations instruments”. It then adds that “Such activities should promote the free dissemination and mutual exchange of information and knowledge in cultural and scientific fields, assist in educational, social and economic development, particularly in the developing countries, enhance the qualities of life of all peoples and provide recreation with due respect to the political and cultural integrity of States”.

The fourth paragraph of the Annex on Principles Governing the Use by States of Artificial Earth Satellites for International Direct Television Broadcasting on Applicability of international law states that “Activities in the field of international direct television broadcasting by satellite should be conducted in accordance with international law, including the Charter of the United Nations, the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, of 27 January 1967, the relevant provisions of the International Telecommunication Convention and its Radio Regulations and of international instruments relating to friendly relations and cooperation among States and to human rights”.

On Rights and benefits, the fifth paragraph of the Annex on Principles Governing the Use by States of Artificial Earth Satellites for International Direct Television Broadcasting declares that “Every State has an equal right to conduct activities in the field of international direct television broadcasting by satellite and to authorize such activities by persons and entities under its jurisdiction. All States and peoples are entitled to and should enjoy the benefits from such activities. Access to the technology in this field should be available to all States without discrimination on terms mutually agreed by all concerned”.

Paragraphs eight and nine of the Annex on Principles Governing the Use by States of Artificial Earth Satellites for International Direct Television Broadcasting on State responsibility affirm that “States should bear international responsibility for activities in the field of international direct television broadcasting by satellite carried out by them or under their jurisdiction and for the conformity of any such activities with the principles set forth in this document” and that “When international direct television broadcasting by satellite is carried out by an international intergovernmental organization, the responsibility referred to in paragraph 8 above should be borne both by that organization and by the States participating in it”.

Finally, paragraph eleven of the Annex on Principles Governing the Use by States of Artificial Earth Satellites for International Direct Television Broadcasting on Copyright and neighbouring rights mentions that “Without prejudice to the relevant provisions of international law, States should cooperate on a bilateral and multilateral basis for protection of copyright and neighbouring rights by means of appropriate agreements between the interested States or the competent legal entities acting under their jurisdiction. In such cooperation they should give special consideration to the interests of developing countries in the use of direct television broadcasting for the purpose of accelerating their national development”.