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Francisco Pinto Balsemão
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EPC news - March / April 2007

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




Dates for the diary

14-15th March - Challenges and Opportunities in a Digital World. The Role of Consumer Policy / German presidency conference on Digital Rights
16th March - European Commission conference on Mobile TV at CeBIT, Hannover
3rd April - Deadline, Sports white paper consultation
9-11th May - Conference, Strengthening User Trust in Media Services, Leipzig
24-25th May - TVWF Council vote



Key issues of the month

President Barroso supports freedom of the press and rejects "free riders" on publishers’ investment in content at EPC CEO dinner

At dinner members of the EPC in February, the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso expressed concerns about the inimical affect of political correctness on freedom of expression including commercial free speech. He shared our view that if it is allowed to take hold political correctness will lead inexorably towards a form of censorship which limits the very civil rights and values which it pretends to serve. He talked about his core responsibilities at the Commission and the threats to our society in general but supported a light touch approach in terms of regulation reinforced with personal and corporate freedom.

Recalling his commitment to a “Europe of Results” Mr Barroso pointed out that since the first dinner with the EPC three years ago, many key issues have been solved successfully at EU level during his Presidency at the Commission.

The EPC members welcomed Mr Barroso’s clear statement that he did not support free riders on the investment of publishers. As policies develop in the field of digital libraries, copyright more generally or eCommerce he recognised that we shall need to rely on strong copyright protection to fight piracy as well as to foster further investment and innovation in digital media research and development.

Also present at the dinner, Mrs Viviane Reding repeated her total opposition to any new advertising bans and confirmed her support for a strong country of origin principle underpinning European legislation. She also expressed her continuing support for effective self-regulation.


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Digital Rights: Publishers head off future legal clashes with search engines

As Google faces up to fines of up to 25,000 euros a day after losing its court battle with Belgian newspapers over the scope of its Google News service, a major pilot project is well underway which should put an end to future legal conflict between search engines and publishers and open up content to everyone.

As described in previous newsletters, ACAP (Automated Content Access Protocol), is a system by which the owners of content published on the World Wide Web can provide permissions information (relating to access and use of their content) in a form that can be recognised and interpreted by a search engine “spider”, so that the search engine operator is enabled systematically to comply with such a policy or licence.

An initiative of the World Association of Newspapers (WAN), the European Publishers Council (EPC), and the International Publishers Association (IPA). The technical framework is currently being devised in a pilot scheme with the following participants:

Gavin O’Reilly, Chairman of the WAN, said: “We really want to avoid the kind of litigation brought by Copiepresse in the future. ACAP provides a win, win situation whereby publishers’ intellectual property rights are respected and content is made more freely available to search engines. This system will completely remove any rights issues between publishers and search engines and therefore foster mutually beneficial business relationships between publishers and search engine operators, in which the interests of both parties can be properly balanced. Content will be accessible to all and the present and future Internet strategies and business models of online publishers will be supported.”

ACAP is being designed to be applicable to every type of content published online, including video and audio, although the focus for the initial pilot project is on the specific needs of the print publishers behind it. It is intended, however, that the completed system will evolve and develop to meet the changing needs of content owners, search engines, consumers and technology.


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TVWF: May adoption expected for new Audiovisual Media Services Directive

The German Minister for Culture and media has announced that he expects the new Audiovisual Media Services directive to be agreed under qualified majority voting by the May Council under the German Presidency. However, this might be overly optimistic as many problems still remain on the wording of the articles which cover the country of origin principle.

Meanwhile Ministers have agreed with MEPs on the scope of the directive to include on-demand TV like services. Also co- and self-regulation are recognised as means of implementation. More flexibility in the time allocated to advertising has also been agreed. The country of origin principle will still form the basis of the directive, notwithstanding outstanding problems on the finer details, with any problems between member states on cross border issues handled by a new consultative procedure agreed by the Council. It has also been agreed that product placement will be prohibited, but allowing Member States discretion to permit it. The Commission will present its consolidated version of the directive in early March.


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Commissioner touts scientific publishing as Presidency priority: publishers call for recognition

Commissioner Reding has announced that scientific publishing will be one of the priorities of the Portuguese presidency.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Janex Potocnik spoke this month about 'Scientific Publishing in the European Research Area' – Access, Dissemination and Preservation in the Digital Age, at a major conference in Brussels where he insisted on the importance of progress to help build a knowledge society in the EU. The Commission Communication on “Scientific information in the digital age” is part of the Commission’s i2010 digital libraries initiative and the Community policy on research.

