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EPC media alerts: July / August 2007

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

Broadcasting / Audiovisual

Dates for the diary

1st July - Roaming Eurotariff came into force
5th July - Commission published Communication and report on VAT
11th July - White paper on Sports expected
July - Communication on Mobile Television expected
September - Communication on Content Online to be published
26/27th September - EPC Corporate Affairs Group meeting, Lisbon
15/16th October - EPC CEO meeting, London
29th November - Final ACAP conference, London
6th December - Publishers' Forum, Brussels



Key issues of the month

VAT and the reduced and zero rates: Commission launches a political debate on how to simplify current EU legislation

On the day when the Commission released the results of a study into the VAT regime, carried out by Copenhagen Economics, a new European Commission Communication considers that there is a real need for a simplification and rationalisation of the current VAT rates structure, in particular the reduced VAT rates. It believes that there is a place for more flexibility which would allow Member States to apply VAT reduced rates to local supplies. However, this flexibility needs to be balanced to ensure the proper functioning of the Internal Market and to avoid disproportionate compliance costs for business. To this extent, possible ways are put forward but no concrete proposal is made for new categories of products or services, preferring to leave this to political consideration by Member States. At the same time, the Commission proposes to extend, until the end 2010, most of the derogations which otherwise would be coming to an end soon. Although not specifically mentioned, the future of reduced and zero rates on the press ultimately will be affected. The Commission has only made the following rather general statement for the moment but meanwhile existing reduced and zero rates will apply until 2010: "The issue of the effectiveness of reduced rates for the promotion of certain goods or services is a very difficult one. Typical examples of currently discussed ideas to use VAT as an incentive for a particular behaviour are: energy saving materials, healthy food, cultural goods, etc. In addition, in some Member States, baby diapers are considered to serve social goals."

The Study however looks at the panoply of reduced rates in the publishing sector and specifically works through a case study of VAT rates in Sweden where rates were reduced in 2001.

Speaking at the press conference today, the Commission said "The application of VAT reduced rates is a very sensitive issue in an area where the unanimity principle forces all stakeholders to be inclined to compromise."

"Today (5 July) I am very happy to launch a broad political debate between Member States; we need their views before defining a coherent and achievable long term policy", said László Kovács, the Commissioner for Taxation and Customs Union. "We consider that a new framework for reduced rates is needed, more rational, more transparent and more flexible for the Member States" (see also Frequently Asked Questions MEMO/07/277 and also IP/07/1017).

Further information is available on the following website:
http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/taxation/vat/how_vat_works/rates/index_ en.htm

The study made by an independent think-tank is available at this following link.

ACAP: New standard to be endorsed by European Commission

ACAP, Automated Content Access Protocol, held its first conference on 26 June in London to showcase the development of the new 21st century open standard for owners of content published on the World Wide Web.

Launched in October last year by the EPC, WAN and the IPA, and on schedule to complete by the end of 2007, ACAP is designed to encourage owners of high quality content to make their work easily available online and also help avoid complex and costly legal disputes between content providers and search engines.

Commission expert Simona Martorelli addressed delegates and strongly supported the ACAP project. She said that ACAP would be included in the forthcoming "Content Online" Communication, due to be published by the European Commission in September.

Speaking at the conference, ACAP's sponsors, managers and collaborator's said:

  1. The pilot (in progress) has already established that there are no insoluble technical challenges.
  2. ACAP is not re-inventing the wheel but is building on existing technology including Robots Exclusion Protocol and is using established methods for defining standard permissions semantics (provided by EDItEUR).
  3. Collaboration and support from rightsholders has been overwhelming: the list of 28 organisations continues to grow and represents a worldwide interest in the project (see note to editors).
  4. Work is now underway to prepare ACAP for post pilot stage, ie to hand over a long-term sustainable model to a pre-existing governance organisation or to set up its own "ACAP" governance organisation.

Gavin O'Reilly, Chairman of the World Association of Newspapers, one of ACAP's sponsors, said: "ACAP has that air of "rightness" about it, a proposal and solution which seems to make sense to most people we talk to, whether they're publishers, politicians, journalists and even search engines - ACAP just makes sense."

