Commission to smooth the way for publishers

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. 

On 22 September 2005, addressing the UK Presidency's Audiovisual Conference in Liverpool, Information Society Commissioner Viviane Reding  said: "I am determined to find the best possible, future-proof balance between a light burden on industry, in order to boost Europe’s competitiveness and to encourage successful cross border services on the one hand, and on the other hand the pursuit of undisputed public policy objectives, such as protection of minors or the fight against racial hatred."

The publishing industry as the Commission understands it comprises four sectors: 

  • Newspapers (37% of output)
  • Magazines and journals (32%)
  • Books (25%)
  • Directories and databases (6%)

Online media, though growing in importance, are not part of the publishing industry regulation by the Commission.

In figures, the EU publishing industry accounts for:

  • 0.5% of GDP
  • 121 billion euro of yearly output
  • 43 billion euro value-added in the EU-15 alone  
  • 750,000 jobs in 64,000 publishing and 50,000 other companies, most of which are SMEs

Commissioner Reding, being a former journalist and president of the Luxembourg Union of Journalists, has deep personal roots in the publishing industry. She was in charge of the dossier for this industry when she was Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth, Media and Sport in the Prodi Commission, and she took it with her when she became Commissioner for Information Society and the Media under Barroso. 

  • On 23 September, Commissioner Reding met the editors-in-chief of seven newspapers and of the online edition of the British Guardian  to discuss strategic challenges for the publishing industry. No media representative from the big EU countries France, Germany, Italy and Poland - all of which have their very own problems concerning print media - was present.
  • On 6 December, Commissioner Reding will present the results of the consultation at a 'Publishers summit' with the presidents of ENPAFAEPFEPEADP and EPC and senior executives from all sub-sectors of the publishing industry. 

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