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EPC news - August 2006

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

 

 

Dates for the diary

August 2007 - Data Retention legislation comes into force
28 August - EP IMCO committee deadline for TVWF amendments
11-12th September - EP ITRE committee first debate of TVWF amendments
13-14th September - EP IMCO committee consideration of TVWF amendments
25th September - EP ITRE committee second debate of TVWF amendments
25th September - EP IMCO committee to adopt TVWF
27th September - Euro Effies award ceremony, Brussels
27-28th October - i2010 - Towards a Ubiquitous European Information Society, Espoo, Finland, Presidency conference
3-4th October - EP ITRE committee to adopt TVWF
4-5th October - European Patent Office conference, Portugal
9-10th October - CULT committee to adopt TVWF report
11-12th October - Committee of Regions plenary vote on TVWF
11-14th December - EP Plenary adoption of TVWF
Tbc - 7th December - Reding Round Table with Publishers’ trade organisations

 

 

Key issues of the month

AMS: EPC sees Finnish proposal

The EPC has got hold of a copy of the Finish Presidency proposal to the Council for the revision of the TVWF Directive.

As far as the Articles are concerned, the Finnish Government has simplified the text considerably. The main structural changes are:

  1. They have changed the definition of Audiovisual Media Service (AMS)

    "a service as defined by Articles 49 and 50 of the Treaty which is under the editorial responsibility of a media service provider and the principal purpose of which is the provision of programmes consisting of moving images with or without sounds in order to inform, entertain, or educate, to the general public electronic communications networks within the meaning of Article 2(a) of Directive 2002/21/EC of the EP and the Council; and/or audiovisual commercial communications".
  2. They have introduced a definition of "programme" separate from "television broadcasting". This says:
    "'programme' means a set of moving images with or without sound constituting an individual item within a schedule or in a catalogue established by a media service provider."

Comment: In this way they seem to be applying the new definitions and therefore application of the directive to "programmes" and/or "audiovisual commercial communications" provided by "media service providers" regardless of whether or not they are television broadcasts (linear) or on-demand services (non-linear).

Note also that a media service provider means "the natural or legal person who has editorial responsibility for the choice of the audiovisual content of the audiovisual media service and determines the manner in which it is organized.

In terms of enforcement and implementation, Member States will remain free to require media service providers...to comply with more detailed or stricter rules than in the areas covered by this Directive and Member States shall, by appropriate means, ensure, within the framework of their legislation that media service providers ....effectively comply with the provisions of this Directive.

Comment: "effectively comply" can include co-regulation. There is a danger, However, that Member States could, unless expressly prohibited through a Recital, subject all media service providers to the same regulations and under the auspices of a regulatory authority.

  1. They have separated out the provisions which apply to sponsorship from those which will now apply to product placement, simplifying both, and making sure that the new definitions for sponsorship apply to both AMS and Programmes, but that the rules on product placement only apply to programmes.
    Programmes that contain product placement shall meet the following requirements:
    • a) their content and in the case of television broadcasting their scheduling may in no circumstances be influenced in such a way as to affect the responsibility and editorial independence of the media service provider.
    • b) they must not directly encourage the purchase or rental of goods or services in particular by making special promotional reference to these goods and services, or by giving them undue prominence.
    • c) viewers must be clearly informed of the existence of PP. Programmes containing PP must be appropriately identified at the start and the end of the programme in order to avoid any confusion on the part of the viewer.

    News and current affairs programmes, programmes for children, documentaries and religious programmes may not contain PP.

  2. Two new restrictions have been introduced to the rules on content:
    • a) Programmes that involve pornography or gratuitous violence
    • b) Commercial communication must not prejudice respect for human dignity

    These are in addition to the content rules in the original proposal in article 3 which we remain concerned about.

  3. The rules on television advertising and teleshopping have been further simplified, notably that the proportion of short forms of advertising such as advertising spots and teleshopping spots within a given clock hour shall not exceed 20%, and films, children's programmes and news programmes may be interrupted by advertising or teleshopping once for each period of 35 mintues (instead of 45 minutes). Member States shall ensure that where advertising is inserted during programmes the duration and nature of the programme must be taken into account.
  4. The rules on Right of Reply apply to Television Broadcasting only.
  5. There are no changes proposed to the provisions on short news extracts.

