Return to the EPC homepage.

Legislative up-date number 61 Month - May 1997

In this issue we cover:

  • EPC gets zero rating on the Parliament’s agenda
  • latest moves on media ownership - MEPs call for EU action
  • battle lines drawn over copyright ownership - film directors and writers warn against Anglo-Saxon style copyright
  • European moves on forest certification
  • new paper on access to public information - possible new area for EU legislation
  • Green Paper on convergence will now cover publishing -due out soon
 
 TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

  1. MEDIA OWNERSHIP -

  2. MEPs call for a directive

  3. VAT - EP VOTE
  4. IGC - SPECIAL STATUS FOR PUBLIC SERVICE BROADCASTING
  5. INTERNET (CONTENT) REGULATION
    1. Green Paper on Convergence (including publishing)
    2. EP - Green Paper on the Protection of Minors and Human Dignity
    3. EP - regulatory transparency mechanism
IV. COPYRIGHT
    1. Interested parties lobby the Commission
    2. Encryption
V. ADVERTISING POLICY
    1. Council - tobacco advertising
    2. Kangaroo Group hosts debate on the Green Paper
    3. Commercial Communications
VI. GENERAL
    1. Commission - European Company Statute and worker participation
    2. Access to public information
    3. Forest Certification
 
  1. MEDIA OWNERSHIP
DG XV is still working on a text for a directive and has been approaching potential champions of the initiative to write in outlining their support for EU intervention. Solicited support is apparently coming from MTV, Canal Plus and CLT as well as from MEP Lyndon Harrison in the European Parliament (see below). Meanwhile, Monti’s cabinet is not releasing any information on timing although the President’s cabinet believes that opposition will continue. However, there is pressure building to find alternative "get out" solutions in order to stave off criticism from the European Parliament for potential inaction.

On 28 May the European Parliament adopted a report citing the regulation of media ownership as being one the last remaining gaps in the Single Market legislation. UK Socialist MEP Lyndon Harrison’s opinion on the Single Market programme claims that:-

    • 15 different sets of media ownership rules are not conducive to a transparent Single Market
    • issues such as pluralism and the safeguarding of diversity of opinion are also at stake and are not safeguarded by varying national rules.
In their Resolution, MEPs urged the Commission to come forward with a comprehensive proposal to deal with the subject of media ownership calling on the Commission to:
    • study the media industry in the context of the competition articles of the Treaty, and in particular Article 86
    • submit a legislative proposal to create an efficient single market in the media industry, which would do away with different sets of national laws on media ownership and make it transparent for cross-border investments, and guarantee pluralism while promoting the principles of Article 128 on culture of the Treaty;
    • prepare an initiative to help the EU to modify its Single Market to take account of information services;
    • carry out a special review of the single market in services to ascertain the extent to which the sector increases competitiveness and promoted employment in the Union, and draw up a Community action programme going beyond the field of the information society;
    • ensure that consumer policy is fully integrated into EU law at its creation and application.
The Commission is expected to debate this issue again before the summer break
  1. VAT - EP to Vote on zero rating

  2. On 10 June the EP Plenary Session will debate and vote on the Parliament’s report on the Common VAT system which includes an EPC sponsored amendment to apply zero rating to the printed word.

    During the earlier Committee stage, the EPC had lobbied for zero rating to cover publishing but the Rapporteur - on the advice of the Commission -agreed to a last minute change which wiped out the possibility for zero rating of anything. EPC has managed to re-introduce the possibility of zero-rating and has been lobbying MEPs from all groups to support this amendment (tabled by a UK socialist MEP, Bill Miller).

  3. IGC - SPECIAL STATUS FOR PUBLIC TELEVISION
EU Foreign Affairs Ministers’ have been discussing the possibility of including a Protocol to the Treaty on public service broadcasting in the EU. Various drafts have been tabled which aim to give public service broadcasting special status in terms of their funding arrangements. The most controversial aspect of this initiative is the ultimate result in terms of competition policy. Some Member States are arguing that the EC should not be able to interfere with funding arrangements but that the Commission should have scrutiny powers under EU competition law. The Dutch Presidency has produced a compromise text for discussion on 5 June by the Permanent Representatives. Other Member States are looking at non-legally binding alternatives or additions to existing Treaty articles which seem to have the support of the Commission.

