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EPC media alerts: February 2002

The monthly update on EU media issues

Publishers present 'resolution' to Commissioner Liikaanen

EPC chairman opens European Publishers Forum

EPC Chairman Francisco Pinto Balsemão opened what is hoped to be the first annual or bi-annual "European Publishers Forum" on Tuesday, 5 March in Brussels. The objective was to present a united front from the publishing industry in Europe and discuss issues of mutual concern with an audience of Commission officials, European Parliamentarians and to keynote speaker Commissioner Liikaanen.

The forum was co-hosted by the EPC, the Federation of European Publishers (FEP), the European Newspapers' Publishers Association (ENPA), the European Association of Directories' Publishers (EADP) and the European Federation of Periodical Publishers (FAEP).

The high-level meeting was organised in order to impress on those responsible for drafting legislation affecting the publishing industry the importance of understanding the new and ever-changing context of a sector and to ensure that any legislation targeted at publishers recognises its involvement in multi-media. The EPC has often criticised the Commission for drafting legislation which discriminates against publishers in favour of new media players - whilst publishers are trying to compete on an equal basis.

Presentations focused on the importance of self-regulation and the issue of editorial and content liability.

The speeches and a copy of the Resolution presented at the forum can be accessed at: https://epceurope.org.

 

Sales promotion

Draft regulation could affect fixed pricing

A draft regulation on sales promotion (published in October 2001) is now under discussion at European Parliament and Council levels.

The EPC is currently working on a position paper as part of its consultation with the Commission. It is initially concerned that whilst the directive is intended to deal with sales promotions rather than the general rules affecting offers for sale, it is possible that parts of the text could be interpreted to mean that publishers would no longer be able to fix their cover prices, or commission on these, other than by contract. This grey area is of huge concern to publishers in countries where such national regulations exist to protect cover prices against discounts.

The regulation which affects sales promotion marketing is generally helpful to publishers, especially those with multi-national markets, and includes the proposal to remove the limit on discounts (which currently vary throughout the EU) and to remove the ban which exists in some countries on the necessity to make a purchase before you enter a game/competition.

MEPs attending the First Reading debate on 18 February were largely hostile to the proposal, claiming that it fails to support consumers' interests. Of particular concern to the EPC is that MEPs were speaking openly against the principle of mutual recognition and country of origin - the cornerstone of most media regulation in Europe and were in favour of requiring additional, detailed information to be included by promoters, especially concerning prize draws, competitions and games of chance. Furthermore, the national lottery monopolies are trying to secure amendments to ban the use of "scratch cards" by non licenced lottery operators. EPC members will be opposing such a move as publishers frequently include scratch cards as part of their promotional offers.

The EPC is still consulting with its members to establish the full implications of the regulation for publishers. The Council working group will begin discussing the Regulation again this month (March).

 

Data protection

Cookies still high up on agenda

Cookies are still firmly on the legislative agenda: the EP Justice and Home Affairs Committee met to discuss this consumer-friendly Internet tool on 19 February and both the EP and Commission will meet for a full debate on the issue on 19 March.

The text which initially called for an "opt-in" approach to cookies has now been changed in favour of an "opt-out" system. However, this seemingly welcome compromise is meaningless when you read on to see that consumers must be given clear information on which to base their decisions on whether to reject or accept cookies - in advance. 

Publishers use cookies all the time on their news and information sites as well as on any e-commerce sites and are more than happy to provide comprehensive information about the purpose of cookies and how to disable them but for practical reasons, this cannot be in advance of cookies being served. Consumers would face frequent pop-up boxes which would not only be irritating but would slow down their internet experience. If the "in advance" proposal is adopted, EPC members would be faced with massive re-engineering costs to adapt their sites.

The EPC is still working to win over the Commission which has not been supportive in the face of previously very strict wording dictated by the European Parliament. Chairman Francisco Balsemao has written to Commissioner Liikaanen urging this obligation to be removed from the text in advance of the EP's second reading.

 

Market abuse

EPC still fighting to protect financial journalists

The EPC is still fighting to have the wording of the market abuse directive changed in advance of the EP Plenary vote on 11-14 March to protect financial journalists against the possibility of legal action should they inadvertently affect money markets through inaccurate or misleading reporting.

The definition of "market abuse" has been improved to include significant defences for any accused journalist, the Committee is still insisting on an "effect"-based regime rather than the EPC preference for an "intent"-based one.

An additional concern is the wording of one particular Article (6.4) which could force journalists to make open declarations of share-holdings. MEPs seem to have accepted the principle that journalists should be exempted from this article and the EPC has persuaded an MEP to push for new wording which would limit the scope of this Article to financial analysts in advance of the Plenary.

 

Advertising

Danish U-turn favours children's advertising - DG SANCO committee advocates wide-scale bans and restrictions

The newly-elected Danish Government has reversed the previous administration's ban on advertising aimed at children which was introduced in January 2000. This move has been welcomed by domestic TV networks which have been struggling to compete with foreign channels available in Denmark - who, under country of origin rule, are permitted to carry children's advertising if it is legal in the broadcasting country.

Denmark takes over the EU Presidency in July as the debate on the revision of the TV Without Frontiers Directive hots up. This latest news will be a set-back to a Norwegian plan to form a Nordic coalition to promote a pan-European ban on children's advertising. Sweden and Finland both remain in favour of a ban.

In the meantime, DG SANCO's Consumer Committee has come up with a paper which calls for wide scale bans and restrictions of promotional marketing, advertising and communications within schools' the portrayal of children in advertising, the Internet and Market Research. It also talks of the need to introduce wide-spread horizontal legislation at a European level based on maximum harmonisation.

The paper attacks the country of origin principle which lies at the heart of the TV Without Frontiers Directive. This committee is advisory only and does not represent the official line of DG SANCO but it is influential.

Commissioner Reding remains opposed to a ban.

 

Rome II

Vittorino abandons unpopular Regulation on applicable law

Following intense lobbying from industry (including the EPC) and some Commissioners, Commissioner Vittorino delayed plans for the time being to bring forward a draft of a Regulation on Applicable law. However, it seems that a proposal will be presented before the summer break. Meanwhile, he will consider amending the original Rome I Convention which will be published in July this year.

At this stage we are expecting a Green Paper - something which Vittorino is trying to avoid in the Rome II debate.

The controversial proposal sought to make country of residence the basis of applicable law rather than country of origin of the goods or services - something industry in general but e-commerce industries in particular, had a major problem with.

For more information on any of the following issues, contact Heidi Lambert Communications Tel: +44 1245 476 265.

Internet regulation
Market abuse
Tobacco advertising
Children's advertising
Jurisdiction and applicable law
Duty to trade fairly
Sales promotion

Contacts

Angela Mills, Director of  EPC: Tel: +32 2 231 1299 (Brussels) or +44 1865 310 732 (UK) angela.mills@epceurope.org.

Heidi Lambert: Tel: +44 1245 476 265 heidilambert@hlcltd.demon.co.uk.