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Positive talks held with Prodi, Reding, Bolkestein, Liikanen and Byrne

Commissioners agree to more collaboration with EPC to protect the fundamental freedoms of the press

During high-level talks in Strasbourg yesterday (2/9/03) with a delegation of the European Publishers Council (EPC), the President of the European Commission, Mr. Prodi, Education and Culture Commissioner Viviane Reding, Internal Market Commissioner Bolkestein, Enterprise and Information Society Commissioner Liikanen and Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner Byrne expressed their commitment to work more closely with the EPC in the future to preserve the fundamental freedom of expression - of both advertising and editorial.

Recognising the uniqueness of the EPC membership, representing as it does the business interests of newspaper and magazine publishing, electronic publishing and broadcast interests - as well as representing and reflecting the cultural diversity of the EU - the President and Commissioners agreed that more collaboration was required to avoid the unintentional undermining of press freedoms, including the freedom to advertise.

EPC Chairman Francisco Pinto Balsemão said: "This meeting achieved one of our dearest objectives - that is to see the different Commissioners and departments of the European Commission working together to give more careful consideration to the overall implications and ramifications of any draft legislation on our sector. Mr. Prodi recognised the Commission needed to be more vigilant, monitor better our problems and maintain contact at the highest level with the EPC."

The EPC has felt under constant attack (albeit unwittingly) from many different quarters: on directives and regulations such as market abuse, Rome II, TV Without Frontiers, Food and Health Claims, Unfair Commercial Practices, Sexism - all very good examples of where freedom of expression is undermined even though the original objectives of the legislation are not aimed specifically at the media sector.

Mr. Pinto Balsemão said: "Whilst we share most of the public policy and consumer protection objectives of the European Commission, the diversity and independence of Europe's media are diminished each and every time the European Union introduces new proposals for legislation which constrain our ability to remain competitive, which chip away at the freedom to advertise or which erode our ability to communicate with our readers.

"The President and Commissioners were very supportive of our concerns and insisted that the Commission had no plans to go further than the tobacco advertising ban, ruling out a ban on alcohol advertising and a ban on children's advertising. We look forward to working with them in the future to sure up Europe's media - to protect our competitivity in the global market as well as our rich cultural diversity which underpins the European Union as we know it."

Commissioner Byrne confirmed on this occasion his participation in the EPC conference to be held in Brussels on 16 September 2003: "Improving communication of EU media and media-related issues".

For further information, please contact Angela Mills Wade, EPC Executive Director on Tel: +44 7785 327 878 or Kerry Nielsen in Brussels on Tel: 02 231 1299 or Heidi Lambert on Tel: +44 1245 476 265.

Note to Editors:

European Publishers Council delegation:

Mr. Francisco Pinto Balsemão, Chairman
Mr. Carl-Johan Bonnier, Chairman, The Bonnier Group, Sweden
Dr. Hubert Burda, Chairman and CEO, Burda Media, Germany
Mr. Leslie Hinton, Executive Chairman, News International, UK
Dr. Stefan von Holtzbrinck, Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH
Mr. Bernd Kundrun, President and Chief Executive, Gruner + Jahr, Germany
Mr. Henry Manisty, Reuters plc, UK
Mr. Gianluigi Melega, Editoriale L'Espresso, Italy
Angela Mills Wade, Executive Director, EPC
Mr. Jaakko Rauramo, Chairman and CEO, SanomaWSOY Corporation, Finland
Mr. Gerald de Roquemaurel, Chairman and CEO, Hachette Filipacchi Medias, France