European Publishers Council

issues

latest news & info
search
contact details
Francisco Pinto Balsemão
Chairman, EPC
Chairman and CEO,
Impresa S.G.P.S.
Rua Ribeiro Sanches 65
1200 Lisboa
Portugal
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
Belgium
Tel: +322 231 1299
Press Relations
Heidi Lambert Communications
heidilambert@hlcltd.demon.co.uk
Tel:  +44 1245 476 265
This website is ACAP-enabled

ACAP member


© 1996 - 2009
European Publishers Council
All rights reserved

 

 

 

 

  < back to issues: convergence

 

 

Issues

Convergence of broadcasting, information technology and telecommunications. Response to Green Paper from the European Publishers Council (EPC)

 

The European Publishers Council is a high level group of 30 of the most senior representatives of Europe's media corporations actively involved in multimedia markets spanning newspaper, magazine and on-line database publishers (a list of members is attached). Many members of the EPC also have significant interests in commercial television and radio. The EPC welcomes the publication of the Green Paper and this opportunity to comment.

 

Freedom of expression is of paramount importance

The Green Paper has provided us with an analysis of the current state of technological and market convergence.

We have been invited to comment on the present situation, future scenarios and to identify barriers to further convergence but most importantly to help shape the future regulatory framework at European level.

At this moment of rapid and profound change to traditional mass media markets, publishers find themselves at the centre of discussions on a regulatory framework that will affect them as much as broadcasters, telecommunications and IT companies and new service providers. As publishers, we urge the Commission to accept the fundamental principle that content on the Internet, the World Wide Web and any future electronic networks should be subjected to no greater government control than print publications. This principle should guide any future regulatory model.

Coming from a traditional publishing background, which is subject to laws but not specific regulation (typical in TV and Telecoms), EPC members are obviously extremely sensitive to any measures which might limit access to existing or wider markets but most importantly which could impose undesirable and unacceptable restrictions on the freedom of expression. We are concerned that in the era of convergence that the fundamental concept of a free press might be lost in a well meaning effort to achieve regulatory uniformity. This must not be allowed to happen. Publishers must be allowed to fulfil their vital role in establishing and supporting democratic societies regardless of the method of delivery of their content. The moment that regulation becomes a barrier to that role the freedom of expression and access to information will suffer and the key purpose of communication will be damaged.

 

1.0 Summary of the EPC response

General approach of the Green Paper

The Green Paper is principally about Regulation. The EPC is particularly concerned about the future regulation of content and asks the European Commission to resist the temptation to pre-empt the development of the market by establishing a legal framework ahead of its time. Although the Commission acknowledges the need for a light touch we are concerned that, because the Green Paper focuses on the convergence of broadcasting, information technology and telecommunications, with barely a mention of print publishing, insufficient care will be taken to secure the freedom of speech on new electronic networks.

Two themes emerge from the Green Paper which we endorse: a) that convergence of markets, combined with the cross-border nature of modern communications, has the effect of diminishing the relevance of existing, national, regulatory agencies; and that b) any new regulatory system should be limited to what is strictly necessary to achieve clearly identified objectives.

While it is apparent that at the global level there is convergence of a) the physical means of communication (e.g. a satellite or a printing press), b) the physical means of its reception (a television or a computer and c) the content (an article or a television programme), it is also true that at the national or local level that there is rapid divergence and considerable content diversity. This means that regulatory intervention at the global level is inappropriate if not impossible although we would support efforts at the international level to find consensus on regulatory principles.

1.2 The European Commission's Options for Future Regulation

The Green Paper sets out three options for regulation:

  • Option 1 is to build on current structures.
  • Option 2 is to develop a separate regulatory model for new activities to co-exist with telecommunications and broadcasting.
  • Option 3 is progressively to introduce a new regulatory model to cover the whole range of existing and new services.

The first two options would to a large extent reinforce the status quo and possibly lead to an unwelcome expansion of existing regulatory frameworks which in themselves are increasingly anachronistic and anomalous.