A full copy of the document is available on request.

 

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Data protection

Commission strengthens the data protection policy

The European Commission is to review its interpretation of the data protection directive following complaints from a German citizen concerning the way in which public authorities may handle the personal data.

The German citizen made an infringement complaint in 2004 to the Commission against the State of Hamburg. The complainant considered that the public authorities were breaching Article 14(1)(b) of the EU Data Protection Directive when the public authorities could hand over personal data to companies, even when they knew that the data were used for direct marketing purposes. Although the Commission’s initial response stated that the Directive only provided protection against public authorities using personal data for their own direct marketing purposes, the the European Ombudsman intervened and started an inquiry, consulting also the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS).

The Ombudsman considered that " The Commission's interpretation appeared to exclude from the scope of "controller" in Article 14(1)(b) public authorities and bodies which do not constitute "competitive public-law enterprises" (cf. remarks in point 1.5 above), notwithstanding the explicit reference to "public authority" in Article 2(d) of the Directive, and despite the fact that the text of Article 14(1)(b) does not make any such distinction." Therefore the Ombudsman asked the Commission to review its interpretation of the Directive.

The European Commission accepted the proposal and "decided to undertake a renewed legal analysis of the case and of its own interpretation of Article 14(1)(b) of the Data Protection Directive in light of the arguments put forward by the complainant and by the Ombudsman." Also the Commission stated that it would address the issue with the Member States in order to improve national legislation in the field of data protection.

 

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Information Society

EP starts work on Digital Environment report

A report by the European Parliament on Consumer Protection in the Digital Environment is underway with publication due in September or October this year. Since this is an own-initiative report, there will only be one reading.

We understand that the Rapporteur is focusing on three issues:

  • Diversity: The right of the consumer to have access and choice
  • Technical Neutrality: The customer should enjoy the same protection off-line as well as on-line and irrespective of geographic location. There should also be inter-operability between different media
  • Protection of privacy: software which sends signals concerning the behavioural pattern of the consumer should be restricted and consumers should not be criminalised.

Meanwhile, MEPs have also been discussing consumer confidence in the digital environment.

Rapporteur, Zuzana Roithova (EPP-ED - Czech Republic), led a discussion on Consumer Confidence in the Digital Environment at the IMCO meeting on July 11. Ms. Roithova declared that her report focused on 11 horizontal problems and 4 specific areas. She emphasized that numerous logistical measures needed to be taken in order to ensure consumer confidence on the internet. Some of them include: a revision of the acquis in order to update rules on Consumer Protection; the establishment of educational programmes on consumer rights; funds provided for consumer information organizations; EU consumer centres made more available; auto-regulation undertaken to prevent piracy; wider support of new and existing dispute settlement bodies; prevention of cyber-criminality and phishing – when one assumes the identity of a person in order to obtain data illegally, etc. She also said that better legislation is needed for the digital environment through the execution of measures such as: impact studies required by the EP, early warning systems for positive and negative trends, targeted screening of good legislation, and sharing of best practices by EU institutions.

The next debate on the topic is scheduled for 13-14 September.

 

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Media literacy questionnaire could provide basis for Working Paper

 

The Commission’s questionnaire on media literacy will be distributed via permanent representations in September, launching a two-month consultation process. The objective is to identify existing and possible approaches to media literacy and provide a description of emerging trends in this field throughout Europe.

The document says that “Media literacy relates to all media, including television and film, radio and recorded music, print media, the Internet and other new digital communication technologies. The aim of media literacy is to increase awareness of the many forms of media messages encountered in everyday life. It should help citizens to recognise how the media filter their perceptions and beliefs, shape popular culture and influence personal choices”. Findings following analysis of replies might lead to the drafting of a Commission Staff Working Paper on this subject.

 

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Hungary in trouble over Media Act

MEPs are concerned that companies are collaborating with censorship systems organised on the Internet in certain countries and are consequently putting pressure on EU member states to reconfirm their commitment to protect the rights of Internet users and to promote freedom of expression all over the world.

In a joint declaration by the EPP-ED, PES, ALDE, Greens/EFA, GUE/NGL and UEN political groups, adopted on 6 July in Strasbourg, MEPs are calling on the Commission to draw up a code of conduct committing member states not to participate in repressive activities on the Internet.

