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EPC media alerts: March 2002

The monthly update on EU media issues


Tobacco Advertising - Publishers put their case in advance of key EP hearing, 15 April

The European Commission will be putting its case for a second directive to ban tobacco advertising and sponsorship in the press at an important Hearing at the European Parliament on 15 April, following the annulment of its first directive by the Court of Justice two years ago.

The European Publishers Council (EPC), the European Newspaper Publishers’ Association (ENPA) and the European Federation of Magazine Publishers (FAEP) will be jointly presenting the case against any such ban at the hearing and has presented a joint industry position paper to MEPs representing the opinions of leading newspaper, magazine and Internet publishers in the EU.

In drafting this second directive, the Commission has seized on a comment made by the Court judge that there is a trend in national legislation towards greater restrictions on advertising (for health reasons) and that therefore obstacles to trade might arise in the future.

The EPC, FAEP and ENPA wholly oppose a directive based on a theoretical possibility and on the Commission’s argument that, since certain media can cross borders, it can justify harmonisation of tobacco advertising laws in order to avoid any barrier to the free circulation of such media.

Key issues of interest:

  • The Commission provides no concrete evidence of obstacles in the newspaper market of actual disruptions to cross-border trade;
  • To date, no member state has acted to prevent the sale of foreign publications containing tobacco advertisements;
  • Only three member states (France, Italy and Sweden) have imposed a tobacco ad ban without providing for a free trade clause for imports - and no attempts have been made to prevent the importation of foreign publications containing tobacco advertising into these countries;
  • The Commission provides numerous widely-acknowledged statistics on the consequences of tobacco consumption, but does not attempt to prove the link between consumption of advertising contained in foreign media and smoking habits

The European Parliament ‘s First Reading is currently underway. The Environment committee has adopted the Commission text without any changes and the Legal Affairs Committee will vote in the third week of May in advance of a probable June Plenary vote in Strasbourg.

It is thought that MEPs are in general in favour of the Commission’s proposal but are concerned about the issue of the legal base.

For more on tobacco advertising, contact heidilambert@hlcltd.demon.co.uk.


Children's advertising - DG SANCO committee findings dismissed

In March, DG SANCO dismissed the conclusions of its Consumer Committee which reported its findings on a paper on Commercial Practices aimed at Children calling for wide scale bans and restrictions of promotional marketing, advertising and communications within schools and the portrayal of children in advertising. According to DG SANCO, the report’s conclusions (in preparation since 1991) are not in line with the current Commission strategy.

Whilst the EPC is relieved that these conclusions are not being taken up by the Commission, there are still concerns that some of the ideas expressed in the report seem to reflect those expressed in the green paper on Duty to Trade Fairly.

A copy of the report is available on request.

For more on children's advertising, contact heidilambert@hlcltd.demon.co.uk.


Data protection

Possible deletion of cookies from directive

The European Parliament’ rapporteur Cappato's latest second reading report published following the meeting on 19 March (see URL below) does not refer to cookies, reflecting the failure of the European Parliament, Commission and Council to agree on the wording.

Whilst this is in line with EPC proposal’s earlier in the debate, the Commission is highly unlikely to agree to the removal of all references to cookies. In the meantime, therefore, several MEPs have been approached to propose new, more "sensible" wording which would be acceptable to online publishers.

The main obstacle to agreement remains the wording "in advance" which means that websites and service providers would be required to inform customers in advance that a cookie was being placed and get their permission for this to happen. Industry along with a number of MEPs have argued that this is totally unworkable, would mean massive costs for industry and would create huge problems for enforcement.

The deadline for amendments to the report was on 9 April and the Parliament will debate the report in plenary during the week of 13 May.


For more on cookies, contact heidilambert@hlcltd.demon.co.uk.


Market abuse

Step in right direction for protection of financial journalists

The EPC has welcomed what it termed as a "step in the right direction" to ensure financial journalists are protected from criminalisation for inadvertently reporting misleading financial information resulting in moves in the money markets following the Plenary vote in Parliament on 14 March.

Amendments adopted mean that no journalist will be liable unless they make a profit as a result of the movement on the market. In addition to this, no journalist should be convicted under the directive unless he knew he was publishing misleading information or if there is clear evidence to suggest that he knew.

However, the EPC still thinks it is important that the wording relating to financial reporting should be strengthened to include the need for proof of intent to avoid any grey areas and will be meeting with the Commission early this month (April) to discuss.

In the meantime, the Council has hinted that it does not wish to accept these more progressive amendments from the Parliament. The revised text now goes to Council for the Common Position.

Despite fierce lobbying from publishers and journalists’ groups, there has still been no change to an article in the directive (6.4) which could force journalists to make open declarations of share-holdings. The EPC had hoped that MEPs would vote to limit the scope of this Article to financial analysts.

For more on market abuse, contact heidilambert@hlcltd.demon.co.uk.



Greeks, Italians and Portuguese give vote of no-confidence to national governments

The new Brussels Regulation came into force on 1 March 2023 which gives consumers the right to hear cross-border disputes in their own countries - rather than in the country of origin of the company/service concerned. A DG SANCO survey reveals that, in the context of dispute resolutions and online shopping, consumers in the north of Europe are more confident that their rights will be protected in their own countries than those in the south. Consumers in Greece, Italy and Portugal went so far as to say that their rights would be better protected in a State other than their own!

Three out of 15 member states meet e-commerce deadline

Only Luxembourg, Austria and Germany have implemented the e-commerce directive. The deadline was 17 January of this year. Finland, France, Denmark, Spain , Belgium and Sweden have draft laws in place which have been notified to the Commission and Ireland, Greece, the Netherlands and Portugal have yet to notify their draft laws. Italy and the UK remain the bad guys, being the furthest from compliance with no draft laws yet in place.

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


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.