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EPC media alerts: January / February 2006

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

Dates for the diary

7 February - "Safer Internet Day"
8 February - Coreper to discuss ROME II
9 February - Meeting of Commissioner Reding's "media correspondents" to discuss key issues such as TVWF, Rome II and copyright
20/21 February - Justice and Home Affairs Council discussion on Rome II
27/28 April - Justice and Home Affairs Council discussion on Rome II


Key EU media issues for 2006

  • Green Paper on Obesity
  • The Second Intellectual Property Right Enforcement Directive (IPRED2)
  • i2010 including European Digital Libraries, Review of Copyright, Communication on Data Rights Management
  • Audiovisual Content Directive
  • Rome I and II
  • Green Paper on the Review of the Consumer Protection Regulatory Acquis
  • Services Directive

Key issues of the month

Soft drink producers stop ads to European children

Soft drink producers have just announced a voluntary ban on advertising to children in Europe in printed media, websites and during broadcast programmes that are specifically aimed at children.

The measure is part of a wide-ranging code of practice to be unveiled by Unesda, an association that represents the European non-alcoholic drinks industry (worth €38bn), including Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. A ban on sales in primary schools, increased nutritional information on beverages and public education campaigns to promote healthy lifestyles are also proposed.

This follows a warning last year from Health and Consumer Affairs Commissioner Markos Kyprianou that legislation would be introduced if the food and drink industry failed to take self-regulatory measures to combat obesity, especially in children.

The Financial Times has reported that soft drinks companies have committed to:

  • Not placing any marketing communication in printed media, websites or during broadcast programmes that are specifically aimed at children;
  • Not engaging in any direct commercial activity in primary schools, unless otherwise requested by school authorities.

TVWF proposals threaten development of new media

Editors, journalists and some EPC members have raised concerns relating to the new TVWF proposals. Many of these concerns centre on whether the revised directive will achieve the desired results, as described by Commissioner Reding and her cabinet during the consultation process, namely: i) to liberalise outdated rules on television advertising; ii) to provide a level playing field for new services and iii) to steer clear of regulating the Internet.

The British Government and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) are just two bodies that have also spoken out strongly against the proposals saying that they will stifle the development of new media such as TV over the Internet and mobile phones.

It appears that the final version of the new proposals does not coincide with statements made at the Publishers Forum or at the European Film and Television Forum in Vilnius in relation to the objectives and content of the new draft Directive on audiovisual media services, particular, the statement that the Commission wanted to liberalise outdated rules on television advertising and secondly to provide a level playing field for new services. In particular, with regard to the extension of the scope of traditional broadcasting services to new audiovisual media services, it was made clear on many occasions that there was no intention to regulate the internet. The EPC was also told that there would be only minimum rules for content carried on new platforms: firstly the protection of minors and secondly incitement against hatred based on race and religion etc. At no time was there any reference to statutory rules on advertising or incentive quotas for on-demand services.

If this new interpretation is correct, instead of merely applying minimum rules for content in new services on the protection of minors and incitement against hatred, the new Directive would impose a comprehensive set of statutory regulations in three important areas covering editorial and programme content, advertising and quotas.

Whilst the EPC appreciates the recognition by the Commission of the need to exclude online versions of newspapers and magazines from these provisions, nonetheless audiovisual media services seem to be left with a set of impractical provisions which go far beyond what was expected.

The EPC will now be talking to both the European Parliament and to Member States in order to ensure the media industry can comply satisfactorily with the new proposals.

ROME II - Frattini moves to scrap Regulation

While the Commission has been moving towards proposing exclusion of the media from Rome II, the EPC has been lobbying national governments this month to encourage a proper debate of the EP amendment and of the impact of the Rome II proposals on the working practices of journalists and on the freedom of expression generally. This remains our best option, but exclusion is looking more and more likely. Meeting on 24 and 25 January, member states' representatives managed to increase the options under discussion to no fewer than 12, ranging from law of the forum, law of the victim, law of habitual residence to the Parliament's amendment and proposals from the French and German governments with no consensus emerging for any of these. Meanwhile, EPC has also been lobbying the Commission in order to encourage their support for the EP amendment as they consider their own revised proposals.

Coreper debates ROME II today with the UK, Belgium and France in favour of a "country of origin" oriented solution and Spain and Italy passionately in favour of the law of the country of the victim. The compromise whereby the media would be excluded from the Regulation would not be ideal, but would be infinitely preferable to the "law of the forum" option.

The Austrians have placed Rome II on the agenda of the Council Justice and Home Affairs on both 20/21 February and/ or 27/28 April 2005.

Copyright and IPR

EPC joins forces with WAN to tackle Google News

The EPC, together with colleagues from WAN, ENPA, FAEP, IPA and the French publishers including Agence France Presse, have formed a new Task Force to assess the threats posed by Google's activities to the future of online publishing. Deciding to try to avoid Court action, the task force is working to devise a framework by which permission to spider and/or cache a site, or page, can be granted or withheld by publishers.

The framework would be a technical specification which would allow the publisher of a website or a piece of content to attach extra data which would specify what use by search engines was allowable for that piece of content or website. The aim would be for this to ultimately become a recognised standard, adopted widely and embedded into website and content creation software. However, to begin with it need only address the issues at hand, as a starting point for discussions with the search engines, but always with a mind to extensibility.

Meetings are being sought with Commissioners McCreevy and Reding in order to discuss implementation of this plan.

