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  Tel: +322 231 1299

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President Romano Prodi
European Commission
200 rue de la Loi
B-1049 Brussels

Brussels, 9 July 2003

Dear President Prodi,

Proposal for a Council Directive implementing the principle of equality between women and men

We write in reference to the debate which recently took place in Europe’s press concerning radical proposals from DG Employment and Social Policy to eliminate perceived gender discrimination in media and advertising as well as in sectors such as insurance and pensions.

We, the undersigned media organisations, representing newspapers, magazines, online database and Internet publishers as well as television sales houses, are concerned that such a proposal could have reached advanced stages of inter-service consultation without any dialogue having taken place with the sectors who ultimately will be most affected by the requirements of such a directive.  In our view, this represents gross negligence on the part of the Commission and is in stark contravention of the Commission's very own European Governance White Paper (2001 (COM) 428 final), which outlines your principles of good governance for openness, participation, accountability, effectiveness and coherence.

The responsible Commissioner, Anna Diamantopolou, chose to defend her proposals in The Financial Times, where the story first broke. The Commissioner asserted that these were technical proposals at a very early stage of preparation. Yet, as we now know, they had been in fact incorporated into a draft directive; which was the subject of inter-service consultation and provisionally on the agenda for adoption, by the College, on 9th July.  Furthermore, the Commissioner has made it clear, in the public domain, that she intends to pursue measures in this field whether or not a directive turns out to be legally possible or the most appropriate means of achieving her objectives.

Therefore, we would like to put on record that:

  • We oppose any attempt to regulate the content of Europe’s media, for which we do not consider the EU Institutions to have any legal mandate.

  • Matters of editorial policy and advertising fall properly within the remit of self-regulation.
  • We would oppose any attempt to go beyond the guidance for television programmes contained in the TV without Frontiers Directive which, in any case, is currently under review.
  • National codes already cover the issue of gender discrimination at national level, with the advantage of allowing for the necessary flexibility and margin of interpretation. Gender issues can only be evaluated taking into account the appraisal of taste and decency of each individual EU Member State, and not at a harmonised EU-wide level.
  • We also question the EU’s competence to indulge in areas of advertising regulation which concerns matters of taste and decency. The recently adopted draft Directive on unfair commercial practices, which was the subject of very extensive consultation with the media and advertising industries, does not attempt to cover such subjective areas, which by their nature are open to different interpretations in the Member States.  As a direct result of the public consultation, the responsible DG concluded that such matters are best dealt with by existing self-regulatory codes of advertising practice.

Finally, we hereby request that no further discussions take place on such measures before the media is consulted.

Yours sincerely,

Angela Mills Wade,
Executive Director,
European Publishers Council (EPC)

Michel Gregoire,
Secretary General,
European Group of Television Advertisers (EGTA)

David Mahon,
Secretary General,
European Federation of Magazine Publishers (FAEP)

Cc: Commissioner Anna Diamantopolou


EPC - European Publishers Council
Avenue Livingstone 26,
B-1000 Brussels
Tel: + 32 2 231 12 99
Fax: + 32 2 230 76 58

EGTA - European Group of Television Advertisers
Rue Wiertz 50,
B-1050 Brussels
Tel: +32 2 290 31 30
Fax: +32 2 290 31 39

FAEP – European Federation of Magazine Publishers
Rue d’Arlon 15,
B-1050 Brussels
Tel: +32 2 286 80 94
Fax : +32 2 286 80 95
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