EPC, which gathers together Europe’s leading publishing houses, saw with great regret the approval by the European Parliament in Plenary in Strasbourg of the negotiating mandate, prepared by the LIBE Committee, to enter into trialogue negotiations with the European Commission and the Council. The thin majority (318 votes against 280 and 20 abstentions) highlighted the strong divisions among the political groups.
“EPC’s concerns remain practical. We don’t oppose the objectives of privacy legislation per se, and in fact think it is a good thing that consumers have clearer information and choices about who does what online. However, we are worried that publishers will end up suffering collateral damage because of language of the Regulation, in an effort to bring some order back into the online ecosystem” said Angela Mills Wade, EPC Executive Director.
Mills Wade pointed out that “quality content is at the heart of what we do. But how do we ensure its continued production? Professionally produced and edited content costs money. Advertising pro-vides the media with the necessary resources to be able to operate independently. Without advertising, much of the world’s media simply would not exist.”
Media rely on advertising as a primary revenue source: up to 50% of printed press revenues come from advertising, up to 100% in the case of some digital press, nearly 100% for commercial radio, and up to 90% for commercial free-to-air TV broadcasters. Declining ad revenues mean loss of editorial content and journalistic freedom. Legal free downloading and streaming services, which consumers have come to take for granted in the online environment, would not exist without advertising. However, we are concerned to see advertising, and particularly now that all advertising is data-driven, becoming the easy target of policy makers that want to deliver “fast and easy” results for citizens while setting aside the overwhelming evidence that demonstrates the important role that advertising plays in supporting media diversity.
The process in the European Parliament was extremely fast, to the detriment of a real consensus and unfortunately the debate was based more on emotions and ideology than real facts. Publishers are building their relationship with readers based on trust and this is a paramount element of our relationship. Publishers should be able to reach to their readers.
With the adopted report media pluralism and access to news sources is coming under threat. The majority of the media outlets online are free for the user as they are based on advertising. Restricting publishers’ possibility to serve data-driven ads and dictate business models to the industry will really affect today’s online press, which is already under enormous financial pressure.
EPC is also concerned about the role of new gate-keepers that would be able to come between them and their readers. We are seriously wondering whether the adopted report will protect citizens’ confidentiality better or drive them to use even more privacy intrusive techniques in order to have access to their favourite content and services.
We are looking forward to the next step of the legislative file, the trialogue negotiations, where we hope that the EU institutions will work with the news industry to ensure that the forthcoming regulation provides flexibility of implementation to encourage a direct relationship between each internet user and the trusted news organisations that they visit, not further undermine it.