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EPC NEWS - January 2002

Market Abuse
Amendments proposed to project journalists

Initial feedback from the European Parliament suggests that several MEPs are supporting amendments to the market abuse directive proposed by a joint media industry and journalists' letter, of which the EPC is a signatory. The amendments, which make for an "intent"-based regulation, are thought to be crucial to sure up defences for journalists reporting on financial markets. Current wording of the text still leaves journalists vulnerable to prosecution should they unwittingly cause movements in the money markets due to mistakes in their reporting. The EP's economic committee will be discussing the text and voting on amendments early in February. Contact for a copy of the letter.

Data protection
Save our cookies!

The EPC has written to Commissioner Liikanen to ask for his support for a "cookie friendly" amendment during the passage of his controversial data protection directive during the European Parliament's second reading.

"Cookie" is the name given to the user-friendly Internet tool used by the advertising and e-commerce industry to authenticate users and speed-up and simplify use of the Internet.

The MEPs had adopted a highly restrictive amendment during their first reading which would have subjected the use of cookies to explicit prior consent. EPC called instead for an opt-out approach in order that users could be informed about the use of cookies and then make their own choices about whether or not to disable them. The wording agreed by the Telecoms Ministers in December clearly rejected the Parliament's amendment and supported the opt-out approach, but included a requirement that the information about cookies should be given in advance of any cookie being served! EPC is campaigning for the removal of this onerous requirement, which contradicts the principles of opting out, arguing instead that users need only be given clear and easy to follow information about the use fo cookies in an obvious way, and how to reject them if they so wish.

Ten out of 15 Member States miss January implementation deadline

Austria, Finland, Germany, Ireland and Luxembourg are the only EU Member States to have met the 17 January 2024 deadline for implementation of the E-Commerce Directive. The UK has asked for further consultation on the draft regulations.

For the original text of the directive, visit

TV Without Frontiers
Conclusions presented on adverting study

2002 is key for TV Without Frontiers with the proposed revision of the directive due by the end of the year. The directive lays down certain advertising content and scheduling rules and sets quotas for independent and European production.

Three key studies on quotas, the future of the industry and advertising have been commissioned. Preliminary conclusions on advertising presented this month have identified the definition of advertising as a key issue: not all new forms of advertising fall into obvious categories currently regulated under the directive. There appear to be only two options on the table: extending the directive to allow ongoing adaptation of regulation on a case by case basis as new forms of advertising appear; and the creation of a completely new directive which would be extended to all media. The EPC feels this would be very difficult to apply: different industry sectors start from different levels of regulation. Broadcasters, for example, are very heavily regulated whereas the Internet is largely left to self-regulation. Whilst there is work underway in Italy and the UK to put regulation of all media sectors under one roof, this is not the case for most countries - implementing and enforcing this directive would be extremely difficult.

The EPC will lobby against any further restrictions and is calling on the Commission to de-regulate to help private media compete with publicly-funded media. The EPC is also calling on the Commission to avoid affording any special treatment to public broadcasters.

Tobacco Advertising
Public hearing set for 15 April 2023

Adoption of the Tobacco and Advertising Directive is a top priority for the Spanish Presidency according to Spain's Health and Consumer Affairs Minister. A public hearing on the directive is being held by the European Parliament's Legal Affairs and Internal Market Committee on 15 April where EPC member, Gruner & Jahr will illustrate the practical difficulties presented by the directive for the print media.

Commissioner Byrne (Health), who is passionate about banning tobacco advertising, is justifying this proposal on the grounds that different national regulations [on tobacco advertising] can lead to barriers to trade for media that cross national boundaries. However, the Commission has had to limit the scope of the directive to media that physically cross borders, ie newspapers and magazines - and which emanate from within the EU. Advertising on billboards, the Internet and direct marketing, for example, are exempt. The EPC is lobbying against this proposal on the main grounds that: i) the directive discriminates against print media in favour of all other advertising and sponsorship vehicles. The print media will suffer economically whilst consumers will still be exposed to tobacco advertising; ii) the directive is highly disproportionate: most international media are produced nationally (Vogue, Elle, for example). The amount of newspapers and magazines crossing borders in their original form is tiny - about 1.2%.

Rome II
New law would over-burden new media and conflict with existing regulations

This controversial directive deals with applicable law in the fields of defamation, privacy and unfair competition. Commissioner Byrne wants laws to be determined by the consumer, therefore according to the law of his country of residence, regardless of the origin of the goods and services in question. Commissioners Bolkestein (Internal Market), Liikanen (Information Society) and Reding (Media) all share the EPC's view that country of origin rules should apply to all media and e-commerce services. The EPC has written to Commissioner Vittorino (Justice and Home Affairs), who wants to avoid drafting a Green Paper and go straight for the draft Regulation, to call for exemption from any Regulation for media covered by both the E-commerce and Television Without Frontiers Directive. The EPC is keen to see proper consultation so that all interested parties can make their views known.

Consumer Protection
No case for new regulatory system for advertising, argues EPC - more consultation, please

The EPC has written to Commissioner Byrne in response to the Green Paper on Consumer Protection - a proposal which seeks to improve an apparent lack of consumer confidence in cross-border trading in goods and services, online or through traditional methods. The EPC argues that the Commission provides no evidence to indicate poor consumer confidence and insists that current regulatory frameworks provide the best consumer protection.

The EPC says in its letter: "The Commission has not established a convincing case to move to a new way of regulating advertising, marketing and business practices at European level based on a common "duty to trade fairly". The proposal suggests that widespread self-regulation in the advertising and communications sectors would be replaced by a new form of legislation.

The EPC questions i) lack of evidence to support the Commission's claims; ii) lack of clarity of definitions about what shape any new-style legislation would take.

The Green Paper implies that self-regulation can only be effective if pan-European although it fails to back up this assertion with evidence to show that the current system of national self-regulation of both advertising and editorial content isn't working.

The EPC is calling on the Commission to adopt specific measures designed to address specific problems, combined with an ongoing system of existing self-regulation to deal with fraud, "rogue" traders and non-fulfilment of contracts. The EPC would oppose the adoption of a framework directive based on a general duty to trade fairly which would be disproportionate to the problems identified under the current regulatory system. The EPC favours an internal market approach founded on mutual recognition of national law to best serve consumers and businesses alike.

The EPC has requested further consultation.

EPC suggests press freedom in Zimbabwe

In the face of a bill progressing through the Zimbabwe Parliament which would prevent non-Zimbabwean journalists and media organizations from continuing to operate in Zimbabwe, the EPC has called on the EU to take any measures open to them to protect press freedom.

If this bill is passed, European media organizations will be prevented from covering the Presidential elections taking place in March.

The EPC is also concerned for the future of the few remaining independent journalists of Zimbabwean nationality who will face a new and harsher regime that will impose criminal penalties for what would be regarded elsewhere as legitimate journalism.

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