Over the next seven years, the EU will invest over 54 billion euros in research and development. The Commission is under pressure to insist that all publicly-funded research is made public within a short period, say, six months.

The Commissioner cited the two main issues:

  • First, how to offer the research community rapid and wide dissemination of results, facilitated by new information and communication technologies.
  • Second, how to combine this with fair remuneration for the scientific publishers who invest in tools and mechanisms to organise the information flows and the peer review system. He said that a healthy scientific publication system is a key element of successful research activity and that a way must be found to improve access to scientific information that would
    benefit everyone. He said that increased access should lead to more research activities, a strengthened European Research Area and therefore increased publishing activity.

A group of 35 publishing houses and eight publishing trade associations has taken this opportunity to issue a joint declaration laying out ten principles through which scientific, technical and medical (STM) publishing can continue to work for the benefit of science and society.

The declaration stresses that STM publishers work to support the research community in Europe, and underlines the role of specialist publishers in ensuring the integrity of scientific research. In a news release, the group said, “Publishers organise, manage and financially support the peer review processes of STM journals. Peer-reviewed journals play an irreplaceable role in authenticating articles through registration, certification, dissemination and editorial improvement.”

The group is concerned that the Commission’s Communication on Scientific Information in the Digital Age issued this week does not make clear why government intervention is needed and risks promoting one business model over another. The group feels that nobody will benefit if a major European industry is undermined and with it the peer review system upon which science and society depend.

To read the declaration, go to:


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Piracy: biggest threat to future of digital distribution

Piracy has been identified as the "single biggest obstacle holding back the development of legitimate digital distribution" in a recent report commissioned by the European Commission (DG Information Society and Media) "Interactive content and convergence: implications for the information society".

According to the report, piracy simply reduces the potential market, business and revenue expectations, and reduces the perceived incentives to license content and invest in legal digital distribution. The following recommendations are made:

  • promote attractive and user-friendly legal offerings,
  • enable copy protection systems,
  • enforce legal deterrents and penalties and
  • promote education and awareness campaigns towards young consumers and parents.

The report, which aims at identifying and assessing the impact of the potential roadblocks of any kind that may hinder the exploitation of digital content across new distribution platforms, covers the entire content industry (music, movies, TV, games, radio and publishing).

The Commission predicts 400% growth for creative content. The Communication on content online is due in the second half of 2007 and is expected to contain legislative measures in a wide range of sub-sectors and on a horizontal level.


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New IP watchdog sets up in Brussels

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has opened a new office in Brussels to work with various institutions of the European Union (EU) on innovation and digital rights, acting as a watchdog for the public interest in intellectual property and civil liberties policy initiatives that impact the European digital environment.


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UK leads assault on food advertising

Responding to UK regulator Ofcom’s decision to adopt restrictions intended to reduce significantly the exposure of children under 16 to advertising of food and drink products high in fat, salt and sugar, Advertising Association Chief Executive Baroness Peta Buscombe, said "These new rules are extremely important, but I would now urge campaigners and Politicians to focus on all the root causes of obesity and not to get further distracted with any one particular aspect".

The UK’s Health Minister has implied that if industry fails to apply the new junk food TV ad rules to magazines and newspapers, legislative action would be a possibility. Non-broadcast advertising practice is currently handled by the industry’s self-regulatory body.

EU figures show that a staggering 27% of men and 38% of women in the European Union are classified as obese with 300,000-400,000 new cases reported a year. This figure does not include the 5 million children who suffer the same condition. MEPs have passed a resolution to try and combat obesity which calls for the early practice of healthy diet and regular exercise.


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New group formed to "defend food"

The French dairy group Lactalis, the New York-based company Bung (vegetable oil) and the Portuguese company Nutrinveste have decided to join forces to form the European Basic Foods Platform to defend the interests of the basic food industry within the European Institutions. The companies involved wish to ensure that the inherent characteristics of basic foods are defended in the new labelling legislation.


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All adverts for food and drink in France must now carry healthy eating messages

France’s response to the obesity issue has been to insist that food and drink firms in France now use one of four health messages on all broadcast and print – messages that must take up at least 7% of the screen or page or must be read out on radio. Failure to do so could see them fined 1.5 per cent of their advertising budget.

