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 EPC Members' Newsletter: November/December 2001

 

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NEWSLETTER CONTENTS
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DIARY DATES

KEY ISSUES FOR DECEMBER 2001

WHAT'S NEW?

1. Electronic Commerce
1.1 ESC report on Child Protection on the Internet
1.2 WIPO news
1.3 EU Cybercrime Forum 27 November 2023
1.4 Senate extends tax moratorium
1.5 European Parliament bans cookies
2. Internet Regulation (content)
2.1 eContent Information Day
2.2 Yahoo! case decision and others
3. Copyright
3.1 Digital Management of Rights consultation
3.2 Collective Management of Rights Evaluation report expected
4. Advertising
4.1 New European Advertising Standards Alliance agreement
4.2 Misleading Advertising Directive review postponed
4.3 ECJ considers German restrictions on online sales
5. Audiovisual and General Media Policy
5.1 Services of General Interest report adopted
5.2 Parliament adopts report on circulation of films
5.3 Culture Council in Bruges
5.4 UNESCO adopts declaration on Cultural Diversity
5.5 Commission opens investigation into aid to Portuguese Broadcaster
6. General
6.1 Laeken Council to meet 14-15 December 2001
6.2 New Round launched successfully in Doha
6.3 Results of EcoFin Council
6.4 Brussels set for review of merger rules
6.5 Compromise reached on Telecoms package

UPCOMING EVENTS


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DIARY DATES
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December
03-04 Dec: EPC meeting in Dublin
04 Dec: Informan Culture Council
06 Dec: Council of Europe meeting on Transfrontier Television
06 Dec: Telecommunications Council
07 Dec: Hearing on Green Paper on Consumer Policy
10 Dec: TWF public meeting
14 Dec: European Council of Brussels, Laeken
18 Dec: Market Abuse report to be discussed in committee

January
07 Jan: Tobacco Advertising report to be discussed

March
05 Mar: EU Publishers' Forum in Brussels

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KEY ISSUES FOR DECEMBER 2001
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Market Abuse and Financial Promotions

The very latest reports on the Market Abuse Directive suggest that the Economic and Finance Ministers are willing to acknowledge the value of self-regulatory regimes for financial journalism. However they are not willing to change the basis from an effect based regime to an intent based one although they have agreed improvements to the text which go some way towards meeting the EPC¹s concerns. A political agreement was reached by Ministers on 13th December which will be formalized in the new year once the European Parliament has completed its first reading.

The Media Coalition formed by the EPC against the Market Abuse Directive has been fighting since May to remove the threat to journalists which would result from the Commission¹s draft directive on market abuse. EPC has argued that unless wording is changed, journalists will be exposed to prosecution for innocent reporting of misleading information of mistakes. EPC has made it clear to Ministers, Commission and MEPs that we are not seeking to excuse those few journalists who seek to unlawfully mislead the market but instead to preserve the ability of journalists to report and offer independent analysis to the public without fear of prosecution. EPC has met with MEPs including Theresa Villiers who is keen to put forward an amendment to Mr Goebbels report in the European Parliament. She also wrote a letter to the Times on this issue on the day of the Council of Ministers Meeting this month. EPC also met with the Belgian Chair of the Council Working Group who although very sympathetic, did not believe that the authorities enforcing this directive would ever pursue innocent journalists; but only follow up in the case of a scandal. The Parliament will also discuss Robert Goebbels draft report on 19th December.

See http://www.europarl.eu.int/meetdocs/committees/econ/20011218/com(2001)281en.pdf.

EPC is also campaigning against the UK Financial Promotions legislation which could potentially apply UK rules to foreign publications contrary to the eCommerce Directive and Television without Frontiers rules. The Commission has said to EPC that UK legislation will contravene both the ecommerce and Television without Frontiers Directives unless changes are made.

Download the EPC's news release from 18 June 2023 Market Abuse Directive Exposes Journalists to Criminal Liability - EPC Asks for Exemption.