The political groups also want the EU make the provision of its aid programmes for the development of information technology subject to the condition that no barriers are put in the way of Internet access. Besides China, where there is a particularly high level of repression in this sense, there are at least 14 other countries that could be "considered as enemies of freedom of expression on-line", according to the MEPs. They are: Saudi Arabia, Belarus, North Korea, Cuba, Iran, Libya, the Maldives, Burma, Nepal, Uzbekistan, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan and Vietnam.

The MEPs have singled out companies such as Yahoo, Google and Microsoft, who agree to censor their services by following instructions given by the Chinese government. Other companies such as Secure Computing and Fortinet in turn provide the Tunisian and Burmese government with means with which to censor the Internet, say the EP political groups.

The declaration highlights that the same goes for Cisco Systems, which has sold equipment to the police in the countries in question, allowing them to monitor Internet users. It also unveils that Yahoo! collaborated with the Chinese legal system for several years, and played a part in the arrests of journalists and political dissidents, such as in the case of Shi Tao, a journalist for the daily publication Dangdai Shangbao.

In this respect, European companies are no saints either. MEPs continue to point out that the "heavily censored" Cuban network is operated by Telecom Italia and that the France Télécom subsidiary Wanadoo has recently announced that it has launched a joint service with the Tunisian operator Planet Tunisie, "while the Tunisian government decided to make all the country's sites of opposition inaccessible".

To this day, 61 political dissidents are in prison for having expressed their opinions on the Internet. Fifty one of them are based in China, say the MEPs. According to them, the situation is not getting any better. In fact, China has recently decided to step up police "efforts" and "efforts" to control the Internet even so far as to extend them to other communication technologies, such as instant messaging services and mobile phones.

 

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Commission publishes inventory of media-specific legal measures

The Commission has published a new version of the Inventory of measures affecting the Media which is now available on the Task Force web-site:
http://europa.eu.int/information_society/media_taskforce/index_en.htm.

Suzanne Vanderzande, Administrative Assistant for the Taskforce for the Co-ordination of Media Affairs, has requested that any additional information or comment is welcome and should be sent to her at DG InfoSoc and Media: Suzanne.Vanderzande@ec.europa.eu.
Tel.: +322.299 48 55

 

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Fins plan conference “i2010 - Towards a Ubiquitous European Information Society

The Finnish Presidency will hold a conference “i2010 - Towards a Ubiquitous European Information Society to be held in Espoo, Finland on 27-28 September 2006. Go to the link for more information.

 

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German experts call for search engines to be monitored

At a recent workshop held in Germany entitled, "The Rising Power of Search-Engines on the Internet: Impacts on Users, Media Policy, and Media Business" experts expressed the opinion that search engines should be more regulated.

Marcel Machill, a lecturer in journalism at Germany's Leipzig and Dortmund universities stated that Google along with Yahoo and MSN were the main source of information searches for 90% of the Germans, Google alone accounting for 70%. He expressed serious concern related to the power of the search engines that would be unconceivable in the classic media. Machill as well as other experts considers Google should have the same responsibility as other publishers not to allow access to illegal sites, such as those with neo-Nazi content or x-rated ones and that mechanisms must be created to protect children online and to address illegal content.

"Even if not targeted directly, browsing, surfing, or following suggestions from search engines may lead to material containing unwanted, troublesome, offensive, as well as surprising or amusing material. To be able to profit from this opportunity, while still allowing for the protection of children and for selective approaches to information gathering and communication, is one of the most important tasks in further developing the internet." said Machill.

Machill also added that last year, the German subsidiaries of search engine operators agreed to voluntarily filter sites with x-rated content or those that incite to violence out of their results lists and that the Government had to know how the search companies operate and had to regulate them if necessary.

However, according to Norbert Schneider, director of the North Rhine Westphalia, the voluntary obligation to filter sites will have no effect considering it just a "weak regulation without any sanctions".

Machill also suggested the foundation of a public corporation in Europe to counterbalance the power of the US search engines.

Google's position was expressed by public relations head Rachel Whetstone who reaffirmed that the search engine was no newspaper or broadcasting company and that they only applied an algorithm. She also stated that while Google observed the local laws regarding the results displayed, they did not wish to be the ones to decide on what people were supposed to see or not.