"What we seek to do together is create the foundations for what is surely the highest aspiration that publishers, aggregators, search engines and politicians could have for the content industry - namely an increasingly healthy, profitable and vibrant sector which drives knowledge and diverse thinking throughout the internet and the world and which creates new opportunities for everyone. Openness is one of the greatest of ACAP's many strengths, and I hope it will become one of its most enduring legacies."

ACAP's final conference will be held on 29 November 2023 in London. Journalists are invited to attend.

Mrs Reding launches Press Freedom Charter initiative

At the close of a meeting of selected Editors in Chief from 9 EU countries, Mrs Reding invited the EPC, ENPA and FAEP to work with the Journalists Unions through the European Federation of Journalists to draw up a Press Freedom Charter. She confirmed her commitment to this initiative when speaking at a conference in Cologne on 18 June.

Meanwhile, the EJF has re-launched their Ethical Journalism Initiative and hopes the two initiatives can work hand in hand to promote higher standards of journalism.

Mrs Reding would like to see a Charter launched at next year's World Press Freedom day on 3 May 2023 ! The EPC is looking into this.

Mobile Telephony: New eurotariff from July

The EU Roaming Regulation comes into force on 1 July obligating all mobile operators in the EU to offer their customers, by the end of July, a new Eurotariff. A Eurotariff is a roaming tariff below the ceilings set by the European Parliament and the EU Council of Telecom Ministers. For the coming year, the maximum price, excluding VAT, for calling from your mobile while abroad is 49 cents per minute. For receiving a mobile call abroad, the Eurotariff cannot be higher than 24 cents a minute. The prices of the Eurotariff will be reduced further in 2008 and 2009.

Customers who react immediately to the Eurotariff notification can expect lower charges during August.

The Commission proposed the regulation back in July 2006 after learning that consumers are currently charged 4 times more for using their mobile phones abroad in the EU than in their home country.

This will become especially important with the development of mobile television. A Communication on the issue is due in the next few weeks.

Broadcasting / Audiovisual

TV Without Frontiers directive brings more sport to the Fins

Thanks to the revised TV Without Frontiers directive, Finland will be allowed to offer viewers the possibility of seeing major sporting events on TV. On 25 June the Commission approved the list of major events notified by Finland. Finland is therefore the seventh EU Member State, following in the steps of Austria, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Italy and the UK.

Whichever Member State has jurisdiction over them, broadcasters with exclusive rights to show the listed events must offer the general public free to air broadcasts of major sporting and other events.

http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/newsroom/cf/itemdetail.cfm?item_id=3 493

Commission committed to state aid control of audiovisual sector

The European Commission has adopted a Communication on the latest application of the current rules on state aid to cinematographic and other audiovisual works. The Commission has decided to stick to rules laid down in previous Communications back in 2001 and 2004 in order to further encourage Europe's audiovisual industry and help it "face future challenges in a highly competitive market". This Communication will not come up for review until 31 December 2023 at the earliest.

Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said: "Our aim is to ensure that state aid control continues to ensure optimal and equal conditions for artistic and cultural creation in the cinematographic and audiovisual sectors across the Union."

Commissioner Viviane Reding added: "Today's Commission decision, which follows closely the agreement on the Audiovisual Media Services Without Frontiers Directive, gives the Member States and investors the legal certainty needed to keep investing in European films, TV series and other audiovisual works"


Advertising / Obesity

Focus on obesity: Commission "obesity platform" gets to work

The EU is funding the DiOGenes (Diet, Obesity and Genes) project which is studying the dietary, genetic, physiological and psychological factors behind the condition of obesity, which now affects 10% of Europe's population and accounts for around 5% of the continent's health budgets.

If the scientists agree that obesity is mostly determined by genetic factors, the current epidemic is also the result of lifestyle factors including a poor or inappropriate diet and too little exercise. For the partners in the project, given our genetic background, it is essentially unfeasible for humans to effectively regulate their food intake under present conditions.

The main focus of the project therefore will be to research the role of the carbohydrate and high dietary protein content in enhancing satiety, or the feeling of being full. A DNA bank of over 13,000 individuals will form the basis of initial studies, and further analyses will include a long-term dietary intervention study in eight European countries encompassing whole families with both obese and normal weight members.