The Association of Commercial Television in Europe (ACT) has reacted been lobbying against a special Protocol and is due to hold a press conference on 3 June. In a recent press statement, ACT President, Jan Motjo, stated:

    • "the proposed Protocol questions the competence of the Commission and the Court of Justice to justify the non-application of competition rules and goes against the basis of the Internal Market by pushing for the re-nationalisation of an entire sector."
  1. INTERNET (CONTENT) REGULATION
    1. Commission Green Paper on Convergence

    2. DG XIII is working on the draft of a Green paper to look at the regulatory implications of convergence between the telecommunications, audiovisual and publishing sectors. EPC has warned against treating publishing with the same regulatory approach as broadcasting, reminding the Commission of the need to protect the freedom of expression from regulatory interference. A draft is expected before the summer break.

    3. EP - Protection of Minors and Human Dignity in Audiovisual and Information Services.

    4. On 21 May, the EP’s Culture Committee briefly discussed the Green Paper on the protection of minors and human dignity in audiovisual and information services. Philip Whitehead's draft Report is largely supportive of the Commission's Green Paper. The report calls for a 'light-touch' style of regulation and accepts that there is a good case for self-regulation of content through codes of conduct. Whitehead accepts that it is difficult to define and classify harmful material yet calls for EU level formulation of 'appropriate rules for each level of service/content provider'. Perhaps as an acknowledgment of the difficulty of resolving these two last points, Mr. Whitehead calls for the testing of filtering and screening devices which allow for parental (and user) control of access to harmful material. Mr Whitehead's text also noted that the Green Paper failed to look at issues such as targeted advertising with interactive games and products.

      The following timetable was agreed by the Committee: deadline for amendments: 3 June; vote in committee: 17-19 June and vote at Plenary: July.

    5. Access to Public Information
    6. EP - regulatory transparency mechanism
    Mark Hendrick’s report on the Commission’s proposal to adapt Directive 89/189/EC - introducing a mechanism to control the proliferation of national regulatory measures on new services - was recently adopted by Parliament’s Plenary Session on 16 May. During the EP debate, Commissioner Monti welcomed the Parliament’s amendments (which are available on request) and added that he looked forward to the rapid adoption of the directive by the Member States. A review clause was agreed that before 1 July 2023 the Parliament would assess the application of the Directive, and the Commission should then decide whether to submit proposals for revision.
  2. COPYRIGHT
    1. Interested parties - Commission lobbying
A forum representing the creative industries - including EPC, book publishers, phonogram and film producers - has submitted a paper to the Commission to try to influence the forthcoming text on the harmonisation of the reproduction right (available on request). Heavily influenced by the book publishers, the group argued for virtually no exceptions to the reproduction right in the digital age. Early negotiations with the Commission indicate that this tough position will not be achievable and that a compromise position over the scope of the right and the exceptions to the right will have to be found early on; the telecoms organisations and various user groups such as the library associations have asked for many exceptions to the right in total opposition to publishers and other producers. EPC is due to meet copyright officials at the Commission later in June to discuss this issue as well as the question of ownership of copyright.

Meanwhile, the Federation of European Film Directors (FERA) has written to Commission President Jacques Santer to warn against modeling initiatives on the Anglo-Saxon copyright model, which, in FERA’s view, is less favourable to copyright holders. It proposes the strengthening of the continental copyright system, which it believes is more flexible, providing rightsholders and users with greater guarantees of security. According to FERA, film directors in the UK are in a weak bargaining position in their dealings with producers and broadcasters, as few provisions protect the secondary exploitation of their work.

The International Association of Audiovisual Writers and Directors (AIDAA) has also advocated the need for a continental copyright system to protect their rights. AIDAA is lobbying the European Commission to step up its initiatives for new harmonised copyright provisions to extend protection of copyright and neighbouring rights to reproduction. The Association points out that authors’ and artists’ rights are recognised in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and that authors’ moral rights are protected by the Berne Convention.

ETNO (European Public Telecommunications Network Operators Association) is concerned about the Commission’s forthcoming proposals for copyright legislation as they fear that a regime of very strict copyright protection will pose problems to telecoms operators in terms of liability. Telecoms companies have been lobbying for wide ranging exceptions to any new copyright rules on the grounds that, if they were to be held liable, they want the easiest possible regime under which to operate.

