The European Publishers Council (EPC) is a high level group of Chairmen and CEOs of European media corporations actively involved in multimedia markets spanning newspaper, magazine and on-line database publishers. Many EPC members also have significant interests in private television and radio.
The EPC is not a trade association, but a high level group of the most senior representatives of newspaper and magazine publishers in Europe.The group was founded in January 1991 with the express purpose of reviewing the impact of proposed European legislation on the press and then expressing an agreed opinion to the initiators of the legislation, politicians and opinion-formers. A list of our members is attached to this letter. The EPC agrees to have the content of this paper available for consultation by others on the Europa website.
The EPC is grateful for the opportunity to give its views on this important subject. The switchover to digital television in the EU over the next few years means that the media industry will be witness to significant changes and the nature of the legislation governing that industry should evolve to keep pace with those changes.
The EPC is keen to work closely with the Commission to assist in the development of legislation which is flexible and which will stand the test of time.In this paper EPC will give a specific position on issues which it feels to be particularly relevant to its membership followed by general opinions on the possible revision of the Directive as a whole.
Separation of Advertising from Content
With the development of new advertising techniques, the separation of content from advertisements by ‘optical and/or acoustic means’ is becoming increasingly difficult. For example, split screen advertising does not interrupt the programme so it is very difficult to apply this sort of separation rule to it. The EPC argues that there is a need to identify advertising but the continuance of the rule on separation will act as a brake on the further development of new advertising techniques.
New Advertising Techniques
There has been rapid progress in the development of new advertising techniques.These techniques will continue to evolve with the move to an all-digital broadcasting market. For this reason,the EPC believes that it is unnecessary and possibly even counter-productive to continue to impose a set of definitions relating to analogue broadcasting on advertising techniques which are changing rapidly. A new approach to this issue needs to be developed,possibly along the lines of a set of core principles which would be enforced through self-regulation. EPC would be keen to contribute to any further consultation on this area of TV Without Frontiers.
Advertising to Children
The EPC supports the self-regulation system relating to advertising to children on television. Codes of conduct for this form of advertising,developed at Member State level, have been seen to work effectively. The EPC sees no reason for harmonising rules in this area at community level.
Insertion of Advertising
EPC supports the move to review rules on the insertion of advertising breaks. Changes in viewing habits with the introduction of new technology will make the rules in place very difficult to follow in the near future. The EPC advocates flexibility in rules which will allow programmers to insert advertising at natural breaks rather than at twenty minute intervals. Decisions on insertion of advertising should be left to Member States.The EPC sees no reason for harmonisation given the cultural differences which exist between Member States in the area of TV advertising.
Restrictions on the Advertising of Certain Products
The EPC believes that the legislation already in place is sufficient to ensure the responsible advertising of alcohol and does not recommend any further restrictions in this area.
On the advertising of prescription medicines, the EPC believes that the Commission should use the result of the review of pharmaceutical legislation and the impact assessment produced as part of the proposed Services Directive
scheduled for later this year, as a basis for any possible liberalisation to the current restrictions in this area.
Short extracts of events
The issue of access to events, e.g. sports grounds and other venues to provide in order to produce short extracts for the purposes of TV news reporting is becoming increasingly problematic for EPC members. The EPC urges the Commission to investigate impediments to access further with a view to creating provisions in the future which would allow news services to produce TV reports on important events without being obstructed by the rightsholder to the event.The EPC supports the inclusion of the ‘90-second’ rule for TV short reports as recommended by the Council of Europe in any review of the approach to the reporting of short extracts of events.
However, the EPC would like to state that any regime for TV short reporting should not in our view be applied to the non-broadcast sector where problems of access for press journalists and photographers are in fact equally problematical. As a matter of principle the press should be granted unfettered access to events in order to provide news and information to the public without editorial restriction imposed by the event organisers. Newspapers and periodicals must be allowed to deliver that information to their readers through any medium/platform it chooses including via internet and mobile handset.
Protection of minors
The debate on this area at the recent hearings was very interesting.The EPC would support any move towards self-regulation for broadcasters in the area of protection of minors. The EPC reminds the Commission that the issue of subsidiarity and cultural differences was a central theme of debate in this area at the hearings. The EPC asks that any self-regulatory systems to ensure the protection of minors are developed locally to suit the market within which broadcasters operate.
Country Of Origin
The Country of Origin basis of the TVWF Directive is fundamental to the future development of this legislation. In order for the free flow of television programmes through the internal market, it is vital that programme makers and broadcasters are able to have the security of legal compliance in their own country and all other Member States. This continues to stimulate the internal market and helps the Commission towards its goal of the most competitive knowledge based economy in the world by 2010.
The cultural diversity which characterises the EU is particularly well illustrated in the context of the TV Without Frontiers Directive. There are different perceptions of what sort of regulation is necessary in each of the Member States. This difference will be further magnified by the inclusion of new Member States next year. It is important that the Commission continue to demonstrate its commitment to the principle of subsidiarity in any review of the Directive. This approach has proved effective thus far and any move towards greater harmonisation in areas which until now have been dealt with on a subsidiarity basis could prove harmful to programme makers and broadcasters and would not be conducive to the continuing development of the internal market.
The European Publishers Council supports any revision of the TV Without Frontiers Directive which encourages a more flexible approach to regulation and allows the broadcast industry in the EU to flourish. Self-regulation now has a proven track record in this area as an effective tool to encourage ethical behaviour whilst at the same time allowing those in the industry the freedom to operate within the parameters they have helped set. We encourage the Commission to consider this success when it reviews the legislation already in place.