ANTICIPATING a fresh trade spat with the United States, European foreign ministers have agreed to push their television stations to air a majority of home-grown - not foreign - entertainment programs. The US has argued that the measure would hurt the American film and television industry's earnings abroad and suggested the plan might violate international trade rules.
Despite strong US lobbying in recent months, the foreign ministers of the European Community approved a plan Tuesday that would remove barriers to TV broadcasting in the 12-nation trading bloc. Belgium and Denmark opposed the measure, according to the Community spokesmen.
Martin Bangemann, the Community's top official on industrial matters, said criticism of the measure was unjustified. ``It cannot constitute an infringement of international trade rules,'' he told reporters.
There was no immediate reaction from US officials. The US has urged the Community to scrap the plan. The American entertainment industry said its European earnings would be seriously hurt by such a restriction.
The plan, Television Without Frontiers, is part of the Community's move to create a single market of 320 million consumers in late 1992.
By the end of 1992 the dozen nations are scheduled to remove the many trade barriers restricting the free movement of money, goods, services, and people. The TV measure set out the conditions under which broadcasters in Europe would be allowed to transmit channels throughout the trading bloc.
In doing so, the measures said governments must ensure that a majority of transmission time be reserved - ``where practicable and by appropriate means'' - for European-made programs.
Excluded from the provision were news, sports, and games programs as well as ads.
British Foreign Secretary John King said there were assurances that the measure would not be regarded as applying legally binding quotas. ``We clearly wanted to avoid ... a Fortress Europe and the fears of a Fortress Europe,'' he told reporters.
Mr. King said Britain would not change its treatment of US programs. About 15 percent of the programs broadcast by major British stations comes from outside the Community, he said.
``Any fans of `Dallas' or `Dynasty' need have no doubt whatsoever that they will continue to get their programs,'' he said.