European press publishers call on EU policy and decision makers to uphole press freedom and support the necessary legal framework for a free, independent, pluralistic and vibrant press sector that is able to perform its important role in our democratic society.
A key element of press freedom is the possibility for citizens to be able to easily access press content. Consumers today divide their attention between a variety of platforms, from tablets and smart phones to laptops and print. Publishers need to have the flexibility to continue informing, empowering and entertaining their audiences on all these platforms. This can only be done if they are able to invest in innovative formats, new business models and quality content. This is only possible with the appropriate regulatory framework and fair competition.
Issues which go to the heart of publishing businesses face various regulatory threats, including in the fields of copyright, advertising, distribution or other areas affecting the press, like data protection. Any negative impact in such fields would reduce the ability to invest in professional editorial output and restricting diversity of media content. In particular:
Strong copyright rules are needed as they provide the fundamental framework to secure remuneration for press publishers’ investment and ensure the sustainable delivery of creative content. Digitisation has not reduced but increased the need for the protection of copyright. Therefore any new exceptions to copyright would represent a direct threat to publishers’ economic sustainability.
The EU should allow Member States extend their reduced, super reduced and zero VAT rates existing on print to the digital press in order to benefit both citizens and publishers.
Data protection rules should not hamper a free press. A strong exemption for journalistic data processing is crucial, otherwise independent journalistic work will no longer be possible. Likewise, it is vital that publishers across Europe can continue to reach new readers by using
different marketing techniques, including direct marketing for subscriptions, which allow them to adapt to national specificities.
Freedom of commercial speech is an integral part of freedom of the press which should be guaranteed. It is also essential because advertising remains a key source of revenue for the printed and the digital press. Existing self-regulatory approaches, which have proven to be effective, should be maintained and developed, rather than introducing legislative advertising restrictions.
Fair competition and transparency
Fair competition and transparency in the digital world is vital for maintaining media plurality and facilitating an informed civil society. In order to allow readers to find and access press content, non-discriminatory and fair access of publishers to all digital platforms, as well as transparent and fair search engines, are prerequisites for the development of attractive and sustainable content offers. Principles such as fair search, net neutrality and platform neutrality are key and have to be upheld, with the intervention of competition authorities where necessary. Otherwise, legislators must act in order to prevent gate-keeping or bottleneck effects that could hamper the development of content offers online.
In order to maintain a free, independent, diverse and vibrant press, European press publishers call on EU policy and decision makers to always consider and uphold press freedom when taking decisions on regulatory initiatives.
Regulatory regimes must be flexible in order to adjust quickly to market and business innovations and disruptions. In many cases, self-regulatory approaches are more appropriate than legislation in order to defend press freedom.
A sustainable press sector can be maintained by supporting a regulatory environment that encourages investment and therefore facilitates the innovation of content creation, dissemination and the development of new business models.
A robust application of competition rules as well as respect for net neutrality and fair search are of the utmost importance in order to ensure a level playing field for all stakeholders in the digital value chain.