Messages that can appear on ads are: "Avoid snacking between meals", "Avoid eating too much salt, sugar or fat", "take regular exercise" and "eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day".

Around 12 per cent of French people were obese and 29 per cent overweight in 2006, according to official figures. Children have been increasingly affected, with nearly fifth of those under eight years old certified as obese.


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Commissioner Kuneva speaks out for self-regulation

Speaking at a dinner given by the European Advertising Standards Alliance (EASA) this month, Commissioner Meglena Kuneva expressed her support for effective advertising self-regulation as a viable complement to legislation and challenged the advertising industry to fund the continued development of effective self-regulation systems across and extended EU and to respond to the challenges of the new media.

The speech coincided with Greece becoming the third country in Europe to adopt the new global Advertising and Marketing Communications code based on the provisions of the latest International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Consolidated Code of Advertising and Marketing Practice which extend the scope of existing rules to new media forms of marketing communications as well as the framework interpretation for food and non-alcoholic drinks.

The Greek Self Regulation system dates back over 25 years, but a strengthened system was re-launched 3 years ago following an EASA self-regulation Roadshow.


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EU plans forum on Alcohol and Health

As part of the implementation of its Communication on alcohol, and to help in reducing its harmful effects, the EC will launch a Forum on Alcohol and Health in June this year. Prior to the Forum, a series of roundtable meetings will be held with NGOs, consumer groups, economic operators and public health groups, to draw up the Forum documents.


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New Agency set up to manage audiovisual programmes

The Commission has set up an Education, Audio-visual and Culture Executive Agency for the management of Community programmes in the fields of education, audio-visual and culture to include the development of European audio-visual works (MEDIA Plus - Development, Distribution and Promotion) and the training programme for professionals of the European audio-visual programme industry (MEDIATraining).


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Information Society

Holland and Germany propose tightening of online laws

The German and Dutch governments are leading on proposals that would outlaw the use of false information to open e-mail accounts or create websites. The objective is to help the investigation of terrorism but resistance is expected from those rallying against further threats to personal privacy.


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Commission works to remove barriers to Internet selling

A new survey on business attitudes towards cross-border sales says that E-commerce seems to be the key to further opening the retail internal market, as 57% of retailers say they now sell via the internet. But more than two thirds of them sell exclusively domestically. And of the 29% who do sell cross-border most do to only or two other Member States. More would like to sell cross-border (48% of EU retailers are prepared to do so).

However, there are still significant barriers to an EU-wide business-to-consumer market, with perceived insecurity of transactions, differences in national fiscal regulations and consumer rules being the main concerns. Forty three percent of retailers believed that their cross-border sales would increase if laws regulating consumer transactions were the same throughout the EU. Meglena Kuneva, European Consumer Commissioner said: "Retail transactions account for 58% of EU GDP, yet the business-to-consumer market is still very much divided along national lines. The results of this Eurobarometer reinforce my view that SMEs are interested in entering the retail internal market but the lack of a clear and coherent set of rules is one of the main factors holding them back. This would not only drive prosperity for companies but also give consumers the confidence they need to make the most of the internal market.”

The Eurobarometer survey cites the biggest perceived obstacle to cross-border trade as the insecurity of transactions (61% of respondents considered this an important obstacle). This is closely followed by concerns over different fiscal regulations (58%), potential problems with resolving complaints (57%), differences in national laws regulating consumer transactions (55%), difficulties in ensuring after-sales service (55%) and extra delivery costs (51%).

The European Commission has therefore announced its intention to overhaul European contract law to make internet selling easier, more reliable and more efficient. The Green Paper paves the way for a review of the EU consumer contract law, currently covered by eight different directives. Various approaches are on the table including i) do nothing; ii) review each directive separately or iii) extract common issues from each directive and regulate in a horizontal instrument.

The consultation period is open for 3 months, until 15 May.


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EU to have a “wireless” single market

Commissioner Reding has welcomed the EU decision to have a single market for wireless devices across the EU. European consumers will soon be able to use a single market for a new generation of mass-market consumer electronics (laptops, mobile phones, digital cameras, TVs...), that can exchange data wirelessly at very high rates over short distances.


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Commissioner Reding wins internet villain award

The Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) has named Commissioner Vivianne Reding and the European Commission as “Internet Villain of the Year” at its annual awards ceremony.

