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EPC media alerts: March 2006

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

Dates for the diary

18 April - EP ITRE committee first exchange of views on TVWF
18-19 April - EP IMCO committee first exchange of views on TVWF
25 April - EP CULT Committee debates TVWF
27/28 April - Justice and Home Affairs Council discussion on Rome II
4 May - EASA/Commission Advertising Round Table
10 May - EPC/WAN Meeting with Commissioner McCreevy
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
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
11-14 December - EP Plenary adoption of TVWF

Key issues of the month

Rome II: media remains excluded

The latest development appears to be a reluctant agreement by Member States and the Commission to exclude the media from the remit of this regulation. Most Member States have expressed the view that a compromise to include the media would have been preferable, but have accepted that, since unanimity is required to pass the Regulation, the only way forward is media exclusion. There is, however, a clause requiring the Commission to table a separate proposal on choice of law for violation of privacy and defamation cases within two years of the ROME II regulation entering into force. A stated Austrian EU Presidency priority, it is thought that a final text will be adopted before the end of June this year.

Meanwhile, the Council of Europe is reviewing defamation laws at the moment - including the possibility of decriminalising defamation law. It has also published a useful 120 page document detailing the different laws on defamation around Europe. The full document can be viewed at: http://www.coe.int.

The EPC remains concerned that the Commission will use the media's exclusion from ROME II as an excuse to draft a separate media Recommendation that would include defamation and privacy issues as well as touching on the area of media reporting of terrorism. It appears that Commissioner Frattini has made some noises about such a move in the past.

Meanwhile, a Paris court has ruled it could hear a libel lawsuit brought by Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay, the owners of Britain's Daily Telegraph, against the editor and media editor of London's Times, but rejected, on a technicality, a request to hear a right of reply action, a requirement for media under French law. The lawsuit relates to a November 2004 article that made allegations about the Barclays' business practices. Times editor Robert Thomson attacked the decision. "British journalists, including journalists at the Telegraph group, will be arguing in Paris courts in French over the nuances and subtleties of stories written in English," he said. "The merits and parties to the case aside, potential litigants with grudges against the media will be rubbing their hands with glee in anticipation of cases to come." The Times had argued a French court did not have competence to hear the case. It will be tried later this year. (Times, 24/03) Comment: The Paris court decision underlines the threat posed to the media by the Commission's Rome II proposals, which in their original form would have exposed media to legal action under the law of every member state. If Rome II had been passed in its original form, the Paris predicament of the Times could have been expected to become the norm. The European Parliament's solution, based on country of origin principles, remains the best option".

The Times columnist will no doubt share the EPC's disappointment that ROME II has done nothing to give legal certainty to publishers and their journalists in these kinds of cases.

Editorial freedom: Equality roadmap steps on toes of editorial freedom

The EPC is surprised to find that the Commission's "roadmap for equality between men and women" appears to cover the media without any prior consultation. Adopted earlier in March, one of the six areas in the road map is eliminating gender stereotypes in the media - and "dialogue" with the media is also proposed as one of the "key actions".

This document has just been transferred to the European Parliament raising concerns that this will undoubtedly lead to more content relating to the media and impact significantly on editorial independence.

Currently, references to the media include:

5.3 Elimination of gender stereotypes in the media
The media have a crucial role to play in combating gender stereotypes. It can contribute to presenting a realistic picture of the skills and potential of women and men in modern society and avoid portraying them in a degrading and offensive manner. Dialogue with stakeholders and awareness-raising campaigns should be promoted at all levels.

Key actions
Support awareness-raising campaigns and exchange of good practices in schools and enterprises on non-stereotyped gender roles and develop dialogue with media to encourage a non-stereotyped portrayal of women and men.

Background:
Over the next five years, the Commission has committed to tackle gender inequality in the EU by carrying out 21 specific activities which are outlined in a new gender equality. Proposals include helping set up a new €50 million European institute for gender equality, reviewing all existing EU gender equality law, increasing awareness of gender inequality, ensuring gender equality is considered in all policies and pressing for better statistics. The roadmap aims to, inter alia, tackle the pay gap between men and women, support better work/life balance, eliminate violence and trafficking, support gender budgeting and promote gender equality both within and outside the EU.

The roadmap sets out six priority areas for action in the 2006-2010 period.