More information and reports of the meetings described are available upon request.

Tobacco Advertising

Discussions have started in the European Parliament where the Spanish MEP chosen to be the Rapporteur on the Tobacco Advertising Directive, Medina Ortega (PES) has presented three amendments to the Legal Affairs Committee. Two amendments are purely technical and are intended to give the Directive a greater chance of succeeding any legal challenge by deleting any reference to the previous failed directive. The third amendment would make it clear that making information available about the ingredients of tobacco products, toxic substances, and scientific reports does not constitute advertising. The response of those MEPs present was generally negative towards the directive. Ana Palacio, the Committee chairman, said the proposal was a public health measure disguised as an internal market one and should not be continued with. She questioned the cross-border impact of publications when many are regional in nature (Kurt Lecher also argued this). The Commission representative argued that local publications can cross borders and lead to possible obstacles to trade and distort competition. A full report of the discussion is available on request. The proposal will next be discussed in Committee on 07 January 2002.

Meanwhile, the Council Working Group has been considering various options including one to limit the directive to press which has a cross-border effect only, measured perhaps by percentage of total circulation. EPC will be submitting position papers to the MEPs and participating in an ad hoc information sharing coalition.

Data Protection and Cookies

The Council reached a political agreement on the draft Directive on the processing of personal data and the protection of privacy in the electronic communications sector. The Council agreed on: a harmonized "opt-in" solution for unsolicited commercial email (with an exception for existing customer relationships); an obligation to provide users information in advance about the purposes of cookies and to offer them the possibility to refuse; the inclusion of additional language regarding measures that Member States may take to safeguard public security interests or that are necessary for criminal investigations. The text clarifies that such measures must be appropriate, proportional for the intended purpose and necessary within a democratic society.

See http://register.consilium.eu.int/pdf/en/01/st14/14631en1.pdf

Audiovisual and Competition Policy

Mr Mario Monti, the Commissioner responsible for Competition Policy was invited to the British Screen Advisory Council in London on 26 November 2023 where his speech focused on the benefits of the competition rules for the audiovisual sectors which he says are to ensure wider consumer choice, technological innovation and price competition. In terms of media plurality he argues that the majority of the time competition rules do the job but where they fail Member States are free to implement additional rules. Competition rules have been remarkably adaptable as they are based on the factual circumstances of a particular case and they will remain relevant in the future. In the majority of cases the Commission has been pro-competitive. It is only where there have been the most serious problems of market concentration they have intervened such as Kirsch/Bertelsmann and the FIA/Formula one case. The Commission is looking into collective selling of rights for UEFA Champions League and the English and German national leagues. He is most concerned about the holding back of progress if rights holders prevent the development of new markets by refusing to license their rights for new technologies. His staff is also examining the behaviour of collecting societies when it comes to the development of the Internet and international broadcasting activities and the problems arising from their reluctance to change. He concludes that DG Competition is trying to be active not activist.

A full copy of the speech is available at: http://europa.eu.int/rapid/start/cgi/guesten.ksh?p_action.gettxt=gt&doc;=SPEECH/01/578|0|RAPID≶=EN&display;=

Paper merger cleared by the Commission

The European Commission has cleared the proposed Euro 3.64 billion take-over of Haindl by Finland¹s UPM-Kymmene and the subsequent sale of two of the Haindl mills to Norwegian paper manufacturer Norske Skog. The Commission concluded, on November 21, that the acquisition would not impede effective competition in the European-wide markets for newsprint and wood-containing magazine paper.

Meanwhile the Belgian Presidency organized a seminar on 15th and 16th November entitled The Audiovisual Public Sector confronted with concentration and diversification of services. Most of the debate was predictable with the public service arguing for more money for their sector and the private sector highlighting the problems with this approach. Of interest was the statement made by Richard Miller, the Walloon Minister for Audiovisual who recalled that the Economic and Social Committee in 2000 had produced an opinion on pluralism and concentration of the Media where they invited the Commission to produce guidelines to complement competition law in this area. Mr Miller then said that although he is favourable to the creation of European Guidelines these must apply the standard competition rules without putting into question the right to regulate all sectors in a universal manner.