The EPC feels that the Commission needs a new approach to regulation for the next century.

The strategy of both the industries and those who regulate should be to remove detailed or constrictive regulation and present a set of principles by which to judge and shape the new information industry; to prevent abuse inimical to social decency (obscenity, defamation, violence) and to anticipate and stop the abuse of dominant positions.

1.3 The need for a new regulatory model based on the publishing model

Publishers are subject to general laws, enforced by an independent judiciary, but not to regulation. In conjunction with effective competition policy to prevent abuse of dominant positions, this model provides for and guarantees a free press, central to democracy, in which publishers are free to express opinions without prior permission from the State.

The EPC believes that a new regulatory model is essential to ensure the commercial viability of traditional media companies in the future. Option 3 could be an appropriate approach, therefore, but only on condition that the European Commission undertakes some radical de-regulation beyond that already achieved in the telecommunications sector, starting with the broadcasting sector, in order to rid the communications industry of unnecessary and anachronistic requirements dating back from days of spectrum scarcity. Indeed, Option 3 must not lead to any attempt to transpose broadcasting-type content regulation to digital networks such as the Internet. This would not only subject publishers to licensing but to requirements to maintain political and public policy neutrality. Such restrictions would be inimical to the freedom of expression and meaningless in an interactive, hyper-linked environment such as the World Wide Web.

Any new framework under Option 3 must be light and flexible and not attempt to deal with every possible area through legislation. The Internet is not a medium and must not be regulated as such. A new regulatory model must include elements of industry self-regulation which have found consensus at the global level wherever possible. There will always be room for legislation in areas where the market cannot provide solutions, for example on copyright and liability of content but there are many cases where highly detailed legislation is increasingly outdated, for example in the area of advertising.

Before introducing a new regulatory model the Commission would also have to tackle the question of distortions of competition in the TV market which arise as a result of publicly funded broadcasters competing head on with commercial broadcasters for advertising and subscription revenues.

1.4 New ground rules for competition policy

Competitiveness is of fundamental importance given that European companies must prepare for global competition on a scale never experienced before. Although we would suggest an enhanced role for competition policy to help regulate converging markets the Commission, we suggest, would need to review and reform the Merger Task Force with a view to modernising the current regime to take account of the globalisation of the media sector. For example, with the help of expert help from the industry, a careful review of relevant market definitions will be necessary. Current standards of measuring markets and assessing dominance are outdated. It is no longer tenable to focus only on competition in effective markets in the EU, or to concentrate on sheer size in Europe without consideration of the players' positions in the global market in which they compete. The information society is by its very nature global and is creating new markets and re-positioning current players.

1.5 Balancing competitiveness with public interest objectives

We share the Commission's stated view that any changes to the regulatory framework should be targeted in response to clearly identified problems and justified by clearly stated objectives. We recognise that the nature of converging markets presents tough challenges in terms of balancing the need to guarantee competition with the desire to meet public interest objectives but we ask the Commission to give priority to building competitive markets and to leave such public interest objectives as pluralism and culture in the hands of the Member States.

At present, there is complete freedom of establishment at national level with regard to publishing enterprises, whether for newspapers, magazines, books or new forms of publications on-line or off-line such as CD-ROM. There is no legislation which restricts a publisher from starting up a newspaper of magazine at national or EU level, unlike the broadcasting sector where a complex legal framework and licensing system has evolved.

Nevertheless, on a day to day basis, newspaper and magazine editors do spend a large part of their time checking the content of their papers before it is sent to press to ensure that the content (editorial and advertising) complies with the considerable body of general law covering such aspects as copyright, defamation, obscenity, data protection, official secrets and advertising. This duty of care has the effect of protecting the public interest of their consumers.