 

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EP Resolution upholds freedom of the press and all new media

A newly adopted EP Resolution on the “Freedom of expression on the Internet” includes strong support for media freedoms in the Internet age. The Resolution affirms that “freedom of expression is a key value shared by all EU countries and that they have to take concrete steps to defend it”; it calls on “the Council and EU Member States to agree to a joint statement confirming their commitment in favour of the protection of the rights of Internet users and of the promotion of free expression on the Internet worldwide”. It also “strongly condemns restrictions on Internet content, whether this applies to the dissemination or the receipt of information, that are imposed by governments and not in strict conformity with the guarantee of freedom of expression. The Resolution, which is available on request, instructs its President to forward the paper to the Council, the Commission and to Member States.

 

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Advertising

Restrictions on marketing of food to children, will not impact on obesity levels, says new report

Contributing to the UK government’s consultation on the advertising of food and drink to children on TV (Ofcom), a report by the industry policy group the Food Advertising Unit has submitted a report that insists that evidence indicates that food advertising only has a modest direct impact on children’s food preferences, amounting to just 2%. The report says that any restrictions must be proportionate with any further restrictions to be introduced as part of a much wider programme, recognising the complexities of the debate and the factors which influence people’s diets, in particular taste, preference and convenience. Restrictions should be focused on children under ten, since studies have shown that children older than this have a proven understanding of what advertising is about.

The group says that Ofcom and the UK Government must take account of the considerable changes that have already taken place in terms of content, volume and scheduling since 2003. This should also include the industry’s efforts to produce positive lifestyle messaging through a range of advertising and programming-orientated initiatives.

Interestingly, it has been shown that the increase in levels of obesity has been accompanied by a long-term decline in per capita calorific intake in the UK, suggesting that declining physical activity levels are more important than food intake per se. Targeting foods does not address the key concerns of this imbalance, concludes the report.

Meanwhile, DG SANCO has drafted an internal note summarising the views expressed by the 268 respondents to the Commission consultation on the Green paper “Promoting Healthy Diets and Physical Activity: a European Dimension for the prevention of overweight, obesity and chronic diseases”.

The paper states that while the industry is broadly in favour of self-regulation, it is clear that health professionals, NGOs and consumer organisations are sceptical about the effectiveness of self-regulation in limiting the promotion of foods that are high in energy and low in nutrients. Furthermore, the regulation of advertising and marketing remains the single most controversial issue.

The full report on the results of the consultation is expected before the end of this summer. DG SANCO will then draft the first EU strategy on health and nutrition. The adoption of this strategy is likely to happen early next year under the German Presidency, which is also planning a conference on this topic.

In a recent interview with Euractiv, Director General Robert Madelin said that the current obesity trend could undermine the central demographic assumption that everybody will live longer and healthier lives.

 

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EPC sponsors Euro Effies: award ceremony set for 27 September 2006

41 finalists have been selected for the European Association of Communications Agencies (EACA) awards, the “Euro Effies” 2006. These awards are for the gold standard in commercial communications effectiveness.

The shortlist represents work of 19 agencies from Austria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Ireland, Poland, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, The Netherlands, and United Kingdom.

Tickets to the event are available online at www.euro-effie.com.

 

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Commission releases final report on Advertising Roundtable

DG Robert Madelin has released the final report on the Advertising Roundtable
Process which focuses on the issue of self-regulation. In the report, Madelin refers to “an unprecedented” level of co-operation and dialogue on the SR issue and underlines the fact that there now appears to be a consensus that “Self-Regulation in advertising can only maximise its potential in a clear legislative framework which allows SR sufficient scope to operate. In this sense, the scope and degree of statutory systems have a direct influence on the effectiveness of the self-regulatory system."

Robert Madelin's intention is to take this report to the DG Sanco Commissioner (Markos Kyprianou) and other Commissioners to discuss the possibility of a political initiative. The EPC will be following developments closely.

 

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Copyright and IPR

Dutch parliament opposes criminalization of violations of intellectual property

The Dutch parliament has spoken out against the Commission’s proposal to make violations of intellectual property a crime on the grounds that the institution has not been granted the mandate to do so.