As agreed on the occasion of last year's International Women's Day, the new European institute for gender equality should be operational by 1 January 2007. If approved, it will have a €52.5million budget for the period until 2013. The institute will be a centre of excellence for gender equality issues, providing expertise and improving knowledge. Its tasks will include raising awareness among European citizens of EU gender equality policy, gathering and analysing objective, reliable data that can be compared at EU level and the developing new methodological tools.

http://europa.eu.int/comm/employment_social/emplweb/news/news_en.cfm?id=136

Services directive: Europe's leaders give the green light

EPP-ED Group Spokesman on the Services Directive and author of the European Parliament's position on the Services Directive, Malcolm Harbour MEP, has welcomed the political agreement in the European Council on the Services Directive on the basis of the outcome of the vote in the. In a news release he said:

"I welcome the political impetus given to the Services Directive by the Heads of State and Government", declared Malcolm Harbour. "Hopefully the Commission will act without delay to produce a revised Directive on the basis of the broad consensus reached in the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers will move quickly to adopt this piece of key legislation".

"If the Commission completes its work and the Council follows the position adopted today then Parliament may be able to adopt the Services Directive before the end of this year. This legislation can deliver both jobs and growth in the European economy and any unnecessary delay must be avoided. We have worked intensively in the European Parliament on this legislation and have been able to achieve a broad consensus on the freedom to provide services.

However, UNICE is concerned that political pressure and the tight timeline envisaged may be detrimental to the quality and value of the directive. In a letter to Commissioner McCreevy, UNICE President Ernest-Antoine Seillière reminds the Commission of its prime responsibility as guardian of the Treaty and its fundamental freedoms, and urges it to come up with a proposal that genuinely delivers for growth and jobs and contributes for the Lisbon objectives and European competitiveness. These concerns were also loudly voiced at the second meeting of the UNICE-ESF European Services Platform on 27 March.

Read the UNICE letter.

World Cup: FIFA lifts restrictions on World Cup photos

World football's governing body, FIFA, and the World Association of Newspapers, WAN, have announced that they have reached agreement to lift all restrictions on digital publication of photographs of the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany.

As reported in last month's newsletter, FIFA had originally limited the number of photographs that could be published on the web and required that they should only be published two hours after games ended. WAN and the coalition of news agencies had opposed the restrictions on the grounds that they interfered with media freedom to report.

To avoid future problems, FIFA has invited WAN to delegate a Member to the FIFA Media Committee.

Meanwhile, Germany's Bundesrat, one of the country's five constitutional bodies, has passed a recommendation supporting EU proposals to create a short news access right to sports and other public events for broadcasters, and recommending its implementation into German national law. The Bundesrat recommendation said the news right should cover both access to the host broadcaster's signal and access to locations where public events were taking place. More at: www.bundesrat.de.

Broadcasting

Next 12 months crucial for mobile TV, says Commissioner Reding

Mobile TV cannot wait until analogue switch off in 2012 to develop mobile television, according to Media Commissioner Viviane Reding speaking at the CeBIT conference in Hanover this month. She said that decisions must be taken in the coming 12 months on how Europe can capitalise on the digital dividend that will come from analogue television switch off and the possible allocation of channels for mobile TV.

Mobile TV is seen as a key example of the digital convergence between networks, devices and content, providing new business opportunities, jobs and consumer services.

The EU Commissioner said that the results of the first pilot projects suggest half of European mobile phone subscribers may become mobile TV users. That could be as many as 200 million users.

Keen to ensure that Europe moves at the rate of its fastest, not slowest competitor, Mrs Reding suggested that, in line with the US, Europe should already be allocating some common European spectrum bandwidths for mobile television. She insisted that Europe would miss the boat if it waits until 2012.

The commissioner will produce a report entitled Strengthening the Internal Market for Mobile TV by early 2007, proposing further steps "to unlock the potential of mobile TV".

Whilst prospective operators will welcome this approach, there is still some debate as to what sort of mobile TV services should be provided and how they should be delivered.

The Commissioner's speech can be read at: http://europa.eu.int.

EU breaks Sky's Premiership football coverage monopoly

The Media Guardian has reported that the EU has ended BSkyB's 14-year dominance of live TV coverage of the Premiership with new arrangements now in place for selling media rights to top English football.

"The solution we have reached will benefit football fans while allowing the Premier League to maintain its timetable for the sale of its rights," said the EU antitrust Commissioner Neelie Kroes. The objective of the new arrangement which will start during the 2007-08 season and end in 2012-13, is to increase the availability of media rights and improve the prospect of competition in providing services to consumers.

