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EPC media alerts: April / May 2006

Your monthly EU media issues update direct from Europe's leading publishers

Dates for the diary

15-16 May - EP Plenary vote on VAT directive
16 May - Council of Europe Hearing on Portrayal of Women in Advertising, Paris
17-18 May - Council due to reach Common Position on Protection of Minors
19 May - EP IMCO committee second exchange of views on TVWF
29 May - EP ITRE committee second exchange on TVWF
1-2 June - EP CULT committee joint hearing on TVWF
4-7 June - World Editors' Forum, Moscow
28 June - Commission to debate next steps in German tobacco ad infringement
End June - Rome II adoption expected
10 July - EP IMCO committee consider draft opinion on TVWF
10-11 July - EP ITRE committee draft report on TVWF
12-13 July - CULT committee draft report on TVWF due
20 July - Deadline for EP ITRE TVWF amendments
August 2007 - Data Retention legislation comes into force
28 August - EP IMCO committee deadline for TVWF amendments
11-12 September - EP ITRE committee first debate of TVWF amendments
13-14 September - EP IMCO committee consideration of TVWF amendments
25 September - EP ITRE committee second debate of TVWF amendments
25 September - EP IMCO committee to adopt TVWF
3-4 October - EP ITRE committee to adopt TVWF
9-10 October - CULT committee to adopt TVWF report
11-12 October - Committee of Regions plenary vote on TVWF
11-14 December - EP Plenary adoption of TVWF

Key issues of the month

ROME II: acceptable outcome expected

The Council of Ministers has agreed a Common Position on ROME II that is broadly acceptable to the EPC in that it a) Confirms the deletion of the article dealing with defamation and privacy rights from the scope of the Regulation and b) Establishes that there will be, as per normal procedure, a review not later than four years after this Regulation enters into force.

The Commission will have to submit a report on its application and, if necessary, this report shall be accompanied by proposals to adapt the Regulation. In particular, the report shall consider non-contractual obligations arising out of violations of privacy and rights relating to personality, including defamation.

Whilst not ideal, earlier versions were less favourable to the EPC position.

The Common Position text will now be sent to the European Parliament for its Second Reading.

In the meantime, the revision of the Regulation (known as Brussels I) on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters is also underway - which deals with the choice of jurisdiction in the event of a conflict in a cross-border dispute. This Regulation came into force on 1 March 2023 and is about civil and commercial Contracts and where (i.e. in which country) you can sue. For example, if you've bought a computer from a supplier based in Finland and it never arrives you can sue the company in a UK court (country of the consumer principle not country of origin). This makes life difficult for online companies who can be sued in all 25 countries they sell into. Fortunately the Commission resisted earlier calls to merge the two regulations of jurisdiction and applicable law - a move strongly opposed by the EPC. The European Commission has already commissioned a study on Brussels I the results of which will be presented in the autumn. On the basis of this study, the Commission will draft its report which will be presented to the Council and the European Parliament before March 2007. (Maria Berger (PES) Committee on Legal Affairs is the EP Rapporteur. The outcome of this review is likely to have a significant effect on any future review of Rome II.

http://europa.eu.int/scadplus/leg/en/lvb/l33054.htm

Historically, European Court case law on defamation has never found favour with the media.

Article 5(3) of Brussels I provides that, in the case of torts, "the place where the harmful event occurred" has jurisdiction in addition to the court of the defendant's domicile. As noted above, the Court in the Fiona Shevill case interpreted this phrase, in the context of defamation actions, to include the place where the allegedly defamatory publication is distributed.

New broadcasting directive: EPC calls on Commission to leave "new media" to existing general laws and self-regulation

If it succeeds, the proposal for a new directive to regulate media content on TV and also on new media service platforms (internet and mobile) looks set to expose EPC media companies to yet further regulation as more content is made available online in new formats beyond text based publishing. The proposal, published at the end of last year by the European Commission,
includes recitals to attempt to exclude online newspapers and magazines and web services containing only minimal video content incidental to the main offer. However, the comprehensive nature of the proposed rules - which affect advertising as well as programme and web content, the fact that the exclusions for the press are only contained in the recitals, and the fact
that only two member states (UK and Slovakia) have so far made any objections to the extension of scope of TV-type regulation to Internet content, means that EPC member companies may well be subject to the proposal, particularly if content contains video, or is a full video service, such as IPTV services. The proposed rules would restrict the growth of emerging media formats such as video broadcasts on the Internet and mobile phones.

At Parliament level, there has been a very mixed reception. Several hearings in June should clarify the position of MEPs. Deadlines for amendments to the Commission's text will be set for this summer.

In the meantime, the EPC is submitting a position paper that calls for the Broadcasting Directive to be amended to liberalise the television (linear) advertising provisions but without extending the scope to cover so-called 'non-linear' services; for the press to be clearly and explicitly excluded from the scope of the Directive in all circumstances; for the Directive to recognise the respective roles of existing regulation, co-regulation and self-regulation employed to monitor 'non-linear' services in order to best protect consumers and to promote a healthy audiovisual industry in Europe as part of the i2010 and Lisbon agendas and for a different approach which would be to amend and clarify any shortcomings of the current Broadcasting Directive in terms of linear services, leaving non-linear to existing EU laws, the general law and self-regulation. In addition, the EPC is supporting new rules to provide for exchange of short news extracts.

