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Francisco Pinto Balsemão
Chairman, EPC
Chairman and CEO,
Impresa S.G.P.S.
Rua Ribeiro Sanches 65
1200 Lisboa
Portugal
Tel: +351 21 392 9782
Fax: +351 21 392 9788
Angela Mills Wade
Executive Director
c/o Europe Analytica
26 Avenue Livingstone
Bte 3
B-1000 Brussels
Belgium
Tel: +322 231 1299
Press Relations
Heidi Lambert Communications
heidilambert@hlcltd.demon.co.uk
Tel:  +44 1245 476 265
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EPC news - June 2005

The monthly update on EU media issues

 

 

Media concentration

MEPs push for new Media Concentration legislation

Just as we predicted in last month’s EPC News, media concentration is currently under attack from MEPs who are calling for new regulation. The European Parliament Culture Committee adopted an amendment to the TVWF directive on media concentration on 15 June. According to the committee, "Competition is not enough to ensure pluralism" – and they are calling for close scrutiny of the constantly evolving broadcasting industry in order to guarantee cultural diversity. Whilst EPC members welcomed the Commission’s recent statement to MEPs that media pluralism falls under the subsidiarity principle providing no base for a Community measure, it is of concern that they continue to campaign for new regulation.

This issue comes up again and again and the EPC will fight any attempts to introduce a new law that falls well beyond the competence of the EU.

 

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Television without frontiers

Revision to include new media

As proposed by Commissioner Reding, new technologies, to some extent, have been covered. Some additional minimal obligations for audiovisual/video services that are made available on platforms other than TV channels have been added including:

  • protection of minors and human dignity
  • right of reply
  • clear separation of paid-for advertising from programming
  • qualitative obligations for advertising content.

Text-based website content will not be covered by the directive – but any video footage on a site will be. Industry now awaits a series of Issues Papers including one on advertising later this month.

The proposal may be presented at the Liverpool conference in September, depending on the reaction of Member States – and indeed of MEPs in the Culture Committee who are due to vote on the Henri Weber report this month. MEPs seem mainly concerned about current abuses of advertising time (they will be pleased to learn that DG Culture and Education has just appointed Belgian company Audimetre to monitor the application of TVWF rules concerning advertising, sponsorship and teleshopping) and the need to protect public service broadcasters. As previously noted, an attempt to include media pluralism in the revision debate was dismissed by the Commission.

 

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Rome II

Joint protest to current text by journalist and publishers' groups

Journalist and publishers’ groups have come together to protest about ROME II, the draft regulation on applicable law to non-contractual obligations that would apply in cross border cases of defamation, violations of privacy and the right of reply. The current text would create a charter for claimants to "shop" around for the law and jurisdiction of their choice – in any EU member state. A key vote takes place on 20 June in the European Parliament’s JURI Committee.

The EPC argues that this regulation would see publications gagged by court orders and editors prevented from publishing articles – despite the publication having complied with their national laws on defamation and privacy. Journalists and their publishers will be forced to check compliance with every possible national law and regulation before going to print. Online publications would be especially vulnerable.

The EPC, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ); the European Newspaper Publishers’ Association (ENPA), the European Federation of Magazine Publishers (FAEP) and the Federation of European Publishers (FEP), are calling on the EP’s JURI committee to support amendments that would provide for solutions ensuring legal certainty whilst respecting the freedom of expression across the EU.

Whilst these groups have been arguing the case for the adoption of the "country of origin" principle for the past two years – which would mean that publishers need comply only with the law in which their works originate, they are now calling on MEPs to agree to a compromise solution. They propose that the rule should apply in the country for which the publication (or broadcasting service) is mainly intended – this to be determined by the language used, sales figures, or audience size, for example. In the case of more international distribution, the law of the country in which editorial control is exercised should apply.

The vote in Plenary on ROME II is expected to take place in July.

 

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Market abuse

New concerns raised for financial journalists

Scarcely before the ink has dried on the Market Abuse Directive, the Committee of the Securities and Exchange Commission (CESR) is now issuing advice on the implementation of the MiFID that would potentially mean that financial journalists will be required to be regulated as investment professionals. Once again, the EPC has been told that journalists were never supposed to be implicated in the directive. However, after the MAD debacle where we were also assured at highest level that financial journalists were not to be implicated – and then were, this is of little comfort. Currently the MiFID text would incorporate media content and impose direct regulation on journalists who, for example, make direct share tips.

It is hoped that the new media affairs task force set up in each DG at the initiative of Commissioner Viviane Reding will head off any future cases where publishers and journalists are unwittingly implicated in new legislation in this way.

 

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Advertising

Kyprianou builds a new platform for action against obesity

DG SANCO has established a new platform (let’s hope it’s a strong one) on Diet, Physical Activity and Health to work with industry to find solutions to the problem of obesity in the EU. Membership is open to any organisation prepared to take action. A Commission website is to be created where information on all activities will be available. Three working groups on Consumer information (to include advertising and media information), healthy lifestyle, and monitoring will comprise experts with a remit to give recommendations to "the platform".

 

Self-regulation gains strength in new member states

Commissioner Kyprianou has applauded the work of the European Advertising Standards Alliance (EASA) to develop EU-wide best practices in advertising and bridge existing gaps between member states. According to EASA, self-regulation in advertising is gaining greater importance in the EU’s newest markets including Hungary, the Czech and Slovak Republics and Slovenia. Lithuania and Poland will have operational self-regulatory systems in place by mid-2005 and Cyprus, Latvia and Estonia are set to follow suit by the end of the year.

 

German Government continues to delay implementation of tobacco ad ban

Further delays to the implementation of the tobacco ad ban have been welcomed by publishers and the tobacco industry in Germany. It seems unlikely that any bill will be passed by the Bundestag before January 2006 and a general election in September would stall it still further. Meanwhile, industry is hoping that the ad ban will be successfully challenged at the European Court of Justice – a case that is unlikely to be heard before the autumn.

 

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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

Contacts

Angela Mills, Director of  EPC: Tel: +32 2 231 1299 (Brussels) or +44 1865 310 732 (UK) angela.mills@epceurope.org.

Heidi Lambert Communications: Tel: +44 1245 476 265 heidilambert@hlcltd.demon.co.uk.

 

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