 

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Media gives presentation to sure up IPR in digital libraries debate

With DG Info Soc poised to make its recommendation on the future of digital libraries, the Who’s Who of Europe’s media industry held an event in the presence of Information Society Commissioner Viviane Reding on innovative ways of presenting, delivering and reading digital content through electronic reader devices.

The event was sponsored by Dr Paul Rübig, Member of the European Parliament.

The event highlighted Europe’s leading position in portable electronic reading, both from a content and a technology perspective.

The aim of the event was to provide concrete evidence of how publishers are making their content available on many different digital platforms, with new innovative devices to read this information being rolled out.

Europe's publishers are keen to ensure that legislators continue to support a strong IPR framework which is the incentive to develop further digital content or devices on which to enjoy our content.

The event has been jointly organised by:

  • Bertelsmann AG
  • ENPA, European Newspaper Publishers Association
  • EPC, European Publishers Council
  • FAEP, European Federation of Magazine Publishers
  • FEP, Federation of European Publishers
  • iRex Technologies

With the support of Dr Paul Rübig, MEP

 

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ISPs accused of harbouring filesharers

The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) has accused the ISPs Tiscali and Cable&Wireless of harbouring filesharers.

BPI has already taken successful action against 139 uploaders but says that ISPs are failing to take effective measures to stop illegal filesharing.

BPI Chairman Peter Jamieson said, "We have demonstrated in the courts that unauthorised filesharing is against the law. We have said for months that it is unacceptable for ISPs to turn a blind eye to industrial-scale copyright infringement".

Cable&Wireless' answered that it would take "whatever steps are necessary to put the matter right," meaning that any account used for illegal filesharing would be closed. On the other hand Tiscali said it wouldn't close any accounts without more evidence of wrongdoing from the music industry body. BPI had required from the ISPs: to suspend the relevant customers until they enter into an agreement with BPI, to disclose the personal details of the relevant customers and to conclude a legal agreement with BPI.

Tiscali questioned the quality of the evidence provided, and, under the provisions of the Data Protection Act, refused to give any personal data on the account holders without a court order.

It has stated that, out of the 17 accounts under question, one customer was contacted, in respect of whom BPI has "provided partial evidence of communication to the public of copyrighted sound recordings". The respective customer was given seven days to provide an explanation. In case it does not receive a proper explanation, Tiscali will suspend the user's account pending the resolution of BPI's investigation, provided it received evidence from BPI of a link between the user account and the IP address at the relevant time.

For the rest of 16 accounts Tiscali is waiting for more evidence.

Tiscali has also stated that neither Tiscali, as an ISP, nor the BPI, as a trade association, should act "as a regulator or law enforcement agency and deny individuals the right to defend themselves against the allegations made against them".

Despite Tiscali's answer, BPI is however pleased with the present outcome being "hugely encouraged" by the ISP's willingness to cooperate.

"The first thing is that they've already moved to suspend one account. Yes, they wanted more evidence - we could challenge this in court, but we're happy to provide it. We're pleased they are willing to cooperate," said Matt Phillips, spokesman for the BPI.

 

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Broadcasting

Media Programme adopted

The MEDIA programme aimed at supporting the European audiovisual sector is on track for the 2007-2013 period. The Ministers formally adopted a common position on the programme during the Competitiveness Council on 23 July. The agreed budget amounts to 671 million at 2004 prices (see Europolitics 3090). All that remains now for the programme to start in January 2007 is the vote in the European Parliament in second reading.

 

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State aid: Summer madness!

Portugal’s RTP gets go-ahead for state aid

The European Commission has decided that the financial restructuring agreement signed between the Portuguese Government and the public service broadcaster RTP in September 2003 is in line with EC Treaty state aid rules. This agreement, which runs until 2019, is aimed at progressively reducing RTP’s debt of about €1 billion. After an investigation, the Commission concluded that this debt is almost entirely due to the constant under financing of RTP’s public service tasks in the past and that the financial support now given by the state is proportional to RTP’s public financing deficit.

http://europa.eu

 

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Commission requests Italy complies with EU rules on electronic communications