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WHAT'S NEW?
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1. Electronic commerce

1.1 ESC report on Child Protection on the Internet
The Economic and Social Committee has adopted an opinion of the Section for Transport, Energy, Infrastructure and the Information Society on A programme for child protection on the Internet. This endorses the Safer Internet Action Plan being run by the Commission and argues it should be strengthened with more resources. However in terms of advertising sales promotion and advertising the report states "The EU should ensure that online sales promotion does not take advantage of children's impulsiveness and inexperience. Further, restrictions on tobacco and alcohol advertising need to be properly enforced online." A copy of the draft opinion is available on request..

1.2 WIPO news
Information on the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights which took place in Geneva on 26-30 November 2001 is now available. The Committee discussed the protection of the rights of broadcasting organisations and the position submitted by the European Community and its member states is now available. See www.wipo.org. Additionally EIPO will hold a symposium on the subject of Multilingual Domain Names on 06-07 December 2001. All information regarding the symposium will be available from www.itu.int/mdns.

1.3 EU Cybercrime Forum 27th November 2001
The EU organised a Cybercrime Forum in Brussels which discussed the retention of traffic data. For all the details see www.cybercrime-forum.jrc.it. Meanwhile the Council of Europe organised on 28 November 2023 a European Forum on harmful and illegal cyber content which examined different ways of regulating the Internet, in particular self-regulation by the industry and co-regulation.

The reports have been put on the Forum website at www.coe.int/t/e/human_rights/cyberforum/

1.4 Senate extends tax moratorium
The US Senate agreed last week to renew a ban on Internet taxes in the country for a further period of two years. The original ban, in place since 1998, forbids states creating any new internet-specific taxes. This is contrary to the EU¹s approach which is trying to deal directly with the new situation on the internet through the VAT and eCommerce directive. However a deal is not expected under the Belgian presidency and it is now over a year since the Parliament finished its opinion on the proposal.

1.5 European Parliament bans cookies
In November the Parliament adopted the report on the Directive on Personal Privacy in the Electronic Communications sector which included an amendment banning cookies and "other spyware". The Interactive Advertising Bureau has been running a huge campaign pointing out the huge disaster this would be for the online advertising industry and the online content it funds. The Council have since agreed on the text (see Key Issue above) and improved the cookies amendment although they call for only opt-in for e-mail marketing.

2.Internet regulation (content)

2.1 eContent Information day
An information day was held on the 22nd November in Brussels on the eContent Program to inform business how to bid for the projects. eContent is an EU programme, which aims to support the production, use and distribution of European digital content and to promote linguistic diversity on the global networks. A report of the day¹s discussion is available on request. More information is on the eContent website at www.cordis.lu/econtent.

2.2 Yahoo case decision and others
The US Federal Court has ruled that foreign court orders cannot be enforced in the USA as they contradict the right to free speech. This is contrary to the original decision by a French court that illegal content from the US viewed site could be viewed in France and thus could be tried there. This decision on applicable law does not agree with the reasoning in the draft Hague convention which would make all online content subject to the rules of where it can be received. Another ruling relating to Yahoo and the relationship with users said that the Forum selection clauses in Yahoo's content does not apply to a defamation lawsuit.

See www.courtinfo.ca.gov/opinions/documents/B149382.pdf.

Lastly, Internet providers in the Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia have been requested by the government of the administrative district of Düsseldorf to block US web-pages with unlawful content. After being pressured by the chief officer of this district the Internet provider ISIS now blocks such US web-pages. This level of enforced censorship could have major implications for publishing websites.