Furthermore, publishers are subject to general competition law which prohibits restrictive, anti-competitive practices and abuses of dominant positions, guaranteeing further safeguards to protect the public interest. While there are no constraints on setting up as a publisher as there are for the licensing of broadcasters or telecoms operators, legislative restrictions do apply to publishers when they wish to participate in other forms of media, notably television.

1.6 Self-regulation of editorial and advertising content

In addition, publishers subject themselves to self-regulation with regard to both editorial and advertising content.

They constantly update their self-regulatory codes and in many countries already apply them equally to paper and electronic versions of newspapers and magazines.

1.10 Towards a new regulatory model

Because of the special role of the press in terms of the freedom of expression and democracy the starting point has always been quite different when talking about legal frameworks. The whole structure of the press has been designed to foster maximum freedom of speech and minimum interference from the authorities - apart from the requirement that what is published must be lawful. There has been no need to control the establishment of publishing businesses (at least in democratic countries) whereas access to television channels has necessarily been controlled because of past scarcity of frequencies. All governments have felt an instinctive nervousness of the power of television and, therefore, sought to constrain it. That is no longer viable in an age when television is no longer a discrete medium and the power of the legislator to constrain must not be allowed to spill over onto what is now termed the printed press.

The EPC believes it to be premature to put into place a new regulatory system before the effects of convergence are clearer, but that the Commission should work towards a new model as soon as feasible. It is, therefore, still premature to disband existing regulatory authorities in charge of broadcasting but we do feel that in the longer term the relevance of licensing and strict content regulation will diminish. There is no reason why in the future commercially funded broadcast services should not enjoy the same freedom of establishment as publishers so long as public interest objectives are safeguarded through application of general laws and of competition policy to prevent abuse of an individual's rights or monopoly power through dominant positions. A free market in television services will only be possible, however, if the role of public service broadcasting is tackled head on both in terms of meeting public service objectives and in terms of unfair competition between publicly and commercially funded broadcasters.

 

2.0 Market outlook for convergence

2.1 The loss of monopoly power

The most striking consequence of the emerging multimedia market will be the loss of monopoly power of the network operators (both telecoms and broadcasting) which previously allowed them unrivalled access to consumers. Content providers of any size, public service or commercial, are now able to access customers directly without the need for intermediary services. This shift from monopoly network power to the freedom of everyone to provide informational content is rapidly affecting capital as well as consumer markets. Over the past 2 years we have seen multimedia mergers and alliances in Europe quadruple in value with internet-related transactions, mergers and acquisitions representing almost half of that total. There has also been a shift away from short-term opportunistic alliances-within-sectors towards alliances designed to exploit the potential of converging media and methods of communication by bringing together networks and service and content providers.

2.2 Growth of business market has outstripped the domestic market

Although growth in the numbers of users during the period 1995 to 2000 is forecast to be four times faster in the domestic market than in the business market, it is the business multimedia market which is leading the development of multimedia technologies and applications. Business to business electronic commerce was estimated at 12 billion ECU for 1996 as compared to 600 million ECU for the parallel domestic consumer market. This is mainly due to the fact that the business market has greater purchasing power and access to high-speed connections and multi-media capable terminals. This has meant that investment in the development of applications has been focused on the business market where financial rewards have been better assured. A self-defeating circle has been established in the domestic market where PC based leisure products for both adults and children have been limited and, where available, very costly so that the market for multimedia PCs in the home has not grown as fast as previously predicted. Although Internet and WWW based entertainment services are available, consumers' lack of skills and prohibitively high costs have not encouraged a rapid development of the domestic market.

EU consumers currently pay twice as much for internet connection and three times as much for long distance telephone calls than their US counterparts. As soon as consumer prices come down, and services such as home banking and on-line retailing will become more widespread, the situation will change. Consumers will have greater control over purchasing and the gap between domestic and business use and market development of consumer and business products will start to close.

2.3 PCs versus TVs: Will Digital TV be the "killer application"?

Although technologies are converging, (PCs can now deliver video and sound as well as text, or digital TV systems can offer access to the Internet and WWW), it would seem that for the foreseeable future these two "platforms" are set to develop along parallel lines in terms of consumer markets.

