ENPA is an international non-profit association working on a number of areas of European policy and legislation which are essential for the effective day-to-day running of operations of local, regional and national newspapers.
One of our questions to policymakers is whether a new piece of legislation is needed in order to secure and enhance competitiveness of our sector. Unnecessary advertising restrictions and EU attempts to regulate media pluralism are some examples of legislation that are not in line with the objective of a competitive publishing industry in the different European countries.
ENPA members are invited to login for more detailed information on our issues, along with positions and internal documents.
Newspapers and news media across Europe continue to fulfil their essential democratic role in questioning and holding up to account those in positions of power. European principles and commitments in the field of freedom of expression, free flow of information and freedom of the press, including national constitutions and the Charter of Fundamental Rights (Article 11), are vital for a free and independent press sector. However, on-going challenges to press freedom in several parts of Europe show that EU Member States do not perform equally well when it comes to protecting fundamental rights.
Freedom of expression should always be respected as a matter of priority in any initiative or legislation proposed by EU or national decision-makers, which could have a direct or indirect impact on the activities of the independent press.
Europe is home to an extremely diverse newspaper and news media sector, comprising large publishing houses and a majority of small and medium-sized enterprises. Newspapers at national, regional and local level cater for many different audiences and offer a wide range of political perspective.
The organisation and financing of the media is not an area of EU competence and should always remain the responsibility of individual Member States. Members States play an essential role in this field because they are best placed to assess adequately the market situation at national, regional and local level. Furthermore, self-regulation and press councils are aimed at preserving media freedom and pluralism and at the same time promoting the truthfulness of information. Professional standards and ethical rules also help to ensure that journalists respect certain limits whilst providing for freedom of investigation and reporting
In Europe, all cross-border cases of defamation and privacy violations are subject to the EU Regulation, Brussels I, which determines the competent court in international civil matters. At present the separate regulation, Rome II, which determines the applicable law, does not apply to the media.
Under Brussels I, newspaper publishers can be placed in the position of having to defend cases under foreign jurisdictions. The absence of a rule to determine which country’s law should apply, is an extremely serious issue for publishers when it comes to defending cases of defamation and violations of privacy in countries outside the place of editorial control. It is therefore imperative that EU Institutions give due consideration to the combined effects of both Brussels I and Rome II on the media, with regard to the freedom of expression. The current combination of “libel tourism” (forum shopping) and applicable law directly threatens editorial independence and press freedom in the various Member States. Publishing houses need to have the certainty that editorial content should comply with the law and any codes in the country where final editorial decisions are taken.
News was the first creative content available on digital platforms. Newspaper websites are often the most consulted and most visited websites in their national, regional or local markets. Publishers have invested heavily in developing new business models, in order to make the most of the opportunities provided by the Internet to engage with a growing audience demanding high quality, text-based and interactive news. Consumers no longer simply buy their favourite newspaper and consume news once a day. Readers today are constantly connected to newspaper content thanks to the investments that publishers have made in providing news and information on websites, via applications for tablets and innovative services for smart phones and mobile devices, as well as offering access to newspaper archives online.
The newspaper and news media publishing sector is therefore playing an active part in the EU Digital Agenda and in promoting open debate on all platforms. Publishers need to be able to rely on an appropriate legal framework and fair competition in the digital environment, to enable them to develop further their new business models, including paid-for-offers and other quality services for consumers.
Partnerships with the ICT Sector
The successful development of the news media sector in the digital environment depends on establishing mutually beneficial partnerships with other players in the Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) sector. Publishers of newspapers and news media call on technology platforms, internet service providers and telecom operators to ensure fair competition in the digital market, including non-discrimination among different content providers and various services offered via the internet. Furthermore, EU institutions should remain vigilant to ensure that publishers can offer their content on tablets and other mobile devices, without any restrictive conditions.
Copyright protection is essential to the continued investment of publishers in providing a wide range of authoritative press content on both print and digital formats. Effective enforcement of copyright is particularly important at a time when newspaper content is increasingly used by third parties, such as commercial companies and news aggregators, without prior authorisation or remuneration. There is an urgent need, therefore, to ensure that the investments of publishers in providing professional press content for consumers is not jeopardised by third parties misappropriating news media content.
Without effective copyright protection and enforcement, publishers would not be able to continue developing new business models for the digital environment. In the light of discussions on whether Europe needs to review its copyright framework, EU decision makers should ensure that the future of news media publishing is not undermined by new exceptions to copyright, or by a lower level of protection of publishers’ rights.
