NEWS MEDIA COMPANIES, REPRESENTED BY NEWS MEDIA EUROPE, ARE DEVELOPING THEIR FUTURE IN AN EXCITING AND CHALLENGING ENVIRONMENT.
Europeans are hungry for news that is reliable, professionally produced, and served on a variety of new and old platforms – mobile devices, apps, the printed press, tablets, desktops, television and radio. But publishing is also a business – with a strong and proud tradition based on creative content – which has to remain sustainable to thrive and continue.
Our companies are at the forefront of digital technologies. We innovate and invest in services, products, technology, content and journalism which drive the digital economy. And our end products remain, as they always have, essential bedrocks in any democracy.
News Media Europe has adopted positions in relation many of the European Union’s activities in order to best advance the balanced interests of our users, products and businesses.
Advertising represents a significant and vital revenue stream to sustain free and independent news media industry in Europe. Advertising is an essential element to any commercial and independent news media organisation: it continues to fund journalism, digital and printed newspapers, innovation and investment in new technologies.
Restrictions or bans on advertising constitute a very real threat to press freedom, freedom of expression and democracy itself. When advertising revenues decline, investment in editorial content is directly affected.
News Media Europe opposes the introduction of advertising restrictions or bans on products that are legally available to purchase.
News media industry – across all of the European Union – actively participates in various self-regulatory models which govern and regulate advertising, and subscribes to various advertising codes.
Self-regulation remains the most effective means of ensuring responsible advertising and consumer protection.
Revenues, quality journalism and our ability to continue to invest and innovate is affected when our content is taken without our consent and then exploited.
Copyright is needed for the production and distribution of news products and services. It is also our protection against the unlicensed use of content by third parties.
The copyright regime, underpinned by law, is crucial for news media publishers in protecting substantial investment in content production.
Copyright should finely balance the interests of rights holders and those of citizens, and we acknowledge that some exceptions and limitations are necessary. But these exceptions and limitations should not – and should never – undermine a publishers’ ability to invest in and produce their product.
Freedom of contract is a vital element in the copyright system. Parties to a copyright contract must be able to freely negotiate their way to a mutually beneficial outcome. On a daily basis, news media companies buy copyrights from journalists, photographers and other rights holders.
The best possible solution cannot be dictated by regulation or by third parties. Any European regulation on copyright contracts would stifle the market and create legal uncertainty. Indeed, better regulation can sometimes be no regulation at all.
Data protection rules affect news media companies, both online and offline. Press freedom, for example, requires an exemption for the journalistic activity. There is a danger that data protection laws could hinder journalism.
Exemption for journalistic data processing
Investigative journalistic activity, in many cases and quite clearly, requires the processing of personal data without prior consent by a data subject. News Media Europe continues to call for a clear and unequivocal exception to data protection laws in relation to journalism.
Right to be forgotten
In May 2014, a landmark decision of the European Court of Justice found that an internet search engine operator is responsible for the processing of personal information that appears on web pages published by third parties.
As a result, people can now request search engine operators to delete links to unwanted online publications. But before the removal of a link to a publication, the search engine operator needs to find a balance between the right to privacy and the right of freedom of expression.
It cannot be stated strongly enough that Europe’s news media has a very important role in conveying information and the public should be able to access information. These needs to be taken into account when deciding which articles and information should be erased from search history.
Fortunately, news media companies are not liable to delete articles from their own archives or, in other words, ‘erase history’. But strong press exceptions will continue to be required.
The European Commission adopted the EU- US Privacy Shield on 12 July 2016
This new framework is intended to protect the fundamental rights of anyone in the EU whose personal data is transferred to the United States as well as bringing legal clarity for businesses relying on transatlantic data transfers.
The “adequacy decision” was to be notified to Member States on the same day and thereby enter into force immediately. On the U.S. side, the Privacy Shield framework will be published in the Federal Register, the equivalent to the EU Official Journal. The U.S. Department of Commerce will start operating the Privacy Shield. Once companies have had an opportunity to review the framework and update their compliance, companies will be able to certify with the Commerce Department starting August 1. In parallel, the Commission will publish a short guide for citizens explaining the available remedies in case an individual considers that his personal data has been used without taking into account the data protection rules.
