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Francisco Pinto Balsemão
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Heidi Lambert Communications
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EPC news - November 2002

The monthly update on EU media issues


Market abuse

Essential revisions signal light at the end of the tunnel

Following a constructive meeting with the financial regulator on the Market Abuse Directive, EPC, along with other trade organisations, has presented the Committee of European Securities Regulators (CESR) with proposed revisions which would effectively exempt mainstream financial reporting from regulatory oversight in the directive.

The EPC proposal seeks to clarify that, in CESR's revised guidelines, financial analysis and other mainstream news reporting will not be subject to that part of the directive on which CESR will issue regulatory guidance.

The draft directive will go before ECOFIN (Council of Finance Ministers) in December for final approval.


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Duty to trade fairly

EPC position paper submitted

The EPC has submitted an opinion on the Commission’s follow-up communication on the green paper on a duty to trade fairly. In its opinion EPC could support a general framework directive which involved maximum harmonisation as long as it was a de-regulatory measure.

EPC could support the measure if certain key elements were incorporated into it.

These included:

  • a mutual recognition clause so that publishers may continue to operate according to the rules of their country of origin
  • a radical overhaul of national provisions leading to de-regulation and simplification of rules
  • the recognition of advertising self-regulation as a central part of delivering a fair trading environment.

A copy of the EPC response is available on request.


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Parliament opposes direct medicines advertising

The European Parliament has voted on measures to control the advertising of pharmaceutical products. As part of the review of the pharmaceuticals directive, the vote restricts direct advertising of products to patients.

The review now goes forward for a second reading. EPC will be working with pharmaceutical companies to ensure that a fair hearing is given to those who advertise medicines in a responsible manner.


Tobacco advertising

The plenary vote on the tobacco advertising directive rejected the advice of Medina Ortega and the Parliament's legal affairs committee to allow cross border advertising of tobacco in the printed press. Ortega argued that there are few cross-border sales of printed press and the impact this has on markets in other countries is minimal. In the face of a robust defence of the total ban, and scepticism about the real effects of any loss of advertising revenue, MEPs piled in behind the Commission’s text.

The Commission stance is that there should be a blanket ban on all advertising cross-border because this has an effect on the internal market and that Member States in addition should be free to introduce stricter rules for areas not covered by the Directive

David Byrne told MEPs that their decision would be backed up very soon by the Council of Ministers, due to meet in December. Commentators are not so sure that the directive will get such an easy ride as Mr. Byrne would have us believe.

A challenge in the European Court of Justice is still an option and it is believed that the German Government will again consider this.


Children's advertising

Commissioner Byrne addressed the EACA conference last month on the subject of advertising to children, stressing that the concept of fairness applies equally to children as to all consumers. He rejected the idea of an outright ban on advertising to children but stressed the need to apply high standards to marketing directed at vulnerable groups.

EPC will monitor developments closely in this area. We are keen to ensure that restrictions are not imposed on advertising directed at children as part of the framework directive on consumer protection.


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Media regulation

European Parliament debates Media Pluralism

On the basis of questions tabled by MEPs asking the Commission to resurrect the media ownership directive to "safeguard" pluralism, there was a debate at Parliament on 18 November, followed by a statement by Commissioner Byrne.

It was confirmed that the Commission had no right under the treaty as it stands to introduce a directive on pluralism, but that this was dealt with by a combination of national measures plus EU competition policy including the Merger Regulation. Various directives were also cited which add to the general regulatory framework for media companies.

In a briefing to MEPS before the debate, EPC outlined three main points:

1. It is no longer appropriate to single out traditional media companies for sector-specific restriction when the media market is now much broader and complex.

2. An internal market directive will not meet its stated objectives of removing barriers to cross-border investment or stimulating growth in the media sector.

3. The question of pluralism must be judged and dealt with at local, i.e. national level against carefully measured public interest objectives.

Click here for the questions tabled by MEPs.


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Electronic commerce

Product liability

The Danish Presidency is about to present an EU initiative in the field of product liability. The current EU Product Liability directive allows for ‘objective liability’ for damage caused by defective products. This makes the producer subject to damage liability even if he is without fault or negligence.

EPC is following developments in this area closely in order that those who sell online do not become liable for faults in the goods they sell, as part of the revision of the directive.


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Internet regulation

One stop licensing agreements

An exemption granted by the Commission this month will introduce one-stop licensing agreements for European television and radio companies, which simultaneously broadcast music shows on the Internet.

Under the new rules, broadcasters can get a single licence from royalty collecting agencies to cover Internet broadcasts across most of the 18-nation European Economic Area (EEA).


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Audio-visual and general media

Commissioner Reding on the future of the press

The European Commissioner for education and culture, Viviane Reding made a speech to French journalists this month giving her views on the future of the European press. She spoke of the need for increased access to the media for all and the need to ensure that the internet is safe for vulnerable groups to use.

On the issue of press freedom, Mme Reding stressed that her view was of a press which was self-regulating. She made reference to the market abuse issue and stated her support for the press in its bid for self-regulation in this area.

She also made a speech mid-October to the German media industry where she outlined her view of the EU’s competence in media content regulation. Basically she said the EU had no right to interfere with media content except in the broadest horizontal way.

Click here for Viviane Reding's speech.


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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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