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EPC media alerts: October 2003

The monthly update on EU media issues

Market abuse

Proposed changes could reduce the legal certainty for financial journalists

At the end of September, the Parliament's Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee discussed the implementing measures put forward by the Commission and CESR for the Market Abuse Directive.

A coalition of the EPC and other media industry bodies has been working hard to ensure that journalists who are simply reporting financial news are not caught within the scope of rules designed to control those who make recommendations. However, there have been moves by CESR to change the implementing rules. The proposed changes, if accepted, would reduce the legal certainty, which the coalition has been fighting for. EPC’s Chairman has written to Mr. Bolkestein drawing EPC’s concerns to his attention and asking for his personal intervention.

The subject was debated in Parliament at the end of September and it would seem that Rapporteur Goebbels is giving a mixed message on issues within the directive relating to journalists. Initially he stated that excluding journalists from the scope of article 6 did not seem necessary due to provisions in one of the recitals, but then seemed to go back on himself by saying that he would be happy with self-regulation. He clarified this by adding that the self-regulation must be effective.

Click here for the Market Abuse fact sheet.

Gender discrimination

Plans to ban media gender discrimination dropped

Following strong opposition from the EPC to Mrs Diamantopoulou’s plans to introduce a Directive to ban gender discrimination in the media and in advertising, the Commissioner agreed to drop proposals affecting the media in her new directive, due out before the end of the year. The Commissioner has undertaken to consult the EPC in future if and when she returns to sexism in the media.

Unfair commercial practises

Concerns remain over Country of Origin principle

As the Unfair Commercial Practices (UCP) Directive dossier begins its progress through Parliament, EPC is preparing a position paper on the Country of Origin principle. There is considerable opposition to this at Council and Parliamentary level and the EPC will lobby hard to ensure that this part of the text is not removed during the legislative process.

EPC will also be working to ensure that the definitions of certain forbidden practices in the annex of the directive, such as what constitutes an advertorial are made very clear.

UCP is expected to begin its first reading in Parliament Committee in November.

Commission developments

EPC meets with Commissioners

At the beginning of September the EPC met with Commissioners Prodi, Byrne, Liikanen, Bolkestein and Reding to discuss recent developments in EU legislation which affect the media. At the meeting members explained to the Commissioners that some legislation which on the surface seemed unlikely to affect the media could actually distort significantly how companies were able to operate. This was particularly the case with recent initiatives such as the nutritional claims regulation and the proposed equal opportunities directive.

It was decided that Commissioner Reding, would be responsible for liaison with publishers to ensure that they were aware of any upcoming initiatives which could have an impact on their business and adequately consult them on what potential effects might be.

Copyright

Discussion of the proposed enforcement directive

The draft directive on enforcement of copyright laws has begun its progress through the European Parliament.

The Commission text has been criticised for not being effective enough to prevent piracy and a coalition, which includes EPC, worked together to ensure that the Parliament made a declaration calling for stricter wording and harmonisation of criminal sanctions.

EPC has pushed for introduction of three sets of amendments:

  • to protect confidentiality of journalists sources during any proceedings;
  • to remove any test that an infringement must be for commercial purposes;
  • to include access codes as part of the protection for technical systems of digital rights management.

The debate continues at the end of October.

Advertising

Nutritional claims

The proposals for a regulation on nutritional claims continue to raise concerns for publishers, food manufacturers, retailers and advertisers. EPC has sent suggested changes to the text directly to Commissioner Byrne.

Although the food industry had called for a harmonisation of the laws on food claims and was consulted throughout the development of this proposal, some late changes by the Commission have meant that parts of the text have been negatively received. Amongst these changes is the proposal for an ‘a priori’ ban on certain claims.

It is thought that efforts will be made to ensure that damaging parts of the text are amended by the Parliament.

Audio-visual and general media policy

Parliament adopts TVWF resolution

In September, Parliament adopted the Roy Perry report on the implementation of the TV Without Frontiers directive. This report is positive in that it recommends flexibility in the regulation of advertising to accommodate new technology. However it also calls for the inclusion of new media techniques within the scope of the directive and action to ensure media pluralism by the Commission. A copy of the adopted report is available on request.

Click here for the TVWF fact sheet.

General

Access to documents

The Parliament has also been investigating the level of transparency in the European Institutions - in particular the issue of access to documents produced by them. In the resolution passed at the September plenary session of the Parliament, the Council and Commission were called upon to further improve their level of transparency.

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.