EPC criticises Commission comments on IPR

Submitting its position on digital libraries, the EPC has criticised the Commission's Communication for comments that express directly and indirectly that intellectual property rights (IPRs) are a barrier to the realisation of a vision of widespread and easy access to cultural and other information.

The EPC states: "Copyright and related rights are not legislative barriers. On the contrary, they are enablers which make it possible for rights creators - the source of Europe's cultural heritage - to make works available through the initiatives described above."

The EPC has suggested that it is overcoming other challenges such as financial, organisational and technical obstacles that is key to realising the vision.


Austria looks set to re-write Services Directive

The Austrian Presidency has said publicly that it would like to re-write the Services Directive, a proposal designed to help remove barriers to the provision of services in the internal market. Current proposals include the country of origin as its central principle. EP Rapporteur Evelyne Gebhart has proposed an amendment calling for the exclusion of audiovisual and cultural services.

In terms of the scope of the directive for advertising, all advertising sold across borders will fall within the scope, thus expanding the market; advertising agencies wishing to offer their services in another Member State will have the right to compete on an equal footing with agencies established in that Member State; offline promotions and direct mail are brought in line with online or broadcasting rules according to the Country of Origin principle; the advertising of professional services, including legal and notary services, are permitted across borders.

The European Parliament's First Reading in plenary is expected to take place on 14 February.

Unfair Commercial Practices: implementing process underway

Published in the Official Journal on 11 June, the Unfair Commercial Practices directive bans unfair advertising, marketing and other commercial practices - in particular, practices that are misleading or aggressive. Member States have until 12 June next year to implement the provisions and until 12 December'07 to apply them. In contrast to most other directives in the consumer protection field, the directive does not permit Member States to deviate from the standard specified in the directive, even where this would result in a higher level of protection for consumers. As such, it has caused some controversy. Business is calling on the Commission to play an active part in the implementing process to ensure Member States do not go beyond the provisions of the directive.

The internet

Recommendation due for adoption on the Protection of Minors and Right of Reply

The Austrian Presidency is expected to adopt the Recommendation that proposes various measures to protect minors from harmful content on the Internet and also calls for the right of reply for online media, similar to that available in print media.

The Parliament is keen to use this Recommendation to reduce food advertising targeted at children and teenagers. It is also proposing specific measures including: i) the creation of an independently policed internet domain name ".kid"; ii) the provision of banners on all search engines warning of the existence of adult hotline numbers, for example; the creation of an European telephone number to facilitate complaints; the setting up of an awareness campaign on potential dangers on the Internet; concrete action to combat child pornography on the Internet.

Log on to Safer Internet Day, 7 February 2024

Continuing on the issue of Internet safety, 7 February has been designated as "Safe Internet Day" under the patronage of Commissioner Viviane Reding. A wide range of activities is planned including a global "blogathon" to promote Internet safety. Special guests will make postings on the blog and invite comments from visitors, children, schools and parents.

This is organised under the banner of the Commission's "Safer Internet Programme" which is a four-year programme (2005-2009) with a budget of 45 million Euros and has the remit to fight against illegal content; tackle unwanted and harmful content; promote a safer environment and raise awareness.

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


Executive Director: Angela Mills Wade

Press Relations: Heidi Lambert

Chairman: Mr. Francisco Balsemao, Chairman and CEO, Impresa, Portugal

Mr. Kjell Aamot, CEO, Schibsted, Norway
Ms. Sly Bailey, Chief Executive, Trinity Mirror plc, UK
Sir David Bell, Chairman, Financial Times Group, UK
Mr. Jose-Maria Bergareche, CEO, Vocento, Spain
Mr. Aldo Bisio, RCS Quotidiani S.p.A., Italy
Mr. Carl-Johan Bonnier, Chairman, The Bonnier Group, Sweden
Mr. Oscar Bronner, Publisher & Editor in Chief, Der Standard, Austria
Dr. Hubert Burda, Chairman and CEO, Burda Media, Germany
Dr. Carlo Caracciolo, President, Editoriale L'Espresso, Italy
Mr. Juan Luis Cebrian, CEO, Grupo Prisa, Spain
Mr. Murdoch MacLennan, Deputy Chairman and Chief Executive, Telegraph Group Ltd, UK
Sir Crispin Davis, Chief Executive, Reed Elsevier, UK
Dr. Mathias Döpfner, Chief Executive, Axel Springer Verlag, Germany
Mr. Tom Glocer, Chief Executive, Reuters PLC, UK
Mr. Leslie Hinton, Executive Chairman, The News Corporation Limited, UK
Dr. Stefan von Holtzbrinck, Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH
Mr. Steffen Kragh, President and CEO, The Egmont Group, Denmark
Mr. Bernd Kundrun, Chief Executive, Gruner + Jahr, Germany
Mr. Christos Lambrakis, Chairman & Editor in Chief, Lambrakis Publishing Group, Greece
Mr. Gavin O'Reilly, Chief Executive, Independent Newspapers PLC, Ireland
Ms. Wanda Rapaczynski, CEO, Agora, Poland
Mr. Jaakko Rauramo, Chairman and CEO, SanomaWSOY Corporation, Finland
Mr. Michael Ringier, President, Ringier, Switzerland
Mr. Gerald de Roquemaurel, Chairman and CEO, Hachette Filipacchi Medias, France
The Rt. Hon. The Viscount Rothermere, Chairman, Daily Mail and General Trust, UK
Mr. A.J. Swartjes, CEO, De Telegraaf, Netherlands
Mr. Antoine de Tarle, Chief Executive, Societe Ouest-France S.A , France
Mr. Christian van Thillo, Chief Executive, De Persgroep, Belgium