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Francisco Pinto Balsemão
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Fax: +351 21 392 9788
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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 - February / March 2006

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

 

 

Dates for the diary

30 March - Media Literacy seminar organised by European Commission
27/28 April - Justice and Home Affairs Council discussion on Rome II
4 May - EASA/Commission Advertising Round Table
10 May - WAN/EPC Meeting with Commissioner McCreevy
28 June - WAN/EPC Meeting with Commission Reding
August 2007 - Data Retention legislation comes into force

 

Key issues of the month

ROME II: Media article removed as EU fails to reach consensus

For the time being, Article 6 of the ROME II Regulation, 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, has been removed. The recent Council of Ministers failed to reach a consensus on whether the country of origin of the publisher, country to which the media is principally directed or the country of the victim should be applied in cases relating to privacy and defamation. The issue has been referred back to the Working Group for further discussion at the next Council meeting on 27 and 28 April but Article 6 is currently no longer included in the revised Regulation as proposed by the Commission last week. Removal of this Article was seen by the Commission as the only way to achieve any progress in the Regulation as a whole. They have reserved the right to review the issue in the future, according to the will of Member States. The EPC will be seeking feedback from Ministers from various Member States to see what is likely to lay ahead as well as from the EP Rapporteur to see if she is willing to work on the Presidency wording to find a further compromise that would get the Article back into the Regulation in line with what the EPC has been fighting for.

The EPC finds this solution preferable to the new proposal put forward by the Austrian Presidency which was entirely unacceptable to the media and which favoured the law of the habitual residence of the victim.

 

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Media code: EPC welcomes Frattini's support for freedom of expression

The European Publishers Council (EPC) has strongly welcomed EU Justice, Freedom and Security Commissioner Franco Frattini's statement that the Commission has neither the legal powers nor the political will to limit freedom of expression.

Speaking at this month's International Federation of Journalists Conference on the recent furore over the Danish cartoons, the Commissioner's words have reassured publishers following concern that the Commission was considering a new European code of conduct for the media. The Commission also supports the EPC's view that existing codes of conduct at national level have worked well and do not need to be complemented by any supranational code.

Both the President of the European Commission and Commissioner Frattini have made positive statements in support of the freedom of expression and the freedom of the press. Commission President José Manuel Barroso stressed that "freedom of speech is not up for negotiation. It is a crucial value in our open European democratic society."

In the light of the cartoon crisis, and concerns over how the media cover terrorism and terrorists, however, the Commission is planning to organise a conference sometime this year, bringing together representatives of the media, governments and religious groups.

 

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Dismay at ban on World Cup photos as FIFA abandons talks

The World Association of Newspapers (WAN) and a coalition of the world's leading news agencies has expressed their 'dismay' and 'deep regret' about the decision of FIFA, the international soccer federation, to abandon talks about the severe restrictions the organisation has placed on press coverage of this summer's World Cup.

WAN, representing the world's newspapers, and a coalition of news agencies headed by Agence France-Presse and including The Associated Press, Reuters, Getty Images, DPA - the German news agency - and the European PressPhoto Agency, EPA, said they would now explore their legal options, inform World Cup sponsors of "the very clear loss of exposure from which they will suffer owing to FIFA's publishing restrictions" and alert German and European political leaders about what they consider a violation of conventions on the free access to and free flow of information.

FIFA has banned publication of World Cup photos through the Internet, including on thousands of newspaper web sites, during matches and has severely limited the number that can be published, regardless of time limits. It has also introduced editorial restrictions on how photographs can be used in print publications.

The restrictions are imposed as a condition of access to the World Cup and news media are obliged to accept them before gaining accreditation to the events, to be held in Germany in June. News media face expulsion and legal action if the rules are broken -- and FIFA holds news agencies responsible if their clients break the embargo or publish too many photos.

FIFA had originally decreed that web publication of photos was banned for two hours after a match ended. Since the talks began, they have reduced this first to one hour, then to permission that first-half photos can be published as soon as a match ends, with second-half photos allowed 45 minutes later, and finally to publication at the final whistle - but never during matches. Only five photos per match half and two per extra time, including penalty 'shoot-outs', can be published on web sites, regardless of time limits, and FIFA has refused to alter this rule.

FIFA says it needs the delay and the limit on photos to protect its commercial contracts with licensees but WAN and the news agencies argue that, apart from anything else, the rules are needless as web coverage does not threaten broadcasters.

 

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Services directive

EP presents complete revision of services directive

Two years after it started contemplating the issue, the European Parliament has now adopted, by a large majority, a first-reading report on legislation opening up the EU single market for services – a directive intended to eliminate of obstacles to the free movement of services. Commission President José Manuel Barroso has already announced that the Commission will revise its original proposal as quickly as possible on the basis of the text adopted by Parliament.