Under the EU deal, the league will have to divide coverage into six TV packages of equal content - and no broadcaster will be able to bid for more than five of them. Any transgression will result in a fine of up to 10% of the FA Premier League's total worldwide turnover. Whilst there is no guarantee that live football will be available on free to air channels, fans will have other options from 2007.

The new arrangement also opens up rights for mobile phone broadcasts to more bidders.

Commission approves state aid to French cinema

The Commission has approved French cinema and audiovisual support mechanisms on the basis that most of them encourage cultural development.

France spends 500 million annually supporting production and distribution of television and feature films, the upkeep of cinemas and the French video industry. Almost all of these support mechanisms - which account for 47% of total cinema and audiovisual state subsidies in the EU - constitute state aids according to the Commission. But it said it was satisfied that the cultural derogation (Article 87.3d) of the EC Treaty applied.

Commission backs down on Portuguese state aid inquiry

With Portugal now agreeing to implement measures to increase transparency and proportionality in its public service broadcasting funding to prevent cross subsidies for commercial activities, the Commission has closed down the state aid inquiry.

Portugal is one of a number of member states that have been under scrutiny with regard to public service broadcasting funding. In April 2005, the Commission closed its enquiry concerning the French, Italian and Spanish public broadcasters, following amendments of - or commitments to amend - the respective funding systems and similar investigations into the Irish, German and Dutch broadcasters are still pending.

Information on the present case will be available on the Commission's web site at: http://europa.eu.int.

Commissioner debates freedom of expression V media as vehicle of hatred

Gathered in Brussels earlier this month, European broadcasting regulators from the 25 EU member states and Croatia, Turkey, Norway and Liechtenstein met with meeting Chair Commissioner Viviane Reding to discuss the growing economic and societal importance of new on-demand audiovisual media services. They also acknowledged the need to ensure freedom of expression whilst avoiding becoming the next vehicle of hate.

Mrs Reding said: "Cooperation between broadcasting regulators and the European Commission is extremely important for the future of the audiovisual landscape in Europe. The basis of our cooperation must be - first of all and most important - freedom of expression and freedom of the media, as cornerstones of our pluralist democratic society in Europe; cultural diversity; and the commitment to our common European societal values, which leads us to jointly fight against clear forms of incitement to racial or religious hatred in the media".

On a similar issue, EU television regulators have just agreed to co-operate closely to keep hate speech off European TV channels. This decision was taken after an Arabian media network was classified as a terrorist organisation by the US.

Regulators called for the provisions of the Television without Frontiers Directive, which outlaws incitement to hatred on religious, racial or gender grounds, to be extended to on-demand audiovisual media but the revision of the directive already includes such an extension.

TV without frontiers

All dates for the deliberations of the TVWF review are noted in the "dates for diary" section. A joint hearing of all committees to take place 1-2 June will focus on:

  • the scope of the revised directive
  • advertising, in particular product placement
  • issues relating to the country of origin principle in terms of how Member States apply it

With regard to product placement, the featuring of branded goods to fund television programmes and films across the European Union is a core part of plans by the European Commission to update rules that regulate moving pictures in the EU.

Interviewed by Reuters, Rapporteur of the lead EP committee Ruth Hieronymi said: "There is a majority of member states who don't want it as they really didn't ask for it. The majority of the European Parliament also has problems with it so it's an open issue." However, Hieronymi would be likely to accept what she calls ‘Produktbeistellung', meaning product placement.

According to the Rapporteur, the country of origin does not seem to be in question but the scope is definitely to be widened to include all non-linear media including mobile phones and the Internet.

Advertising

Advertising and obesity

1. EPC defends advertising against obesity charges

In its response to the Commission's Green Paper on "Promoting healthy diets and physical activity: Towards a European strategy for the prevention of overweight, obesity and chronic diseases", the EPC strongly contests the Commission's assertion that there is a causal relationship between food advertising and obesity saying that thorough research would need to be carried out to prove or disprove the relationship and to measure to which extent any possible benefits of banning advertising would weigh up against the huge cost to the media - which itself is vital to the promotion of healthy lifestyle information to Europe's citizens. The EPC also calls on the Commission to acknowledge the commitment and achievements made so far by the industry and to continue its efforts to promote self-regulation as an effective alternative approach to regulation.

The Paper reminds the Commission that food advertising is already regulated by:

  • Directive 2000/13/EC relating to labeling, presentation and advertising of foodstuffs;
  • Directive 2005/29/EC concerning unfair commercial practices;
  • The Television Without Frontiers Directive 1997EC which includes detailed provisions on advertising to children.

