27 May 2008
Europe’s leading media companies are warning the European Commission against proposing advertising restrictions that, if adopted, could threaten the economic viability of the press, audiovisual and online media.
EPC Members, representing publishers and broadcasters, fear that DG Environment is set to propose state-imposed format labeling for car advertising in printed media in line with the European Parliament report by Chris Davies, MEP, published at the end of 2007 that called for 20% of car adverts to be dedicated to environmental warnings. The proposal could go yet further and extend mandatory information requirements to television and radio as part of the Communication for the Revision of the Directive relating to the availability of consumer information on fuel economy and CO2 emissions in respect of the marketing of new passenger cars.
Media companies and advertisers will have their last public opportunity to voice their concerns to the Commission at a session dedicated to this issue during “Green Week” on 5 June in Brussels before a draft proposal goes before the College of Commissioners in the autumn.
European Publishers Council (EPC) Chairman Francisco Pinto Balsemão said: “A state-imposed mandate on car advertising would pose a major threat to free competition and journalism. Advertising is vital to maintaining a vibrant, independent and diverse media landscape in Europe and car advertising accounts for up to 20% of advertising revenues. The media – through articles and TV documentaries, contributes more than anything else to inform and educate citizens about climate change and what citizens can do to fight it. Environmental policy can only succeed in a democratic society – and the free media are part of that democratic process. Imposing the kind of restrictions that are under discussion would simply be counter-productive. An independent, free media cannot survive to inform and educate if it is not adequately funded.”
The EPC notes that in any case, there is growing consumer demand for this information. With rising fuel prices and congestion charge zones,there is growing demand for low-emission, fuel- efficient cars. More and more cars are produced and marketed on this basis so there is no need for the regulators to step in. Furthermore there are regular features in newspapers and magazines about the environment and serious coverage of climate change and aspects of environmental policy across Europe’s television and radio channels.
EPC Executive Director Angela Mills Wade said: “if, as we believe,prescriptive legislation leads to less car advertising in the press or on television, the regulators will not meet their objectives of promoting a certain type of information to consumers; yet the media meanwhile will suffer unjustifiably by losing vital advertising revenues. Commercial advertising should never be hi-jacked by the regulators to impart specific technical information which they want to distribute in neat formulaic ways. Quite simply it doesn’t work and do so is an abuse of freedom of commercial speech.”
For further information, please contact Angela Mills Wade on Tel: +44 1865 310 732 or Heidi Lambert on Tel: +44 1245 476 265.