Background: On 2 February 2016 the European Commission and the U.S. Government reached a political agreement on a new framework for transatlantic exchanges of personal data for commercial purposes: the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield (IP/16/216 ). The Commission presented the draft decision texts on 29 February 2016. Following the opinion of the article 29 working party (data protection authorities) of 13 April and the European Parliament resolution of 26 May, the Commission finalised the adoption procedure on 12 July 2016.
The EU-U.S. Privacy Shield reflects the requirements set out by the European Court of Justice in its ruling on 6 October 2015, which declared the old Safe Harbour framework invalid.
Citizens should be able to make an informed choice themselves whether they want to use personal information to get free access to high quality news.
EU DIGITAL SINGLE MARKET STRATEGY
Members of News Media Europe welcome the EU Digital Single Market Strategy and are committed to actively support and contribute to develop regulations that can strengthen innovation, investment and competition in the digital news media market.
However, the reduced VAT on digital media has proven to be a major obstacle in providing citizens with news products across all digital platforms is VAT regulation. Digital media products are not subject to the same reduced rates as printed products.
News Media Europe welcomed the undertaking within the EU Digital Single Market Strategy to investigate how this tax inequality can be resolved, and NME was also further encouraged by President Juncker’s statement on it.
An urgent priority of News Media Europe is to actively support the work of European Commission on a proposal that enables Member States to apply the existing zero, super-reduced, or reduced VAT rates to digital products and services that are currently only applied to their printed products.
EU ACTION PLAN ON VAT
On 7 April 2016 the Commission adopted an Action Plan setting out ways to reboot the current EU VAT system to make it simpler, more fraud-proof and business-friendly. The Action Plan sets out a pathway to modernise the current EU VAT rules. This includes key principles for a future single European VAT system, an update the framework for VAT rates and plans to simplify VAT rules for e- commerce in the context of the Digital Single Market (DSM) Strategy, to name a few.
News Media Europe supports the Commission in its thinking that different VAT rates between physical and digital goods and services do not reflect today’s realities and that the current VAT rules do not take into account technological and economic developments, which is the case for electronic newspapers, which cannot today benefit from reduced rates available for physical publications. Furthermore, news media publishers in Europe support the principle of subsidiarity, which will allow EU Member States to implement their own VAT rate policy.
NEWSPRINT AND SUSTAINABILITY
Printed newspapers continue to remain an essential contributor to an informed society. Paper is one of the best-managed raw materials. Paper is a sustainable product.
A general discussion took place around membership of the Newsprint Task Force. Given that NME is currently the only European press publishers representation which has a dedicated working group on newsprint and environmental issues, it is very important that this group stays focused on the subjects and has a full representation from as many NME members as possible. Estonia, Finland, Ireland and Spain are currently not represented in the group.
Newsprint Tasks Force comprises industry experts from newsprint side of business as well as sustainability specialists from around Europe, and focuses on two main areas: The power of the print and the state of newsprint market.
News Media Europe monitors and engages with the EU Forest Strategy, which focuses on managing forests sustainably, promoting efficient use of raw materials and boosting the competitiveness of the forest-related industries to create growth and jobs.
The revision process of the EU Ecolabel criteria for Printed Products as well as the revision of EU Timber Regulation, both currently on the EU’s agenda, are some of the strategic issues that News Media Europe is engaging with. Both revision processes could have serious consequences for the news media sector in the future.
PUBLIC SERVICE BROADCASTERS
Across the European Union, public service broadcasters – funded by public money and/or the beneficiaries of other benefits by member states – develop services that directly compete with commercial services offered by the private media sector. Public sector also competes for audiences and advertising revenue. It creates market distortion which needs addressing.
Uncontrolled expansion of online services of public service broadcasters poses significant business challenges to media pluralism in the European Union.
A strong public value test is necessary as a first step toward a level playing field between public and private media. A public value test should include a thorough and proper market impact assessment of public service broadcastings’ activities.
It should, of course, take into account any benefits to society, but also the true market impact of public service broadcasters’ activities.
Any activities of public service broadcasters should only be publicly funded if the balance between public value and the wider news market is proven appropriate.