1998 will see the widespread launch of digital terrestrial and digital satellite television services. If the cost of the set-top digital decoder boxes is low enough to spur fast and widespread take up of a new range of TV channels, and if the decoders offer fast and uncomplicated access to the Internet and WWW, it will be digital television that may well become the "killer-application" and turn the Internet and its related electronic transactional services into a truly global mass market within the foreseeable future.

PC penetration remains fairly low in domestic markets (around 25% of the population) whereas TV ownership is ubiquitous. Televisions are used for leisure and general information, and as such, are usually placed in common living areas of homes. PCs on the other hand are still connected with work in the minds of the majority of consumers and as such tend to be placed in other areas of the home. This will, of course, change as today's school children become tomorrow's global market consumers and once education and training in computing skills are more generally available to both child and adult populations.

2.4 Advertising innovation

As far as newspaper publishers are concerned, news gathering, analysis and comment continue to provide the core business for print publications but for on-line services, publishers need to find ways of leveraging that data both in terms of editorial content and advertising revenues to maintain commercial viability. Some of the most interesting developments have been on the advertising side. Publishers are fast moving from passive carriers of advertisements to proactive creators of customers for their advertisers. That is the publisher as well as the advertiser actually seek new customers for the advertiser. 90% of advertising has an element of direct response and publishers are developing ways of handling those responses effectively on behalf of their advertisers.

Publishers have been involved in building Customer Service Centres on behalf of advertisers. In a "match-making" role, publishers can write to their readers on behalf of advertisers and introduce new product and service ranges. Modern, highly sophisticated database management techniques offer consumers full protection against the abuse of personal data and, through a combination of legal requirements and self-regulatory practices, give consumers control over the use of their data.

2.5 From passive viewer to choice-conscious consumer

Consumer take up of both PC and TV based new services will depend on price, ease of access and added value.

Although advertising revenues will continue partly to fund publishing and television services, direct subscriptions will play an equally important role in market development. The TV culture has been changing over the past 5-10 years from one of passive viewer to choice-conscious consumer, willing to pay for a service that he likes, just as in the press market. Pay-TV companies throughout Europe have built up significant subscriber bases and are funded principally by these subscriber-consumers to whom they will offer new digital, set-top box based services and thus will be in a poll position to exploit the market successfully. Consumers of computers and new technologies are already used to choosing and paying for their services. Together with the consumer experience in the Pay-TV market, the trend of choice and price conscious, pay-per-view consumer bodes well for the fast development of interactive services and electronic commerce. Internet connections are predicted to rise from 35 million to 160 million by the early 2000's at a growth rate of 15% per month. At the same time, the numbers of satellite connections are predicted to double to 44 million by 2006. Interactivity is already adding value to traditional services and as consumers increasingly use the Internet via their PC or TV set-top box to buy things they want, a global market place will become reality for consumers.

2.6 Quality content

The driving force for sustaining consumer markets in both PC and TV based digital services will be a combination of quality content and a range of transactional electronic services. The publishing side of the media industry has been long used to competing in highly diverse and multiple markets with a choice of thousands of paper publications available to consumers on a daily basis. An equivalent explosion in the quantity of television services has yet to hit us and here the regulators are faced with a conundrum: Will greater quantity of content lead to a reduction in quality, which in effect reduces consumer choice? So the paradox could be: more choice, less diversity, so less real choice for the consumer. Do the current policies at EU level of imposing statutory limits on non-European based productions increase quality or do they only increase costs, rendering the EU industry less competitive and diverse? The EPC would suggest that the model of the publishing industry where market forces prevail, should serve as an example of how consumers benefit in truly open markets where they have real choice, or where there is diversity in quantity and quality at highly competitive prices.