The European Commission has decided to send a letter of formal notice to Italy requesting information about its broadcasting legislation’s compatibility with EU rules on competition in the markets for electronic communications networks and services and the New EU Regulatory Framework for Electronic Communications. The Commission is concerned that the Italian legislation fails to fulfil the obligations established by EU competition rules insofar as it introduces unjustified restrictions to the provision of broadcasting transmission services and attributes unjustified advantages to existing analogue operators. A letter of formal notice is the first step in the infringement procedure under Article 226 of the EC Treaty. Italy has now two months to respond to the concerns expressed by the Commission.

http://europa.eu

 

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Belgium to clarify financing of public service broadcaster VRT

The European Commission has asked Belgium to clarify the public service mission and the financing of VRT, the public service broadcaster in the Flemish community of Belgium. Having examined allegations from several complainants, the Commission’s preliminary view is that the current financing system is no longer in line with EC Treaty state aid rules requiring Member States not to grant subsidies liable to distort competition (Article 87). The Belgian authorities now have the opportunity to submit their comments and to propose changes to the funding system.

In 2004, several commercial broadcasters raised concerns about the state funding of VRT (Vlaamse Radio- en Televisieomroep), the public service broadcaster in the Flemish community of Belgium. The Commission initiated a preliminary investigation and requested information from the Belgian authorities. Meanwhile, the authorities initiated a number of modifications in the legal framework governing broadcasting in the Flemish community of Belgium.

The Commission welcomes the changes implemented in 2005 and 2006, but considers that a number of points need to be further clarified, in particular the definition of the public service remit (also in relation to new media services), effective supervision and control and adequate mechanisms to prevent overcompensation for public service activities. Belgium will now have the opportunity to comment on the Commission’s preliminary views. The Commission and the Flemish authorities will continue to cooperate with a view to bring the funding mechanism of the VRT in compliance with competition rules.

The measures in favour of the VRT are being granted since before the entry into force of the EC Treaty and therefore qualify as existing aid. In such cases, the Commission does not act against the aid already granted, which need not be paid back by the beneficiaries, but – in cooperation with the Member State concerned – aims at bringing the funding system in line with state aid rules for the future.

A number of similar investigations concerning public broadcasters in Germany, the Netherlands and Ireland are still pending (see IP/05/250). The Commission closed enquiries concerning broadcasters in France, Italy, Spain (see IP/05/458) and Portugal (see IP/06/349), following amendments of the respective funding schemes.

These investigations reflect the Commission’s general approach to ensure the proportionality of state funding and to guard against cross-subsidies for activities which are not related to public service functions as laid down in its 2001 Communication on applying state aid rules to public service broadcasting (see IP/01/1429). The Commission’s assessment does not question the prerogative of Member States to organise and finance public service broadcasting, as recognised in the Amsterdam Treaty Protocol on public service broadcasting. For further information on how state aid rules apply to public service broadcasting see MEMO/05/73.

 

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Commission opens inquiry into state financing of digital terrestrial television (DVB-T) in German Länder of Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia

Obviously clearing its desks before the summer break, the European Commission has also launched under EC Treaty state aid rules an investigation into subsidies granted to commercial broadcasters for the use of the digital terrestrial television (DVB-T) network in the German Länder of Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia. The Commission will investigate whether these subsidies threaten to distort competition in the Single Market. The investigations launched today follow an earlier inquiry into similar subsidies granted in Berlin-Brandenburg which the Commission ruled illegal in November 2005 (see IP/05/1394). The investigation will provide interested parties with the opportunity to comment on the planned measures. The opening of a formal investigation procedure does not prejudge the final outcome.

Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes commented: "The Commission is firmly committed to encouraging the transition to digital TV, which has many advantages for consumers and innovation. However, it needs to make sure that any state support does not distort competition, in particular between terrestrial, cable and satellite platforms".

The media authorities of Bavaria (BLM) and North Rhine-Westphalia (LfM) plan to grant subsidies (€2.4 million in Bavaria and €6.8 million in NRW) to commercial broadcasters, such as ProSiebenSat.1 and RTL, to meet part of their transmission costs via the DVB-T network. The subsidies would be paid for four years in Bavaria and for five years in North Rhine-Westphalia. In North Rhine-Westphalia, the DVB-T network was launched in May 2004 and in Bavaria in May 2005. In both Länder, the commercial broadcasters have been present in the DVB-T network since its launch.

