European Publishers Council


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Francisco Pinto Balsemão
Chairman, EPC
Chairman and CEO,
Impresa S.G.P.S.
Rua Ribeiro Sanches 65
1200 Lisboa
Tel: +351 21 392 9782
Fax: +351 21 392 9788
Angela Mills Wade
Executive Director
c/o Europe Analytica
26 Avenue Livingstone
Bte 3
B-1000 Brussels
Tel: +322 231 1299
Press Relations
Heidi Lambert Communications
Tel:  +44 1245 476 265
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Sexism Directive letter to Commissioner Diamantopoulou


Mrs Anna Diamantopoulou
Employment, social affairs, equal opportunities
European Commission
200 rue de la Loi
B-1049 Brussels

1st July 2003

Dear Madam,

Proposal for a Council Directive implementing the principle of equality between women and men.

I was surprised to read on the front page of The Financial Times on 25th June about your ideas for a proposal for a draft directive on equality including in the media and advertising. Although the debate continues on the pages of our newspapers and magazines I wish to make contact with you directly to make sure that, as we have done in the past with several of your colleagues, a proper dialogue between our two organisations is established forthwith.

The European Publishers Council (list of members attached), representing 29 European media corporations whose interests span newspaper, magazine, online database and internet publishing, many of which also have interests in private TV and radio, has not, as you will be aware, been consulted yet by the Commission about these proposals. To my knowledge neither has any other media trade organisation representing press, television or radio been consulted nor any advertising industry or self-regulatory body about the impact on advertising regulation of these proposals. This is regrettable given their potential major impact on our editorial and business practices and quite out of step with the normal consultation practices undertaken by other Directorates General who develop policies affecting our industry with which we enjoy an open dialogue.

In addition, your reaction to the press coverage that ensued has been somewhat curious (Financial Times 27th June). To suggest that these were only very preliminary proposals at a technical stage and that the Commission had yet to decide whether or not legislation was appropriate is to my mind rather odd given that the full text of a draft directive leaked out of the Commission during inter-service consultation and that a date for adoption by the College of Commissioners had already been foreseen for 9th July. We have followed several directives recently which by the time they have reached inter-service consultation have been pretty thoroughly debated, at least in outline, with those parties which would ultimately be most affected by their terms.

I recall that in 2002, one of the ways in which DG Social Affairs had planned to look into the area of gender discrimination was to "Promote the exchange of views and good practices in the media and create a group of media representatives to assist the Commission to implement the talks under this objective of the framework strategy". To the best of my knowledge, no such expert group has ever been created by the Commission.

The EPC is naturally opposed to any attempts to curtail editorial freedom. We would regard any interference with programme guidelines and editorial policy as attempted censorship, which is why a dialogue with you and your services is urgent before further work is undertaken in this field. As far as the press is concerned we do not believe that the Commission has a mandate to regulate content and will oppose vigorously any attempt to do so. The content of television programmes and advertising is already subject to the terms of the Television without Frontiers Directive, which as you know is currently under review. As far as advertising is concerned, this is already subject to the Misleading Advertising Directive, several sectoral directives, national legislation and self-regulation. In addition, DG SANCO has just released a new draft directive on unfair commercial practices which revises the earlier Misleading Advertising Directive and sub-sets thereof. It is important to note that following the extensive consultation undertaken by officials and the legal service on this directive, the Commission concluded that they did not have a remit to regulate matters of taste and decency in advertising which was best left to national regulation whether by statute or self-regulatory codes.

I hope very much that if you decide to pursue these proposals further you will invite us to discuss your plans in more detail.


With kind regards

Yours sincerely

Francisco Pinto Balsemão

Chairman, European Publishers Council


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