In a press statement, ISPA said: "Commissioner Viviane Reding and the European Commission received the award for foisting the most arcane set of rules yet seen for prior registration of dot-eu domains, requiring UK registered companies to submit legal affidavits to justify the authenticity of their business."

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Commissioner gives thumbs up to co- and self-regulation

The media will nonetheless welcome Commissioner Reding’s statement, on the presentation of the study on co-regulation in the media sector, that "For the media and Internet industry to flourish responsibly, the regulatory framework needs to strike the right balance between fairness and firmness while still allowing industry to respond quickly to change. This study underlines my firm belief that self-and co-regulation offer very real alternatives to traditional legislative approaches in the media sector today. Where such self- and co-regulatory models are credible and efficient, the European Commission will encourage their use, in particular for the online environment.

The study on co-regulation measures in the media sector was undertaken for the Commission by the Hans-Bredow Institut for media research, at the University of Hamburg, in cooperation with the Institute for European Media Law in Saarbrücken, and presented today in Brussels. It concluded that, in general, industry needs sufficient incentives to support such a regime.

Having a state run regulator in the background often gives self-regulatory bodies the power they need to work effectively. In addition, sufficient means to enforce regulations, such as adequate and proportional sanctions seem to be necessary for a co-regulatory system to be workable.

Transparency and openness were also found to be vital to build trust in the mechanisms, particularly where non-State organisations are responsible for regulating, or where interest groups are not involved.

The study examined the different approaches to co-regulation already active in different countries for two important sectors (the protection of minors, and advertising), and found that there was no reason to assume that these were insufficient for implementing European directives.


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Commissioner threatens legal action against Germany

Commissioner Viviane Reding has threatened to sue Germany, which holds the EU presidency in the first half of 2007, unless it scraps some provisions in a revised telecoms law that, according to European regulators, protects Deutsche Telekom from competition.

The new law will determine whether or not DT will have to open its new fibre-optic network to competitors.


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Mobile operators to safeguard children using mobile phones

Leading European mobile operators have signed in Brussels an agreement on how to protect minors using mobile phones. This agreement, brokered by the European Commission, responds to the findings of the Commission's public consultation on child safety and mobile phones published today. In the agreement, mobile operators undertake to develop self-regulatory codes by
February 2008.


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White paper planned on sports

The EPC has been asked to participate in a month-long consultation on sports has just been launched with the promise of a white paper that will focus on the role of sport in society; the economic impact of sport and the organisational aspects of sports rather than considering new legislation. It is thought that it might recommend a new financial instrument, however. It will also look at competition issues and funding.

The deadline for contributions to the consultation is 3 April 2007. For more details, go to


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Freedom of Expression

Publishers wary of new anti-terrorism initiative

The EPC has written to Commissioner Frattini to ask that any initiative in relation to measures aimed at preventing the inciting, aiding or abetting terrorist offences does not impact on media freedom, directly or indirectly or on editorial content. The EPC fears that too much law proposed in Europe on other matters over the last two decades has threatened to encroach upon the Freedom of Speech. The letter reads: "at this very early stage of consultation, we ask you to ensure that media content dealing with matters of terrorism is exempt from this initiative."

A questionnaire has been sent to a range of interested parties including national, European and international NGOs dealing with human rights issues, Human Rights bodies, Bar and Lawyers' associations, publishers, broadcasters and journalists' associations; internet service providers, telecommunication companies, manufacturers of explosives and other relevant industry.


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Council of Europe to set up watchdog on free expression

The Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly has announced plans to establish an office to monitor attacks on journalists in Europe.

On 25 January 2007, the Assembly passed a resolution stating that it would "establish a specific monitoring mechanism for identifying and analyzing attacks on the lives and freedom of expression of journalists in Europe as well as the progress made by national law enforcement authorities and national parliaments in their investigations of these attacks."

The resolution also called on all member states of the Council of Europe to "conduct parliamentary investigations into the unresolved murders of journalists as well as attacks and death threats against them, in order to shed light on individual cases and develop as a matter of urgency effective policies for the greater safety of journalists."

The resolution followed the release of a Council of Europe report that expressed grave concerns about the impunity surrounding attacks on journalists in the region, including the recent murders of Russian reporter Anna Polikovskaya and Turkish editor Hrant Dink.

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

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