Speech by Wout van Wijk during the Council of Europe’s Steering Committee on Media and Information Society (CDMSI) meeting
1st December 2016
My name is Wout van Wijk and I am Executive Director at News Media Europe.
My members, staff and I represent the progressive news media industry in Europe – over 2200 titles of newspapers, radio, tv and internet. While we focus on things like copyright, AVMSD, VAT on digital content, rules on advertising and so forth, protecting media freedom and promoting media pluralism underpins everything we do and stand for.
I don’t need to explain to anyone here that the patterns of news media consumption are shifting. The rise of new technologies, new platforms and media sources have all contributed to this.
News publishers are very much aware that this new reality requires adaptation of the sector. Adaptation to ensure that the consumer of news is able to choose how he or she consumes the news, and also adaptation of the business models that publishers deploy to monetize their content.
The income stream of advertising is increasingly under pressure as large internet services seem attractive alternatives to advertisers. Advertising revenues for print media have been declining for years now. The good news is that advertising revenues online have been increasing. However, a US study shows that 85% of all online advertising revenues end up in the pockets of Facebook and Google and my colleagues in The Netherlands tell me that only 10% of the total growth of online advertising ends up with publishers.
All in all, our data suggests that the rate at which the advertising revenues for print media decline, is roughly a factor 3.5 bigger than the increase of online advertising revenue. In other words,
So there’s a real incentive to innovate to keep news products relevant and available, to attract readers and advertisers, and to keep the industry sustainable. This requires investments.
In order to make investments, attract resources to do so, etc, one needs a stable and predictable environment.
Thereto, I’d like to briefly highlight three issues:
Today the European Commission has put forward its proposal to ensure that journalistic content online can enjoy the same reduced tax rates as print. This is a great step forward which will incentivise consumers of news products as well as the creators.
- A neighbouring right for publishers
Perhaps more controversial, is the idea of a neighbouring right for press publishers. While heavily contested by the tech industry, such a right would recognise publishers as rightsholders, and give them the legal means to protect their product against unlawful use. Moreover, it would provide them with the necessary bargaining power vis-a-vis the internet platforms who build part of their business on publishers’ product and with whom we are competing for advertising revenue.
On advertising, we strongly believe that any further restrictions to advertising would make it even more difficult to attract income through selling advertising spots. This doesn’t mean that the sector favors a wild-west in terms of advertising. It has a long standing tradition of self regulation, upholding the highest standards. This model has proven to work well.
While each of these issues are not going to turn around our sector by themselves, they help guaranteeing a sustainable future for the industry. I’d again like to stress the need for legal certainty which would facilitate the investments needed to maintain the sustainability of quality news content, and with that a pluralistic media landscape.
And by the way, this legal certainty doesn’t only help the news media industry – it also helps internet platforms, startups and anyone else who wants to build new business based on news media content in understanding where they stand.
The role of the news media industry in the digital age is crucial, especially in a converged media environment where publishers are the ones “empowering the truth” and boosting independent journalism. In an age where we see media pluralism and independence under attack in Europe and beyond, good and independent journalism is crucial to foster public debate and promote democratic values.
In closing, I’d like to point everyone to the website empowerdemocracy.eu – an initiative of four european associations, EMMA, ENPA, EPC and NME.