This strand of the project will include two research supermarkets, in Copenhagen (Denmark) and Maastricht (the Netherlands), where families will 'shop' for food where the information is collected in a database to determine nutrient composition. In this way, the project will develop a method of predicting an individual's weight change in response to different dietary nutrients. In turn, this enables the researchers to define personalised diet-based treatments for the families.

Ultimately, the goal of the five-year project will be to develop innovative food products that consumers like and which contain the right ingredients to prompt their satiety signals, thus limiting their food intake.

The project is funded under the 'Food quality and safety' priority of the EU's Sixth framework Programme (FP6).

For more information, please visit:



EU adopts Obesity White Paper

The European Commission has adopted a White Paper setting out a wide range of proposals on how the EU can tackle nutrition, overweight and obesity related health issues. The White Paper stresses the importance of enabling consumers to make informed choices, ensuring that healthy options are available, and calls upon the food industry to work on reformulating recipes, in particular to reduce levels of salt and fats. Stressing the benefit of physical activity and encouraging Europeans to exercise more is another area to develop. The need for EU action in the area of nutrition and physical activity stems from the fact that poor diets and low levels of physical activity in Europe account for six of the seven leading risk factors for ill health in Europe. The prevalence of overweight and obesity has increased sharply during the last two decades. In the majority of Member States more than 50% of the adult population is overweight or obese. Furthermore, it is estimated that 21,748,312 children are overweight in the EU with this figure growing by 400,000 each year.

Read more: http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP

Companies threatened with stricter regulation

The European Commission said Wednesday it was considering tightening food advertising and nutrition labelling rules if companies failed to improve consumer awareness about unhealthy foods.

In a new drive against obesity, EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou said he wanted to "encourage" food companies to provide consumers with full information about the health risks associated with their products. But if they failed to improve the information available to consumers, he said "we cannot exclude the possibility" of setting tougher advertising and labelling rules on companies.

"What consumers eat is up to them, but they should be able to make informed choices, and have a range of healthy options to choose from," said Kyprianou.

"That is why the Commission is reviewing the options for nutrition labelling, and calling on industry to advertise responsibly and reduce levels of salt, fats and sugar in food products," he added.


Advertising / Other

Commissioner launches Alcohol and Health Forum

Commissioner Kyprianou launched the Alcohol and Health Forum at the beginning of June as a follow-up to last year's adoption of the EU Alcohol Strategy.

He called on all stakeholders including the advertising and media industries to put the fight against alcohol-related harm high on their agendas.



Green light for IP Charter

The European Commission has received the green light to draft a new charter for the management of intellectual property rights. This is good news for European research, says Klaus Uckel of the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF), who believes that the initiative will help put a stop to the uncontrolled outflow of knowledge as well as piracy, and will help boost European competitiveness.

The 'IP Charter', a proposal from the German EU Council Presidency, would comprise a set of non-legally binding basic principles and guidelines, upon which research partners could voluntarily base their research cooperation. The approach is similar to that of the 2005 European Charter for Researchers, which provides voluntary guidelines on appropriate working conditions for researchers.

Information Society

Consumer mistrust holds back e-commerce

In the light of a report by MEP Zuzana Roithova, vice chair of the Committee for the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, that claims that only one quarter of citizens use the Internet for purchases, the European Parliament is proposing the creation of the European Trustmark which would guarantee the high level of quality of consumer rights in cross-border co-operations.

Rome II

Text to be adopted in July by EP

The Council adopted the regulation on the law applicable to non-contractual obligations on June 28th. The European Parliament is due to adopt the text this month.

Regarding the revision clause (article 30), a specific paragraph mentions the study on non contractual obligations arising out of violations of privacy and rights related to personality, taking into account rules relating to freedom of the press and freedom of expression in the media and the 95/46/EC directive.

Contrary to paragraph 1, this paragraph does not make reference to any legislative proposals since, as previously reported, the insitutions have no wish to deal with a proposal on this matter in the near future.

The date of the study is earlier that expected 31/12/2008.


For more information please contact:
For more information, please contact Angela Mills Wade on Tel: +44 1865 310 732 or Heidi Lambert on Tel: +44 1245 476 265 or visit www.epceurope.org.