2.7 Public service objectives and the role of public service broadcasters

One of the questions which has not been adequately addressed by the Green Paper is the place of publicly funded broadcast services in a converging market. Although our members' interests concern commercial broadcasting, the competition aspects of publicly funded players are of importance to publishers also. The Commission must tackle the question of increasingly unfair competition from publicly funded broadcasters in both the viewer and advertising markets. This must be done before attempting to solve the broader questions of convergence. Commercial broadcasters rely on a combination of advertising and subscription revenue for funding. This highly competitive market is however distorted by publicly funded broadcasters competing head on with commercial broadcasters for the same audiences, revenue streams from subscription and, in many countries, also from advertising. This un-competitive behaviour is now spreading into multimedia markets where public service broadcasters are using disproportionately high levels of public money to fund Internet-based services and increasing numbers of off-line publications linked to TV programmes.

We would urge the Commission to launch a thorough investigation into the role of public service broadcasting; to re-assess the definitions of public service; to determine how public service objectives can be met and to subject publicly funded broadcasters to the full rigour of competition policy scrutiny.

 

3.0 Barriers to converging markets

As the Green Paper points out, barriers to further convergence fall into several categories from, access to users, availability of content to the allocation of frequencies. The Green Paper also examines regulatory barriers. All of these might ultimately impinge on the competitiveness of the market and on the future regulatory framework.

Indeed some barriers arise directly from existing regulation. Nevertheless, whether we take barriers to consumers or barriers to business development, they are inevitably inextricably linked and should be assessed in terms of their combined impact on the competitiveness and development of converging markets. We accept the analysis in the Green Paper of existing and future barriers and would highlight the following barriers to consumers.

From the consumer side we see the following as the main barriers to further convergence:

  • PC based services: high prices of access and distribution will act as a major barrier to early take up of new PC based entertainment and transactional services.
  • Lack of education and training: lack of computing skills amongst adults will represent major barriers to PC based market development. Unless national governments of the EU implement as a matter of urgency fully integrated educational and training schemes for adults and children, skills shortages will remain a significant and costly barrier.
  • TV based services: again the cost and ease of access will have a bearing on the development of consumer markets.
  • Security: Consumer concerns about data security and privacy could cause a barrier to the development and take up of on-line services. Business Development: barriers in the short term relate to cost and to lack of standardisation and interoperability.

3.2 Regulatory Barriers:

We are concerned about the effects on publishers in converging markets of following regulatory issues:

Copyright: Uncertainty relating to piracy of intellectual property is a key concern. Publishers are developing technical means of preventing unauthorised use of copyright protected material but need a secure legal framework into which they can launch high value, high quality material. We support the current effort to harmonise copyright and related rights in the digital age but have deep reservations about a number of aspects of this draft legislation which are mainly concerned with exceptions to copyright and with circumvention of anti-piracy devices. Unless our concerns are met, the legislation as far as rightsholders are concerned will be flawed and ultimately a barrier to the development of on-line services (details of our position are available on request).

In addition publishers face cost barriers in having to pay their own employees twice or more for the rights to publish electronically articles and photographs for which they have already received a salary. The absence of full ownership of copyright works created during the course of employment will remain a barrier to convergence (details of our position available on request). Restricted access to cross media ownership: In the majority of EU Member States, significant barriers for publishers relate to their restricted access to the television markets.

These restrictions date back to times of channel scarcity when regulators needed to ensure plurality of ownership of media sources by restricting access to ownership. It is no longer tenable to prevent publishers from investing across all sectors of the information industry. In France and Italy, publishers are additionally subject to ownership thresholds, which limit their ownership of newspapers regardless of any cross-media ownership, which act as a further discriminatory restriction on some of Europe's publishers, creating a distortion of competition as well as a significant barrier to attracting investments from other Member States. As long as restrictions on media ownership are maintained, traditional media companies will remain at a competitive disadvantage to their new competitors in a converging market which will perpetuate barriers in the form of distortions of competition.