2. UK Regulator proposes ban on junk food ads

Meanwhile, the UK's media regulator Ofcom is forging ahead with its own proposal for a ban on all TV advertising or sponsorship for food and drink aimed at children, one of four new proposals designed to combat childhood obesity.

3. Use of Internet advertising under scrutiny

UK health campaigners, including the consumer watchdog, "Which?" are saying that fast food giants are increasingly turning to the Internet to circumvent moves designed to curb advertising aimed at children. In particular, they have criticised the deal between McDonald's and Microsoft to produce a branded version of the popular MSN Messenger program containing advertisements for special offers at the hamburger. They claim the so-called Theme Pack pushes junk food advertising to young people when Britain is struggling to deal with childhood obesity.

Information society

State support a last resort, says Competition Commissioner

Opening the Austrian Presidency seminar "Content for Competitiveness" held in Vienna on 2 March, Commissioner Neelie Kroes heralded the information society and media sectors as core industries for the sustainable future growth of EU economies. She said:: "Policy makers can help by creating a regulatory framework which ensures fair competition, liberalised markets, and less red tape. We need rules which address the challenges faced by the industry and which stimulate innovation. We have to promote high quality content and enhance the spread of the high-speed networks needed to deliver that content to businesses and consumers." The main thrust of the message, however, was that that effective competition is one of the keys to the future competitiveness of the content industry with state support a last resort.

European Parliament passes Information Society Resolution

Responding to the Commission's Communication on ‘i2010- A European Information Society for growth and jobs', the European Parliament passed a resolution this month with a number of important points relating specifically to the media:

  • ‘Equal access to a free-to-air media environment with a varied range of high quality content is a fundamental right to be enjoyed by European citizens'. The point highlights the importance of public service broadcasting- for example in encouraging pluralism- and that it should be safeguarded for the future.
  • The media can ‘decisively influence the ideas and behaviour of citizens'. The Commission is called on to ‘see that justice is done to the special role which the audiovisual media have to play in promoting cultural diversity'.
  • All political decisions, including EU ones, concerned with setting up the regulatory framework for content transmitted by new media (i.e.TVWF) should fully comply with the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.
  • Owing to amendments submitted by the European United Left (GUE) group the resolution was given an extra emphasis on gender equality. This point calls on the Commission to cooperate with ‘the main players on the media market' to draft a Gender Equality Code for the media.

The full text of the Resolution can be read at: http://www.europarl.eu.int.

Copyright and IPR

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

Meeting for the first time, the 20-strong High Level Expert Group from libraries, archives, museums, content providers, industry (such as search engines, technology providers), research organisations and academia, set the agenda for future discussions and exchanged views on copyright. In a recent online consultation, whereas rights-holders supported the adequacy of current copyright rules and the need to respect and enforce them, cultural institutions highlighted a number of problems in the current copyright framework that could potentially undermine efficient digitisation. Speaking at the meeting, Commissioner Reding said "Our goal is to make Europe's cultural and scientific heritage available to all European citizens and researchers for their studies, work or leisure."

General news

Turkey calls on EU to strengthen anti-defamation laws

Speaking at an informal EU foreign ministers' meeting in Salzburg 10-11 March, Turkish foreign minister Abdullah Gul called on EU states to extend their anti-defamation laws to to ensure they apply to all religions equally.

Both Danish and Dutch foreign ministers argued that the EU already had freedom of speech as well as laws concerning defamation and therefore Mr Gul's idea was for something that was already in place.

Dutch Minister Mr Bot also rejected an idea put forward by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and the European Commission to draw up a common UN resolution between the EU and islamic states with the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) on religious tolerance. Diplomats are keen to end the ritual practice whereby the EU and the OIC introduce their own UN resolutions and vote against each other seemingly as a matter of principle.

The paper explains that so far, the EU has always tabled its own UN resolution on "The Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination based on Religion and Belief", but all 25 EU members voted against an OIC resolution on "Combating Defamation of Religions."

Copenhagen is more positive on the idea of a common EU-OIC resolution at the UN, but the Danish minister Mr Stig Moller has indicated that Europe cannot accept a text in the UN which demands that the EU change its laws on freedom of expression.

Telecom companies want power to charge Internet companies

With the Commission's review of the telecoms regulatory framework under review, some of Europe's biggest telecom providers have called for the power to charge Internet companies to distribute their content over the Internet in order to recoup their huge investments in new high-speed broadband networks.

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