3. Copyright

3.1 Digital Management of Rights Consultation
DG Enterprise has asked CEN/ISSS to convene a Forum Group on Digital Rights Management with the following objectives: To investigate the different technologies that are relevant to Digital Rights Management in the context of the provisions of Directive 2001/29/EC; To consider the extent of standardization (in the broadest sense) of these technologies, and the extent to which they may need to be harmonised, or further standardized. EPC will attend the next meeting of the Group on DRM, which will take place 15 January 2002. A small hearing will also take place on 28 February 2002 on the Working Document produced by DG INFSO on this matter, it is expected this will lead to a Commission Communication.

3.2 Collective Management of Rights Evaluation report expected
The Commission is considering an internal evaluation report on the hearing on Collective Management of Rights containing the positions submitted in writing by interested parties. According to Commission sources this evaluation notably raised the following points: collective management in the digital area, transparency, licensing and the idea of a "guichet unique", conflict on tariffs and the complaints received by DG Competition, the management of conflicts between users and collecting societies, the transnational rules on copyright and the impact on the Internal Market. The Commission wishes to turn this into a Communication by the middle of next year depending on internal approval.

4. Advertising

4.1 New European Advertising Standards Alliance agreement EPC attended the board meeting in which the media, advertisers and self-regulatory authorities agreed to finance the creation of a new, more effective EASA. The new Alliance will take on board the Media¹s 10 priorities and will include new media and new interactive advertising techniques (broadcast and online). The meeting on 18th January will officially grant powers to the new board.

4.2 Misleading Advertising Directive review postponed DG Sanco has apparently abandoned plans to review the Misleading Advertising Directive by the end of the year based on Hill and Knowlton¹s study on nutritional health and ethical claims. The work may restart in the second half of 2003.

4.3 ECJ considers German restrictions on online sales The European Court of Justice (ECJ) will hear a case on whether existing German restrictions on sales of pharmaceuticals and medicines can be applied to a non-German European website. The Regional Court of Frankfurt has suspended proceedings against the Dutch website and asked the ECJ to answer a number of questions, including whether or not German restrictions on drug sales are consistent with the E-commerce Directive to consumers in another European state. The Frankfurt Court also wants to know what requirements an online pharmacy must fulfill to exercise its duty of care when selling prescription medicines and is seeking guidance on cross-border advertising.

5. Audiovisual & General Media Policy

5.1 Services of General Interest report adopted
The Parliament voted on the report by Werner Langen on SGEI and accepted the controversial amendment no 74. which states that the Parliament "Takes the view that public broadcasting institutions under the public service obligations are not covered by the European Treaties" competition rules;"

5.2 Parliament adopts report on circulation of films
The report by Vander Taelen MEP on circulation of films from the Culture Committee has now been passed in plenary session. This report calls upon the Commission to institute an ambitious, integrated, multi-annual plan to make the European film industry more competitive. A copy is available on request.

5.3 Culture Council in Bruges
At the Culture Council in Bruges ministers adopted a Resolution which calls on the Commission and the Member States to study measures in the audiovisual sector to improve the development of funding from the EU, the private sector. Full report on request

5.4 UNESCO adopt declaration on Cultural Diversity
At the UNESCO General Conference at the end October the delegates confirmed the adoption of the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity. A copy of the adopted text is available on request.

5.5 Commission Opens Investigation into Aid To Portuguese Broadcaster
The European Commission announced on 13 November 2023 that it proposes to open formal State aid investigation into a number of measures granted to the Portuguese public broadcaster RTP. The Commission aims to determine whether or not the Portuguese State over-compensated the reimbursable public service costs of RTP in 1992-1998 to the tune of Euro 83.6 million. The Commission will publish a summary of the decision in the Official Journal of the European Communities. RTP and any interested parties will have one month to submit their comments.

6. General

6.1 Laeken Council to meet 14-15 December 2001
The Commission launched a special website dedicated to the Laeken European Council which will be held on 14-15 December 2001. The site provides a simple guide to the issues being discussed, bringing together fact sheets, speeches and easy links to other information related to the summit. For more information see www.europa.eu.int/comm/laeken_council.