With dramatic increases in Internet use and the start of digital television, the regulatory framework must evolve to recognise the natural shift away from the historical need for centralised regulatory controls which were necessary in days of spectrum scarcity and move towards helping the consumers find new ways to control what they receive in the home. Plurality will be guaranteed by the unprecedented increases in media sources and content. Restrictions on ownership across different forms of media should be dismantled at the national level because they are no longer definable or relevant.

Advertising: Currently there is no single market for commercial communications in Europe. The differences that exist as a result of differing national regulations create a barrier to the single market and, unless the EU Institutions and Member States take action to bring this sector into line with policies applicable to other sectors in the internal market, the cost to business and consumers will remain unacceptably high.

The major differences between national rules and the policy objectives behind a number of EU initiatives threaten the coherence of the internal market and the media and advertising industry has long called for an overall appraisal of the commercial communications sector. The EPC fully supports the efforts of the European Commission to establish a new framework for commercial communications. A new approach for a new age of on-line communication. The increasing use and popularity of new forms of commercial communications on the electronic networks challenge the very core of existing regulation, both in terms of some very detailed content regulation and in terms of territoriality. A new approach to regulation must be found based on the well established principles of freedom of expression and the right to receive information. The Internet itself and the WWW are based on these two principles and provide for a new-found freedom to communicate and provide services on a global basis. Regulation has to move with the times and match this exciting development in the freedom of expression. The EPC believes the only way forward is through mutual recognition of rules which apply at national level (based on the principle of country of origin control) and self-regulation.

Access: There are potential barriers to access to the converging markets. Pluralism and diversity will only be assured so long as there is free and open access to markets. Regulators should focus their attention on ensuring that no existing or future dominant position is abused in a way which would discourage unreasonably new entrants from exploiting business opportunities.

Television licensing: current methods of "awarding" licenses (as distinct from "issuing" licenses in other fields) could act as barriers to convergence in the TV sector. A move toward general content criteria and basic recommendations for consumer and public interest protection could form less constrictive bases for issuing licenses in the future.

 

4.0 Options for future regulation

The Options

As stated in our summary, we note that the Green Paper sets out three options for regulation:

  • Option 1 is to build on current structures.
  • Option 2 is to develop a separate regulatory model for new activities to co-exist with telecommunications and broadcasting.
  • Option 3 is progressively to introduce a new regulatory model to cover the whole range of existing and new services.

The first two options would to a large extent reinforce the status quo and possibly lead to an unwelcome expansion of existing regulatory frameworks. The EPC feels that the Commission needs a new light touch approach to regulation for the next century.

The strategy of both the industries and those who regulate should be to remove detailed or constrictive regulation and present a set of principles by which to judge and shape the new integrated information industry; to prevent abuse inimical to social decency (obscenity, defamation, violence) and to anticipate and stop the abuse of dominant positions and thus allow the broad new plains of communications to provide pasture for a wide selection of creatures living in relative harmony without the intervention of dangerous predators.

Towards a new regulatory model

The EPC believes that a new regulatory model, which allows media companies the scope and flexibility to compete successfully in the global market in which they operate, is essential to ensure the future commercial viability of traditional media companies. Publishers are subject to general laws, enforced by an independent judiciary, but not to regulation. In conjunction with effective competition policy to prevent abuse of dominant positions, this model provides for and guarantees a free press, central to democracy, in which publishers are free to express opinions without prior permission from the State. The US Supreme Court has found that content on the Internet, like individual speech and print publications, deserves the highest level of First Amendment protection . This high level of protection for the freedom of expression should be endorsed by the Commission and underpin any future regulatory model for all players in converging markets.

