DG Information Society has begun a consultation to define its policies to boost the competitiveness of the European print industry.
Media pluralism: As the print industry, other than radio and television, is not subject to licensing schemes requiring impartiality, it makes an important contribution to the diversity of published opinions. The high number of small and medium enterprises in the sector should be upheld. In some countries, however, media concentration has posed a threat to pluralism, the most outstanding example being Italy, where media power is not only more concentrated than in any other EU country, but it also is in the hands of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Migration to electronic media and convergence: As more and more people in the EU move towards obtaining their information from the internet, the challenge for the media industry is to develop sustainable business models for the online world.
DG Information Society encourages the industry to establish business models in which content is paid for. So far, only a few such models exist, and where they do exist, their acceptance by consumers is not very high.
One problem for such business models is the competition from operators using information in the public domain, from licensed media such as national radio and TV stations and from other business models which do not charge users for content. Some of these business models – such as online advertising – are being taken up by the publishing industry, but in many cases they will yield lucrative revenues only in the future.
Out of the present revenue made from online content worldwide, the largest proportion is made in the US. Even when EU citizens look for EU-produced content, they use search engines rather than using information portals. All of the most commonly used search engines – such as Google, Yahoo!, MSN search and Altavista – are based in the US, and the money they make from context-sensitive ads is the most sizeable revenue made on the internet. France hopes to attack the US-based search engines with its government-funded ‘Quaero‘ search engine project.
DG Information Society also thinks it can boost the industry through stronger protection for intellectual property rights and by establishing technological solutions to protect content from being freely distributed, namely digital rights management. Internet analysts doubt the effectiveness of such measures.