EP Rapporteur Evelyne Gebhardt said this is “the most important piece of EU legislation apart from the Constitution. Services in Europe must be as free and open as goods and capital."

Crucially, in place of the "country of origin" principle, MEPs have opted for a clause with the title "freedom to provide services". This rule requires the Member States to respect the right of the service provider to supply services and to guarantee the provider "free access to and free exercise of a service activity within its territory". This guarantee is underpinned by a ban on a number of obstacles to the free movement of services. For example, in general it will no longer be possible to require a service provider to open an office in the country where he/she is temporarily providing a service nor to prevent him/her from setting up "certain infrastructure" in that country. The provider must not be forced to register with a professional body nor be banned from using his normal equipment at work. In addition, Member States must not apply "contractual arrangements between the provider and the recipient which prevent or restrict service provision by the self-employed".

Thus on the one hand the text bans the Member States from erecting obstacles to the free movement of services. But, at the same time, it stipulates grounds which would allow Member States to limit this freedom through national rules. These grounds are public policy, public security, environmental protection and public health.

Member States will also continue to apply their own rules on conditions of employment, including those laid down through collective bargaining agreements. Nevertheless the requirements imposed on cross-border service providers by the Member States using the above justifications must comply with the principles of the treaty: non-discrimination (for example on grounds of nationality), necessity (public policy, public security or protection of health or the environment) and proportionality (the requirements must be appropriate for achieving the objective).

Parliament also voted to limit the scope of the directive to the following sectors:

Services of general economic interest such as postal services, water supply, electricity, waste treatment are included in the scope of the directive. Business services such as management consultancy, certification and testing, facilities management (including office maintenance and security), advertising, recruitment services and the services of commercial agents.

Services provided both to businesses and to consumers, including real estate services such as estate agencies, construction (including the services of architects), distributive trades, the organisation of trade fairs, car rental, and travel agencies. Consumer services such as tourism, leisure services, sports centres and amusement parks are also included.

The Council of Minister must now decide its position on the directive and the amendments adopted by MEPs. If all Parliament's amendments are acceptable to the Council, the legislation will be adopted in its modified form. If the Council rejects any of Parliament's amendments or adds any of its own, the text will return to Parliament for a second reading.

 

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Advertising

Health Commissioner applauds food industry progress on obesity combating measures

European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection Markos Kyprianou addressed the members of the European Platform for Action on Diet, Physical Activity and Health in Brussels on 21 February, one year on from its launch.

Commenting on advertising and marketing, he said "I note that the industry are committed to having common Marketing Communications Principles in force in 80% of the Member States by the end of 2007 and that they will cover all marketing communications (television, radio, press, cinema, internet, sponsorship, etc.), including such activities in schools.

"I particularly noted the commitment by UNESDA on marketing, advertising, commercial communication and promotions. This not only as it aims at protecting children under 12 year but also because of the fact that it is accompanied by proposals for a range of key performance indicators to enable monitoring of the actions."

The Commissioner was also glad to note a number of commitments by companies to voluntarily include nutrition information on their products.

To read the full speech, go to http://www.europa.eu.int.

Tobacco Advertising Ban - Opinion postponed

The presentation of the Advocate General's Opinion in the European Court of Justice on the Tobacco Directive has been postponed. This decision was made some weeks ago but it is still not known when the Opinion will now be given.

 

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Internet regulation

Data retention directive adopted - but no help to combat IPR offences

Europe's justice ministers have approved controversial rules that mean that by August 2007 there will be EU legislation in force allowing telecoms and Internet data surveillance by security agencies.

Telephone operators and internet service providers will be obliged to store data so that information such as call logs, numbers called, email or web addresses can be accessed by law enforcers investigating terrorism or serious crime.

Surveillance of the content of calls or emails is not covered by the EU directive and remains under the scope of national security laws. The EPC is disappointed that content providers will not be able to use this law to help combat copyright and IPR offences.

The legislation was first tabled in the wake of the Madrid bombings in March 2004 and then fast-tracked under the British EU presidency after attacks on London last July.

In the meantime, the UK Government has succeeded in passing a new bill against the offence of "glorification" of terrorist acts.

Opponents say the law is unnecessary and will curb freedom of speech. But the Prime Minister said it was vital to help protect the country and to make it easier to take action against people inciting terrorism.

 

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For further information, please contact Angela Mills-Wade on Tel: +44 1865 310 732 or Heidi Lambert on Tel: +44 1245 476 265 or visit www.epceurope.org.

 

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