On average 50% of the revenues of print newspapers come from advertising, and the rest from copy sales. The digital press is almost completely financed by advertising, making the industry very sensitive to changes in advertising regulation. It is therefore crucial that any future legislative initiatives do not inadvertently create obstacles to traditional advertising or any new forms of advertising since this would have a detrimental effect on the independent press sector.
ENPA opposes the introduction of any advertising restrictions, including in the form of mandatory information requirements. Any imposed restrictions could lead to a shift of advertisements from news media to other commercial means, which in turn would threaten the revenues of many print and digital newspapers across Europe. Loss of advertising revenue would inevitably result in less investments in editorial content. Without a free advertising market, the diversity of media and their independence could be endangered thus weakening one of the fundamental pillars of democratic societies. ENPA furthermore stresses the need to preserve freedom of commercial expression.
The issue of data protection has an important impact on some of the activities of newspaper publishing industry. ENPA is therefore closely following the European Commission proposal for a General Data Protection Regulation, launched in January 2012. As well as affecting editorial press freedom, the data protection regulation also has an impact on press distribution and the future development of the digital press, which is vital to the economic sustainability of the independent press sector across Europe. Furthermore, given the broad scope for delegated acts in the Commission proposal, the framework for data protection in the future remains to a large extent uncertain and unpredictable for European companies.
ENPA has therefore called on the European Parliament and Council take the following priority issues into account in the ongoing debate on the Commission proposal: (i) the need to safeguard press distribution, in order to preserve readership and media pluralism; (ii) the need to preserve editorial press freedom, to ensure a free and independent press; and (iii) the need to secure the future development of the digital press, by avoiding unnecessary bureaucratic burdens and ensuring a positive online user experience.
The Remit of Public Service Broadcasters
The co-existence of public service broadcasters and independent news media should contribute to media pluralism, as well as editorial competition in terms of content quality and diversity. However, in recent years Public Service Broadcasters (PSBs) have greatly expanded their online activities, resulting in serious distortions of the digital market. Today’s media landscape has been saturated with different offers from PSBs including mobile news and smartphone applications (“apps”), tablet and e-reader services and other online offers which have resulted in confusion about the remit of PSBs.
Public money should not be used to provide free news services that jeopardise the investments of independent news media and hold back the development of financially sustainable business models. ENPA therefore calls for the remit of broadcasters benefiting from state aid to be strictly enforced.
VAT – Value-added Tax applied to the press
The EU Sixth VAT Directive provides Member States with option to apply reduced rates to certain goods and services, including printed newspapers. A majority of EU Member States apply less than 10% VAT rate on printed newspapers, while others apply a super-reduced VAT rate of below 5% or a zero rate.
The vital role of newspapers in democratic society should be fully taken into account in the current review of the EU VAT System. ENPA calls on EU and national legislators to provide for zero or the lowest possible VAT rates for the newspapers on all formats. In order to update legislation to changes in technology and media consumption, the VAT rates for digital press should be aligned to the existing VAT rates for printed press. This would ease the access of citizens to professional news content and promote the quality of information and public debate in the digital environment.
Newspapers and news media have a fundamental role to play in promoting the development of media literate and socially engaged citizens, who have an understanding of local, national and global events. Publishers of newspapers and news media all across Europe have been active for many years in specially developed “Newspaper in Education” programmes at national level. In fact, programmes for the formation of media literate citizens are incomplete without news media components.
Newspapers on both print and digital formats should therefore be an essential part of any educational programme that focuses on the ability of citizens to inform themselves and to assess content critically. The news media sector helps to equip citizens of all ages with the information they need to address the “grand challenges” facing society today.
As a sector which makes use of paper, the newspaper industry has placed sustainability issues high on the agenda. Resource efficiency, climate change and the management of raw materials are important challenges for all industries. Publishing houses are playing their part by bringing improvements within the news media sector.
The newspaper industry is a stakeholder in the paper and wood sectors, which contribute almost 2% of GDP in Europe. Today, paper is one of the best managed raw materials, boasting high recovery and recycling rates and priority is given to the prevention of waste, including its environmental impact during the manufacture of paper and board products, through collection and recycling of paper. ENPA requests the European Institutions to recognise the important role that voluntary commitments on recycled paper make in achieving public policy objectives and to refrain from introducing new legal requirements.
The press in Europe plays an essential role in reporting about sport events and ensuring that citizens receive professional and diverse editorial content on all platforms, both print and digital. Journalists and publishers must therefore be able to carry out their work without obstacles as regards access to sports events or undue restrictions on the terms and conditions for reporting about these events. It is vital for the development of an appropriate sports policy in Europe that all European citizens should have the possibility to be informed about sport events and to access such information from a wide variety of sources.