In its decision of November 2005 on similar subsidies granted in Berlin-Brandenburg, the Commission explained in detail how it assesses subsidies for the transition from analogue to digital TV. It also gave indications on how digital TV could be supported. In spite of this guidance and of the Commission’s readiness to discuss the planned subsidies with the relevant authorities, it was not possible at this stage to remove the Commission’s concerns in the cases under investigation. The opening of the formal investigation procedure will allow the Commission to evaluate the notified measures in more detail and will offer interested parties an opportunity to submit comments.

 

Background

Several Member States are currently introducing digital TV transmission which will ultimately replace analogue TV transmission. This process is known as the digital switchover and concerns all the commonly available transmission platforms for television signals, i.e. terrestrial, cable and satellite. Broadband is emerging as an additional TV transmission platform which has been digital from the start.

This investigation follows a series of earlier Commission decisions concerning public support for the digital switchover. In recent months, the Commission has adopted three final decisions concerning public support in Austria, Germany (Berlin-Brandenburg) and the UK. In two other cases concerning Sweden (see IP/04/912) and Italy (see IP/05/1657), formal investigations are ongoing.

 

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General news

Strategy launched on rights of the child

This month, the European Commission adopted its Communication “Towards an EU strategy on the Rights of the Child”. This is the first time the Commission has taken such a transversal and cross-cutting approach to children’s rights. It concerns both internal and external policies of the Union and covers more than ten of these policies such as civil and criminal justice, employment, development cooperation, trade negotiation, education and health.

http://europa.eu

 

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UK business hampered by EU "gold plating"

The over-implementation of European legislation puts UK businesses at a competitive disadvantage, according to a government study published this week.

The report, undertaken by Lord Davidson, went further, saying that government departments whose purpose it is to facilitate the implementation of EU laws are under-resourced and are put under pressure to work too fast.

One of the main reasons, given by UK business for the inefficient execution of EU laws is down to a lack of proper "engagement with European issues by government departments".

According to the Davidson report, one of the key areas of concern is that of ‘gold plating” legislation, the practice whereby supplementary regulations are added to an existing law through non-statutory means.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown commissioned the study to review the Uk’s progress in implementing European laws.

Complete recommendations on how best to integrate European law into the UK statutory books are expected by the end of the year.

 

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Public consultation opens on minors and mobile phones

The European Commission has launched a public consultation on the potential risks for children of using mobile phones. Input is invited from any stakeholder, including child safety, parent and consumer organisations, mobile network operators, content providers, handset and network manufacturers, and regulators. The consultation will run until 16 October 2006.

Commissioner Viviane Reding, Commissioner for Information Society and Media has said on this issue; “In my view, protection of minors in mobile communications is the responsibility of all actors: industry, child safety associations and public bodies. The more efficient self-regulation can become, the less the need for State intervention.”

In the last few years, the use of mobile phones by children and young people has increased dramatically, as have the capabilities of mobile phones. According to a Eurobarometer survey of May 2006, 70% of European youngsters aged 12-13 years and 23% of children aged 8-9 years own a mobile phone. Handsets can now be used for video messaging, entertainment services (downloading games, music, and videos), access to the internet and location-based services.

The growth in mobile use clearly helps people link-up in an Information Society. But it also gives rise to concerns about the safety of children. The consultation aims to gather factual information and views from different stakeholders on the types of risks faced by children in their use of mobile content services, the technical and regulatory solutions that exist and the scope for further action, in particular at European level.

The Safer Internet Forum is part of the Commission's Safer Internet Programme, which has been running since 1999, and aims to equip parents and teachers with the knowledge and tools they need to ensure internet safety. The current 4-year programme (2005-08) has a budget of €45 million to combat illegal and harmful internet content. It also covers other media, such as videos, and explicitly addresses the fight against racism, and e-mail "spam".

More information on: http://ec.europa.eu/saferinternet.

 

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For more information please contact:
EPC Executive Director Angela Mills-Wade on Tel: +44 1865 310 732 or angela.mills@epceurope.org
EPC Press Officer Heidi Lambert on Tel: +44 1245 476 265 or heidilambert@hlcltd.demon.co.uk

 

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