6.2 New Round launched successfully in Doha
In November the WTO agreed a broad-based round of negotiations which opens the way for negotiations leading to further improvements in market access for goods and services. An agreement has been reached on Services and deadlines set for initial proposals.

6.3 Results of EcoFin Council
At the EcoFin Council on 06 November 2023 the Commission presented its communication and its voluminous study on Company taxation. Mr Bolkestein pointed out during a final press Conference that he hoped to organise a high level conference next year to "launch the debate", mainly on the ways to reach a harmonised method of calculating the tax base for cross-border operations.

6.4 Brussels set for review of merger rules
The European Commission has produced a Green Paper on reform of the merger laws. The Green Paper contains detailed proposals such as reducing thresholds in order for merger clearance cases to be dealt with at the most appropriate level and also to reduce the number of times a company needs to file for clearance. The Commission is considering reforming the base of competition law, the dominance test and asks for the views of those affected most by competition law. The Commission intends to adopt a proposal for a revision of the Merger Regulation during the course of 2002. Interested parties have until 31 March 2002 to submit their comments to the European Commission's Merger Task Force. For more information see www.europa.eu.int/comm/competition/mergers/review/#green_paper

6.5 Compromise reached on Telecoms Package
The European Parliament has now reached a compromise with the Council on the Telecoms Package (excluding data protection) and so sticking to their timetable of agreeing the legislation by the end of 2001. On Digital TV they are not mandating a standard put trying to encourage all new formats to be based on the MHP. For the adopted text see www3.europarl.eu.int/omk/omnsapir.so/pv2?PRG=CALEND&APP;=PV2&LANGUE;=EN&TPV;=PROV&FILE;=011212

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UPCOMING EVENTS
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TWF hearing dates 10 December 2001, 18 December 2001, 17 January 2024

A workshop will take place on 10 December 2001 on the "outlook of development of the market for European Audiovisual Content and of the regulatory framework concerning production and distribution of this content." This is run by Arthur Andersen and they will be presenting the main findings of the work done to date and debating this with industry. Uyttendaele, Gérard et Doutrelepont will be holding a seminar on 18 December in Brussels on the "Evaluation of the impact of measures concerning the promotion of distribution and production of television programmes in the European audiovisual sector". This is for experts only but an open seminar will be held at the end of January to present the conclusions of the study. Bird & Bird will be holding its second seminar on the "Development of new advertising techniques on 17 January 2024 in Brussels. For more information, contact agnes.maqua@twobirds.com.

Will Web Services Revolutionize e-Commerce? 06 February 2024

Organized by the Diffuse project supported under the European Union's Information Society Technologies (IST) Programme. The conference will be held at the European Commission Conference Centre Borschette, Brussels. See www.diffuse.org/event2.html.

Europe's Cultural Policy Challenges 12 February 2024

At the Centre des conférences internationales Kléber, Paris organised by Friends of Europe and Eurocinema with the support of the European Commission and France¹s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Speakers include Pascal Lamy and Viviane Reding. Contact sara.vandore@forum-europe.com for more information.

Publishing in the Digital Age 05 March 2023

Organised by EPC, FEP, FAEP, ENPA and EADP. This one day Forum will discuss the aims to present to the European Union institutions, the challenges and opportunities of an industry, diverse even within its sectors, for which the digital world is meaning a true revolution. Erkki Liikanen the Commissioner for DG Enterprise and Information Society will open the Forum which will be chaired by Mr Balsemao. The afternoon session will be two panel discussions on the role of self-regulation and coregulation and on the issue of editorial liability as relates to Rome II and VAT on eCommerce. Contact EPC for more information.

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Further information about EPC
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General enquiries:
Angela Mills Wade: t: +44 (0)1865 310 732 f: +44 (0)1865 310 739
e:
angelamills.epc@btinternet.com
Annabella Coldrick: t: +32 2 231 1299 f: +32 2 230 7658
e: annabella.coldrick@europe-analytica.com

Press Enquiries:
Heidi Lambert: t: +32 2 732 5546; f: +32 2 735 3603