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Francisco Pinto Balsemão
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Tel: +351 21 392 9782
Fax: +351 21 392 9788
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c/o Europe Analytica
26 Avenue Livingstone
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B-1000 Brussels
Tel: +322 231 1299
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Heidi Lambert Communications
Tel:  +44 1245 476 265
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EPC news - May 2001

The monthly update on EU media issues



EPC members meet with Romano Prodi

Challenges for EU's media industry as EPC reaches 10-year anniversary under discussion

EPC members will be meeting Commission President Romano Prodi and the Belgian Prime Minister on 19 June to discuss the future challenges facing the EU's media and publishing industry.

In particular, the EPC will be keen to establish what Mr Prodi's plans are for reforming the decision-making machinery and to what extent Commissioner Byrne's plans to introduce a general duty to trade fairly will affect advertising and marketing practices. The future survival of self-regulation as the most effective means of regulating much of the media industry will be one of the main themes under discussion. EPC members will also be raising their strong objection to the latest draft directive from the Commission which seeks to ban all tobacco advertising in the press and on the Internet. Byrne has claimed that the text takes the Court of Justice's opinion fully into account but EPC members reject outright that the Commission has a remit to ban press advertising. Once again the Commission is attempting to make an internal market case for what is ostensible a health protection measure for which the Commission has no harmonising powers. Journalists wishing to join EPC members for lunch in Brussels on 20 June for a de-brief on the meeting should contact HLC for more information.


Media regulation in Financial Services

The Commission has just published a directive to prevent manipulation and abuse of financial markets. The EPC is seeking an unambiguous exemption from the directive for journalistic purposes. The current wording suggests only that Member States can make special provisions for the media which, EPC argues in a letter to Mr. Bolkestein, could lead to further regulation rather than exemption.


Data Protection

MEP Marco Capatto has finally produced his draft report on the revision of the ISDN data protection rules which includes an important amendment to the provisions on direct marketing by email and mobile SMS. Following lobbying by EPC and other industry bodies, Capatto has accepted that the directive must be consistent with the general data protection directive and include "opt-out" for consumers from these new forms of marketing. The Commission had proposed the more restrictive "opt-in" in an effort to stamp out spam. However the MEP agrees with industry that this would lead to massive distortion between EU and US based marketing.


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Internet and electronic commerce

EU and Australia disagree over Privacy Law

The EU Working Party on the Data Privacy directive has issued its opinion on Australia's new privacy legislation. It considers that data transfers to Australia could be regarded as adequate only if appropriate safeguards were introduced to meet the concerns set out in the report. This could be done , for example, through voluntary codes of conduct foreseen in the Act. The Attorney-General of Australia has replied that the Act is world leading co-regulatory legislation. In many ways, it goes significantly further than the US Safe Harbor Agreement, which was accepted by the EU as adequate.


Council of Europe Cybercrime Treaty

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe announced its approval of the current draft of the treaty on Cybercrime on 24 April. The Parliamentary Assembly said that the text should give more guarantees as far as freedom of the individual is concerned, especially concerning protection of data. Those recommendations will go to the committee of experts, which will decide whether or not to incorporate them in the final draft. The treaty should be open for signatures by the end of this year.


Commission castigates Germany over eCommerce law

The German Government has been told by the Commission to rewrite a new telesales law. The current draft breaches the eCommerce directive as it allows German Judges to decide whether German companies should abide by local or foreign laws in cross border disputes. The law ignores the country of origin principle and makes foreign firms liable for cases of misleading advertising and unfair competition. The German Government must now decide to drop the law or risk legal action in the European court.


Liikanen interviewed on EU online content regulation

The New York Times has published an article on applicable law in Europe and America. Decisions from France, Germany and Italy have suggested that European countries are willing to ban content from their borders which does not meet their national laws. Liikanen said that in the area of criminal law, nation states jurisdictions are supreme. However, it has been reported separately that the German prosecutors have decided they will not take legal action against Yahoo for online auctions of Hitler's Mein Kampf as Yahoo is the provider rather than the person offering the service.


Council of Europe investigates journalistic ethics

On 7 April the Council of Ministers finally adopted the Copyright directive. The Council has accepted the amendments put forward by Enrico Boselli, MEP including the reduction of the implementation period for member states to within 18 months of its publication in the official journal. The Commission has welcomed the adoption and has declared that it achieves common ground in an area of diverse interests.


WIPO interim report

WIPO has published its request for comments on abuse of domain names. This includes international nonproprietary names for pharmaceutical substances, names of NGOs, geographical indicators and trade names.


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Duty to Trade Fairly proposal goes ahead

The Lund Consumer and Internal Market Council has given its informal approval for Commissioner Byrne to continue work on proposals for a new regulatory policy for consumer protection. The Commission has still not officially adopted the proposal due to extensive lobbying from EPC and other industry bodies and internal opposition, notably from DG Markt and EAC. However, the results of Lund make it likely that DG Sanco will now produce a Green Paper first, by the end of May, which will be open to public consultation until the end of September.


Potential ban on advertising to children in France

A Socialist deputy, Jean-Marie LeGuen, has presented a report to the French Parliament on land based digital television. He argues that advertising breaks should be abolished during programs for children on public and private television channels He also calls upon the French Government to back Sweden's attempts to extend the ban on advertising to children.


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Three public hearings on TVWF and new techniques in advertising

Two workshops were held on the 29 and 30 May linked to the studies taking place as part of the review of the Television Without Frontiers Directive. Workshop I concerned the "Evaluation of the impact of measures concerning the promotion of distribution and production of television programs in the European Audio-visual sector". Workshop 2 was called "Outlook of development of the market for European Audio-visual content and of the regulatory framework concerning production and distribution of this content". A third workshop will be held on 5 July looking at how to regulate the newly emerging forms of advertising, particularly interactive advertising on digital TV and the internet. The findings of the hearing and associated study will also contribute to the review of the TV Without Frontiers Directive.


Russia chastised by EU over NTV debacle

The Swedish Presidency has published a declaration requesting the Russian Government to respect the principles of Freedom of Speech and media pluralism with regard to the take over of NTV by the state controlled Gazprom. The EU says that whilst they do not want to intervene in Russian domestic policy they strongly suggest that Russia commit themselves to an open press.


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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)

Heidi Lambert Communications: Tel: +44 1245 476 265


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