The ETNO general assembly has stressed the need to find balanced solutions to copyright questions in the information society, believing:

    • Limitations/Exceptions: Content providers should be protected, but ETNO recognised that account should be taken of the need to take temporary copies when works are transmitted across a digital network such as the Internet, and limitations and exemptions to reproduction rights should be permissible.
    • Common Rules: ETNO favours rules for infringements, due to differences in laws between Member States, which clarify that knowledge of an infringement is a pre-requisite for the attribution of liability. It was pointed out that telecom operators cannot monitor and control the information flowing through their networks.
The Commission is itself pressurising the member states to reform their intellectual property laws, following the USA’s threat to Denmark, Sweden and Ireland under the WTO for failing to honour international copyright agreements with respect to film, television and home video.
    1. EP - encryption
Georgios Anastassopoulos’ (PPE, H) report on encrypted services - which covers both broadcasting and other electronic products distributed on-line - was adopted on 13 May during the Parliament’s Plenary Session in Strasbourg. Speaking on behalf of the Commission, Mr Oreja pointed out that the Commission had adopted their Green Paper in March 1993 on the issue and that the Commission intended to present a proposal in the near future.

The adopted Resolution supported the Commission’s Green Paper and pointed out that:-

    • a directive for guaranteeing the protection of coded transmission services as well as copyright and related rights linked to such services and ‘dual protection’ including protection of means and systems of broadcasting is a necessity;
    • coded services, which are threatened by piracy, form part of the framework of technological development and have direct consequences for the operation of the Internal Market;
    • consumer interests must be considered;
    • there is a lack of international regulations, especially with regard to unauthorised reception. Harmonisation of national legislation is desirable, although price increases might threaten the consumer;
    • measures to curb piracy should include all encoded services, including information society services such as electronic publishing, in addition to traditional and new television retransmission services;
    • the Commission was urged to support any legislative proposal with statistical dates and figures relating to piracy.
  1. ADVERTISING POLICY
    1. Council - tobacco advertising

    2. With the recent change of Government in the UK, the situation in the European Council on the Tobacco Advertising Directive may in future change significantly. The new UK Government has already announced that it will draft a Bill to ban all tobacco advertising in the UK and that it will ban all sponsorship by tobacco companies of sporting and cultural events. The Government’s only concession is that it will examine all possible ways to prevent the sporting or cultural events from suffering commercial harm as a result of this decision. The Government is determined to enact these decisions as soon as possible - and is publishing a White paper on reducing tobacco consumption in July which will outline all its proposals including the draft Bill to ban tobacco advertising.

      The change in UK policy also means that its position on the Commission’s proposal to ban tobacco advertising might change. The Commission’s proposal has made little progress in the Council since it was presented by the Commission in 1989 because a blocking minority of member states has been opposing it. These are: Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, Denmark, Greece and more recently Austria and Sweden (on constitutional grounds). However, there are indications that if the UK changes its position, the Netherlands may follow suit. The Austrian and Danish opposition is also not guaranteed. The change in the UK position, however, does not necessarily mean that work will start in Brussels immediately. The Dutch Presidency apparently wrote to the new UK Secretary of State for Health immediately after his appointment to ask whether he would like the Commission’s proposal to be discussed at the 5 June Health Council. It seems that the UK responded that it was too soon to have a formal debate as there has been no time for preliminary discussions. However, there are also indications that the UK will not want to commit itself to a European ban before agreeing the national ban. This may be because the UK wants a firm position on which to negotiate the European Directive and that it may want to claim to be the first Presidency to make progress on the proposal (January-June 1998). If this proves to be the case, agreement on the European Directive may not be possible until 1998/9.

      UK publisher and advertising organisations are trying to persuade the UK Government not to support EU action in this area on the grounds that legislation based health protection should be dealt with at national level and that the EU directive is not necessary for internal market reasons. The UK industry is also warning that the EU directive sets a bad precedent for the future of alcohol advertising and other sensitive products.

    3. EP - Commercial Communications

    4. Various amendments have now been tabled to Mrs. Larive’s (LDR, NL) report on Commercial Communications. The Committee vote will take place on 9 June in Strasbourg and the report will probably then be submitted to the July Plenary (14 -18 July). The majority of the Committee’s amendments (available on request) do not advocate significant changes to Mrs. Larive’s report which is largely supportive of the industry position, particularly with regard to self-regulation. EPC has submitted briefing papers to a number of MEPs and has been working closely with advertising industry organisations.