Option 3 could be an appropriate approach, therefore, but only on condition that the European Commission undertook some radical de-regulation beyond that already achieved in the telecommunications sector, starting with the broadcasting sector in order to rid the communications industry from unnecessary and anachronistic requirements dating back from days of spectrum scarcity. Before introducing a new regulatory model the Commission would also have to tackle the question of distortions of competition in the TV market which arise as a result of publicly funded broadcasters competing head on with commercial broadcasters for advertising and subscription revenues. In addition the Commission would need to review and reform of the Merger Task Force with a view to modernising the current regime to take account of the globalisation of the media sector. For example, with the help of expert help from the industry, a careful review of relevant market definitions will be necessary (see also para 1.4).

Furthermore, any new framework must be light and flexible and not attempt to deal with every possible area through legislation. In particular we would oppose any attempt to import the strict content regulation which currently applies to broadcasters into new services. The Internet is not a medium and must not be regulated as such. A new regulatory model must include elements of industry self-regulation wherever possible. There will always be room for legislation in areas where the market cannot provide solutions, for example on copyright and liability of content but there are many cases where detailed legislation is quite unnecessary, for example in the area of advertising.

A new regulatory model based on the publishing model

Publishers currently operate within a regulatory model which could be adapted for all players in converging markets i.e. freedom to set up a business and unrestricted access to the market, the application of general laws combined with effective competition policy. Publishing is an example of how competition can thrive in a highly competitive market without the need for sector specific regulation. Competitiveness is of fundamental importance given that European companies must prepare for global competition on a scale never experienced before. Although we are suggesting an enhanced role for competition policy to help regulate converging markets we nevertheless, as set out in para 1.4, have reservations regarding the current approach to establishing criteria for judging and understanding relevant markets.

4.4 The need for an ongoing EU consultative process

Indeed, because of the complexities of convergence, it is clearly desirable for there to be a central EU consultative process to provide for the exchange of ideas and information about the operation of the current regulatory mechanisms. Within such a consultative process, we urge that the role of the industries which provide content and thus represent the substance of what is being communicated should be given a high priority. A principal objective of that consultative process should be to maintain open access to markets and the fullest freedom of expression.

4.5 The Role of Self-regulation in Controlling Content

Regulators face new challenges in consumer protection such as ensuring confidentiality of data where electronic networks are used for ordering goods or services, for electronic payments and private communications.

Consumer protection will be aided by technology and encryption, combined with self-regulation and best practice to provide users with secure systems for their transactions and the protection of their privacy.

It will no longer be possible to monitor content at the point of its transmission or distribution. The onus will rightly fall on the end user, the consumer as consumers move from passive consumers to active seekers of information and entertainment. Consumers will have to learn to use technology to help them become more responsible for what they chose to access rather than relying on some centralised, regulation of content typical of broadcast programmes to passive audiences.

Self-regulation by content providers will play a major part in content control in the future as global networks proliferate. Voluntary rating systems, together with technical means of protecting and filtering content, will be important contributions to content control. However, we do not believe that governments, whether at national, EU or international level, should require private companies and individuals to submit to any particular standards or schemes. Any pressure to push companies and self-regulatory systems towards any degree of uniformity could lead to unacceptable intrusions into the freedom of expression. The provision and use of rating and filtering systems should be entirely voluntary.

4.6 Control at the country of origin of new services

The EPC submits that, instead of controlling and restricting ownership and/or access to distribution channels and establishing stringent content regulations, it might be more effective to propose obligations for the new "communicators to the public" - that their content should be legal and decent, under the laws, regulations and codes of practice of their country of origin. Following the principles laid down in the Treaty, so long as the material has been legally made available to the public in the country of origin, consumers should have access to it from anywhere in the EU.