Services: This directive, or no directive, warns Commissioner

It looks as though the way is now clear for Member States to reach an agreement on the Services Directive before the summer, so that it can be formally adopted before the end of the year, assuming the European Parliament adopts the directive at its second reading this autumn.

Internal Market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy has warned that if the compromise approved by the European Parliament in February is not accepted, "There will be no directive." A key difference between this version and the initial text is that the country of origin principle has been replaced by country of destination meaning that service providers will exercise their activities in line with the laws of the host country and not the member state where they have their headquarters.

Broadcasting

Hungary in trouble over Media Act

The European Commission has formally requested Hungary to abolish the restriction imposed by the Hungarian Media Act on the provision of cable TV services in violation of EU competition rules. The Commission's request takes the form of a 'reasoned opinion', the second stage of the infringement procedure under Article 226 of the EC Treaty. If Hungary fails to comply within two months of receipt, the Commission may refer the case to the European Court of Justice.

http://www.europa.eu.int

Advertising

Advertising and the portrayal of women: EPC invited to Council of Europe Hearing

The Committee on equal opportunities for women and men of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) is meeting in Paris on 16 May for a hearing on the "image of women in advertising". The EPC has been invited to send a representative.

Following the hearing, draft recommendations will be sent to the Council of Europe's 46 member states and to the Council of Europe itself.

To see the programme and for more information, go to:

http://assembly.coe.int/Main.asp?link=/Documents/WorkingDocs/Doc05/EDOC10668.htm

Kyprianou threatens Germany with court action over tobacco adverts

The deadline is up (1 May) for the Commission to assess whether or not legalaction will be taken against Germany which continues to ignore the tobacco ad ban on the Internet and in newspapers.

Germany has been ignoring the tobacco ad ban, due for implementation by 31 July 2005, which prohibits the advertising of tobacco in the print media, on radio, over the Internet and forbids tobacco sponsorships of cross-border events. Luxembourg was also an offender but has now said that it will implement the law.

The Czech Republic, Italy, Hungary and Spain will also be subject to infringement proceedings should they not comply with the directive by 4 June 2006.

The German Government contests the EU's right to impose a ban on tobacco advertising and is taking legal action against the Commission. An ECJ decision is still pending. Meanwhile, Health Commissioner Kyprianou has said that he is determined to take legal action against Germany. The Commission will debate its next steps on 28 June.

Data protection

EU issued with data protection warning

European data protection supervisor Peter Hustinx has warned the EU institutions that he will start clamping down on cases of non-compliance with privacy standards as of 2007. He has also said that he will be monitoring the target for a network of data protection officers in all EU
institutions.

The United States has indicated in a recent meeting with the EU Council that it will be interested in accessing the traffic data collected by European countries under the auspices of the data retention directive.

Copyright and IPR

UK commissions independent review of IPR

Interested parties have been asked by the UK Government to give evidence as part of an independent review of the Intellectual Property Rights framework in the UK.

More information about the review, being carried out by former Editor of the Financial Times Andrew Gowers, can be found at http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/gowers.

Clearly the outcome of this Review will create ripples at the European level, particularly once the European Commission starts to review the Copyright Directive.

Expert Group holds first meeting on Digital Libraries: Copyright key issue

Commission officials are claiming that the Expert Group on Digital libraries will be focussing on strategic issues rather than the detail - which will be handled directly by the Commission!

However, the High Level Group has agreed to set up a sub working group on digital preservation and copyright which will look at orphan works, out of print books, collective licensing and rights clearance of work, "dark" archives (i.e. archives to which there was no public access) and remote access. At a recent meeting, library representatives made it clear that they did not wish to interfere with or harm publishers' business models and that they did not want this project to lead to a situation where national libraries were competing commercially with publishers. The EPC has been assured that the Commission also takes this view.

Regarding the work of the Commission services, they are working towards a Recommendation to Member States which will be published in the summer. This will set down targets for Member States in terms of digitization, preservation and access.

Music industry escalates campaign against illegal music sharing

The recording industry has announced an escalation in its campaign against illegal music file-sharers worldwide. The latest actions come with a new warning to parents to check what their children are doing online, as they could face financial penalties if their children access illegal material. Parents of children caught illegally sharing music have already been prosecuted.

New EU-wide criminal sanctions for counterfeiters

Justice commissioner Franco Frattini is proposing penalties of four years in prison and fines of up to 300,000 euros for counterfeiting and piracy. Some Member States are opposed to giving EU the power to set criminal sanctions but, under the proposals, criminal penalties for intellectual property theft could be imposed by a qualified majority rather than unanimity among national capitals. A recent ECJ ruling did in fact give the Commission the power to draw up criminal sanctions for infringements of EU law.

For more information please contact:
Angela Mills Wade on Tel: +44 1865 310 732 or
Press Officer Heidi Lambert on Tel: +44 1245 476 265

Members

Executive Director: Angela Mills Wade
angela.mills@epceurope.org

Press Relations: Heidi Lambert
heidilambert@hlcltd.demon.co.uk

Chairman: Mr. Francisco Balsemao, Chairman and CEO, Impresa, Portugal
fpbalsemao@epceurope.org