    5. Kangaroo Group hosts debate on the Green Paper
On 28 May, the Kangaroo Group - an EP club which supports the removal of barriers to the internal market - hosted a debate on the advertising Green Paper. The speakers were Jessica Larive, Peter Mitchell (Guiness): Vice-President of the World Federation of Advertisers, John Mogg: Director-General of DG XV and Jim Murray: Director of BEUC - the European Consumers’ group.

There was consensus between John Mogg, Peter Mitchell and Jessica Larive on the need for an Internal Market in commercial communications based on the country of origin principle, a mechanism for proportionality assessment and a consultative committee. Peter Mitchell pointed out that advertisers were extremely aware of the need to be culturally-sensitive in different countries, that many of the national barriers were not proportional and that it was important that any proportionality assessment should process challenges from business quickly.

However, Jim Murray - on behalf of the consumer organisations - said that BEUC favours host country control. Other comments he made included:

    • there are good reasons for many of the national differences in laws relating to commercial communications (he cited national laws on advertising to children and multi-level marketing as justifying restrictive national laws);
    • BEUC remains hostile to the "supply-side logic" of the Commission’s Green Paper and Mrs Larive’s Report;
    • advertising was sometimes ‘culturally insensitive’;
    • he was concerned about the ‘commercialisation of culture’;
    1. Advertising to Children
DG XXIV (Consumer Policy) is currently drafting a briefing note for Commissioner Bonino on suggestions for dealing with the subject of advertising to children. However it looks as if Commissioner Bonino’s current priority I education of the consumer and that advertising to children might have to be dealt with under a subsidiary programme. This DG has recently been enlarged and other parts of the Commission fear this may lead to an increase in policy initiatives to restrict and to control the content of advertising. The question of cross-border advertising contained in Internet services is getting more and more attention from the consumer protection angle and this may lead to further calls for restrictions.
  1. GENERAL
 

A. ACCESS TO PUBLIC SECTOR INFORMATION

 

The Commission’s draft GP on "Access to and Exploitation of Public Sector Information in the Information Society" is due to go before the College of Commissioners for adoption before the end of July.

 

The GP analyses the current situation in Member States, access rights, public sector pricing issues, competition, copyright and privacy, the need for inventories and directories of public sector information, liability issues together with the roles of the public and private sector (balancing access and commercial rights).

 

The GP also analyses potential for future legislation in this area, highlighting the production of multimedia products and services as justification for action.

 

Further details are available on request.
 
 

B. Global forest certification debate advances, with

implications for publishing industry

 

At a recent conference on sustainable forest management in Brussels, Environment Commissioner Ritt Bjerregaard and President-in-Office of the Agriculture Council Jozias Van Aartsen along with other key EU politicians called for a global forest convention. Next month the UN will hold a special general assembly on forest policy which is intended to build on 135 recommendations of the International Panel of Forests, adopted in February. On a mandate from the Council and the EP, the Commission is currently working on:
 
 
    • the EU negotiating position for the June meeting;
    • a Community Forest Strategy;
    • a specific EU-SFM certification and labelling framework.
  As regards the certification of forest products in the international arena, the main question being posed by all interested parties is will such a forest convention use ISO or FSC systems of certification as a framework? There is much support for the convention to be based on the ISO 14000 certification standard, at the same time taking into account FSC principles which were essentially developed by NGOs.

 

The issue of forest certification is an increasingly important issue for the publishing industry due to pressure from consumers for environmentally-sound production processes. There appears to be consensus for one globally-accepted system embodied within a global forest convention. The trouble is that several major global economic players such as the US, Japan, Australia and several African nations are currently against such a convention. The EU and its Member States are hoping to convince these countries to change their minds.

C. Commission - Worker Participation Clauses On 13 May the Group of Experts chaired by Etienne Davignon, former Industry Commissioner, announced its proposals to break the deadlock on the inclusion of worker participation clauses which have prevented the adoption of a European Company Statute.

The proposal aims to enable transnational companies to register and operate through a single company under EC company law, rather than complying with varying national rules. A company would have central management and single financial information system and would no longer need to establish a network of subsidiaries.

The Commission is seeking political agreement as a matter of priority and Commissioner Monti presented the Davignon compromise to the Internal Market Council on 20 May. Commissioner Flynn will present it to the Social Affairs Council on 12 June when they might also consider the taxation aspects of the European Company.

 

 
 
 

For further information please contact:

General Enquiries: Angela Mills

Telephone: +44 (0)1865 310 732

Facsimile: +44 (0)1865 310 739

Press Enquiries: Heidi Lambert

Telephone/facsimile +32 2 735 3603