 

In conclusion:

A new "light touch" regulatory model will be essential to ensure the future commercial viability of media companies and, as such, Option 3 could be appropriate. Publishers are currently subject to general laws, enforced by an independent judiciary, but not to regulation. In conjunction with effective competition policy to prevent abuse of dominant positions, this model, provides for freedom of expression and widespread access to diverse sources of information in a highly competitive market. We recommend this model to the Commission as a basis for moving towards Option 3, but only on condition that:

  • Publishers can continue to fulfil their vital role in supporting democratic societies regardless of the method of delivery of their content;
  • The fundamental principle, that content on new electronic networks should be subjected to no greater government control than print publications, underpins any future regulatory model, in order to safeguard the freedom of expression;
  • The Commission institutes a radical modernisation of EU competition policy and reform of the Merger Task Force to cope with the global nature of the media market;
  • The Commission launches a thorough review of the role of public service broadcasting, including an investigation into distortions of competition in the TV market arising from publicly funded broadcasters competing head on with commercial broadcasters for advertising and subscription revenues;
  • Industry self-regulation is allowed to play a major role with recourse to legislation only where the market cannot provide solutions, for example on copyright protection.

 

European Publishers Council
April 1998

 

back to top

 

 

 

Members of the European Publishers Council

Chairman: Sir Frank Rogers, Telegraph Group Ltd, UK
Vice-Chairman: Professor Dr. Pierre Vinken, Reed Elsevier, Netherlands

Members:

Mr Francisco Balsemao, Chairman, Controljornal, Portugal
Mr David Bell, Chairman, Financial Times Group, UK
Mr Carl-Johan Bonnier, President and CEO, The Bonnier Group, Sweden
Mr Joep Brentjens, Chairman, VNU, Netherlands
Mr Oscar Bronner, Publisher & Editor in Chief, Der Standard, Austria
Dr Hubert Burda, Chairman and CEO, Burda Verlag, Germany
Mr Herman Bruggink, Chairman, Reed Elsevier
Dr Carlo Caracciolo, President, Editoriale L'Espresso, Italy
Mr Juan Luis Cebrian, Consejero Delgado, El Pais (Prisa Group) Spain
Mr August A Fischer, Chief Executive, Axel Springer Verlag, Germany
Mr Jan O Froeshaug, President and Chief Executive, Egmont Foundation, Denmark
Mr Liam Healy, Chief Executive, Independent Newspapers PLC, Ireland
Mr Leslie Hinton, Executive Chairman, News International, UK
Mr Christos Lambrakis, Chairman & Editor in Chief, Lambrakis Publishing Group, Greece
Mr Niels Meyer, Chief Executive, Politiken Newspapers Ltd, Denmark
Mr Jaakko Rauramo, President, Sanoma Corporation, Finland
Mr Alberto Ronchey, President, Rizzoli Corriere della Sera, Italy
Mr Gerald de Roquemaurel, Vice President and D-G, Hachette Filipacchi Presse, France
Mr Michael Ringier, President, Ringier, Switzerland
The Rt. Hon. The Viscount Rothermere, Chairman, Daily Mail and General Trust, UK
Mr Gerd Schulte-Hillen, Chief Executive, Gruner + Jahr, Germany
Mr Nigel Stapleton, Chairman, Reed Elsevier, UK
Mr Antoine de Tarle, Chief Executive, Societe Ouest-France S.A., France
Mr Christian van Thillo, Chief Executive, De Persgroep, Belgium
Mr Gaston Thorn, President, Compagnie Luxembourgeoise de Telediffusion, Luxembourg

Associate Members:

De Telegraaf, Netherlands
Perscombinatie, Netherlands
Wegener Tijl, Netherlands
Westminster Press Ltd, UK
Executive Director: Angela Mills
Reno v American Civil Liberties Union, 117 S.Ct.2329 (1997)

 

European Publishers Council

Chairman: Sir Frank Rogers
Executive Director: Angela C Mills
C/o Telegraph Group Ltd
49 Park Town, Oxford, OX2 6SL
1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf
e-mail: angela.mills@epceurope.org
London E14 5DT
Tel: +44 (0)1865 310 732
Fax: +44 (0)1865 310 739
https://epceurope.org

 

Response of the European Publishers Council April 1998 to the green paper on the convergence of the telecommunications, media and information technology sectors, and the implications for regulation.

COM(97)623, 3 December 2023

 

back to top