The monthly update on EU media issues
Publishers and journalists’ organisations are pushing for a written exemption for journalists to protect them adequately from potential criminal liability for inadvertently reporting misleading information or wrongly transcribing figures: in fact anything which moves markets as a result of incorrect reporting.
It seems that at European level, the Belgian Government is saying that the directive only deals with administrative sanctions and therefore can only introduce an effect-based regime and is trying to leave it up to Member States to decide whether they want to apply criminal sanctions and require proof of intent.
A revised text of the draft limits the scope to information recommending investment behaviour and exempts comment. But the directive still fails to safeguard journalists, which has prompted the European Publishers Council to call for their complete exemption.
Along with journalists’ associations, EPC recognises that journalists should be subject to legislation if they knowingly disseminate information which intentionally misleads markets. However, wording should be included to ensure that they are only subject to this law if it can be proven that they knowingly misled or misinformed.
EP Rapporteur, Mr Goebbels, MEP says that the directive is not intended to restrict the freedom of the press and that only journalists benefiting from misleading reporting should be subject to criminal prosecution.
However, whilst the EPC and its colleagues welcome this statement, Mr Goebbels’s opinion would have no weight in a court of law. It is essential when drafting this legislation that nothing is left open to interpretation. If the intention is not to affect the press, then this should be explicit in the legislation.
ECOFIN ministers adopt market abuse text
ECOFIN has reached a Political Agreement on the text of the Market Abuse directive. Finance Ministers did not add a requirement for journalists to prove intent under article 1.2 (c) but they did agree the following wording:
(c) Dissemination of information through the media, including the Internet, or by any other means, which gives, or is likely to give, false or misleading signals as to financial instruments, including the dissemination of rumours and false or misleading news, where the person who made the dissemination knew or ought to have known that the information was false or misleading.
Further additions recognise the need for protection of journalists and self-regulation and for Members States to provide appropriate legislation to assist this. EPC still feels there are grey areas, particularly for journalists who make innocent mistakes.
A debate on the directive on 18 December 2001 will be followed by a vote on 23 January 2002. It is expected to go to the Plenary session in February.
European Parliament bans cookies
In November the Parliament adopted the report on the Directive on Personal Privacy in the Electronic Communications sector which included an amendment banning cookies and "other spyware". The Internet Advertising Bureau has been running a huge campaign pointing out the disaster this would be for the online advertising industry and the online content it funds. In Britain alone the directive could cost companies a collective 302 million Euro.
An amendment to the text has softened the attitude slightly to cookies, saying that there are cases where they could be legitimately used. However, the wording still places the onus on website operators to offer users the option of accepting cookies. IAB considers this a barrier to e-commerce, internet efficiency and usability.
Parliamentarians discuss tackling harmful content on the internet
The E-PING group has discussed tackling harmful content on the Internet. Discussions covered Commission initiatives in the field of child pornography, child protection on the internet, the idea of content rating and the role of hotlines in combating harmful and illegal content.
eContent to launch second call for proposals
With funds in the region of EUR 30 million, eContent launched its second call for proposals in November. The fund aims to cover specific actions such as improving access to public sector information, enhancing content production in a multilingual, multicultural environment and increasing dynamism of the digital content market.
German copyright law threatens EU Publishing Sector
The German Government is due to adopt copyright legislation that will allow authors or artists to sue media companies if they feel they have been unfairly remunerated. The main problem lies in the fact that there exists no precise definition for ‘fair remuneration’. The law also permits retrospective claims, which could date back to the past twenty years. This not only poses serious threats to the German publishing sector, but has serious implications for the EU.
Consultation on Digital Management of Rights
DG Enterprise has asked for a Forum Group to convene on Digital Rights Management with the following objectives: To investigate the different technologies that are relevant to Digital Rights Management within the provisions of Directive 2001/29/EC; To consider the extent of standardisation of these technologies, and the extent to which they may need to be harmonised, or further standardised. EPC will attend the next meeting of the Group on DRM, which will take place January 15th 2002.
International Cybercrime Treaty due to enter into force soon
The first international convention on cybercrime was approved by the Council of Europe Ministers’ Deputies, and has been presented to the foreign affairs Ministers in Strasbourg. The signing took place at an international conference in Budapest at the end of November. It will enter into force when at least three Member State countries of the Council of Europe have ratified it. The US is expected to be one of the non- Member State countries due to sign. The Convention aims to establish a common criminal policy on the misuse of computer networks and electronic information for terrorist or illegal activity.
EU Cybercrime Forum
The European Commission is preparing an expert meeting of the EU-Forum, which is established within the framework of the Communication on Computer-related Crime. The purpose of the expert meeting will be to discuss issues related with the subject of traffic data retention.
Commission approves web accessibility guidelines
The European Commission has recently adopted a Communication on improving the accessibility of public web sites. This supports guidelines which enable people with disabilities and older people to use the Internet more easily. This may affect publishers’ websites and how they display their content.
Commission adopts Communication on State Aid and Broadcasting
The Commission is in the process of finalising a Communication that explains how State Aid rules are applied to funding of public service broadcasters. It has been suggested that DG EAC had given in to intensive lobbying by the BBC and EBU over the question of independent regulation of the BBC. The text has been changed to accommodate BBC Governors.
Culture Committee adopts report on circulation of European Films
The Culture Committee has adopted an own initiative report on the Circulation of European Films. The report calls on the Commission to consider introducing a framework for TV broadcasters to devote a minimum proportion of transmission time to promoting European films. The report also recommends introducing a framework for TV broadcasters to invest part of their annual turnover in the European Film Industry.
Council of Europe Seminar on Broadcasting
The Council of Europe held an Expert Seminar in Strasbourg on 6 December on "The Economic, Technical and other Developments in the Television Sector and their Impact on the European Convention on Transfrontier Television". Topics included: What future for broadcasting in the digital era? New advertising techniques; Cultural objectives; Programme standards and human dignity; the future of broadcasting regulation at national and European levels.
For more information on any of the following issues, contact Heidi Lambert Communications Tel: +44 1245 476 265.
Jurisdiction and applicable law
Duty to trade fairly
Angela Mills, Director of EPC: Tel: +32 2 231 1299 (Brussels) or +44 1865 310 732 (UK) firstname.lastname@example.org.
Heidi Lambert: Tel: +44 1245 476 265 email@example.com.