JOINT CALL FROM EUROPEAN COMMERCIAL BROADCASTERS & PUBLISHERS FOR FAIR PLAY IN THE MEDIA MARKET

Date

03 Dec 2008

Sections

InfoSociety

Brussels, 3 December 2008 – Commercial broadcasters and publishers from across Europe have joined forces in advance of tomorrow’s crucial meeting on the future of broadcasting between the European Commission and Member States to warn against any further dilution of European rules for state aid to public broadcasters. The European Commission presented its Communication on the 2001 Broadcasting Communication on 4 November 2008 and opened a public consultation asking for industry input until 15 January 2009. On Friday (5 December 2008) the Commission’s services of the Directorate General Competition will meet with Member States to discuss the text, due for adoption next year. The text will form the basis for application of state aid rules throughout Europe.
The Communication is of key importance for the commercial broadcasting and print
industries, as it will set a legal framework for the use of state aid in the digital media
world, at a time when discussions about the appropriate scale of state intervention in
media markets are taking place in most EU Member States.
It is against this background that the Association of Commercial Television in Europe
(ACT) and the European Publishers’ Council (EPC), have decided to join forces on this crucial issue. The ACT represents the interests of the commercial TV sector throughout Europe and the EPC is a group of European media corporations actively involved in multimedia markets spanning newspaper, magazine and online database publishers as well as in many cases commercial TV and radio.

Ross Biggam, Director General of the ACT, commented: “The Communication is far
from perfect, but it contains some helpful elements such as the provisions for an
effective ex-ante scrutiny for new ventures involving public money. This already exists in the UK and will shortly be introduced in Germany. However, all European media
businesses need safeguards against unfair competition: a Dutch newspaper group or a Slovak broadcaster must have the same rights as UK and German players. The
Commission’s text has already been watered down and we call on the Commission to resist further pressure from Member States seeking to protect their state-aid to
broadcasters”.

ACT and EPC call upon the Commission and the Member States to ensure fair play and competition in the future online market place, and to guarantee that:
There is a clear definition of the public service remit in the digital world, which is
currently too vague and unquantifiable.

There must be an independent ex-ante control for planned activities of public
broadcasters in the online environment. A minimal set of conditions must be
established and control must be entrusted to a truly independent regulator with
effective control powers. Compatibility with competition law must always prevail.
 Transparency and separate accounting must be guaranteed in order to minimise
the risk of cross-subsidisation and leveraging of market power by public
broadcasters.

 Market distortions caused by dual financing must be prevented. A proper system
must be established by Member States, in order to ensure a level playing field,
where all broadcasters are equally treated and enjoy the same opportunities,
namely when competing for the same broadcasting rights.

Angela Mills Wade, Executive Director of the EPC, said: “Traditionally the
competition issues surrounding publicly funded broadcasters have only focused on their broadcasting activities. Now the same old problems of distortions of competition arising from very generous state funding; lack of clear remits about what is public service on the internet and inadequate regulation threaten the viability of the press online. Unless clear rules are established, through risk-free funding, state-aided technology and marketing power, PSBs will quickly dominate the online market as they do in TV. Such unparalleled resources, combined with privileged access to un-regulated cross-promotional opportunities and cross-subsidised access to content production and assets, will, if unchecked by clear rules at EU level, combine to create unfair competition on a vast scale with the commercial media sector”.

About the ACT:

The Association of Commercial Television in Europe (ACT) is a trade association representing the interests of the commercial broadcasting sector in Europe. The ACT has twenty eight member companies active in 34 European countries operating more than 400 free-to-air and pay-tv channels and distributing several hundred channels and new services. For further information, please see: www.acte.be

Press contact:

Ross Biggam Utta Tuttlies
Director General Head of Communications
Phone: +32-2-738 76 13 Phone: +32-2-738 76 18
GSM: +32-477-407 733 GSM: +32-495 – 24 64 67
E-mail: rb@acte.be E-mail: ut@acte.be

About the EPC:
The European Publishers’ Council (EPC) is a high level group of Chairmen and Chief Executives
of leading European media corporations whose interests span newspapers, magazines, books,
journals, online database and internet publishing as well as in many cases significant interests in
private television and radio.

Press contact:
Angela Mills Wade Heidi Lambert
Executive Director EPC PR Adviser
Phone: +44-1865-310 732 Phone: +44-(0)1245-476 265
GSM: +44 7785 327878 GSM: +447932141291
E-mail: angela.mills@wade.uk.net heidilambert@hlcltd.demon.co.uk