“We are faced with a tsunami of competition” was the premise of the EU Media Policy conference organised in Brussels on 3 December 2019. Organised by associations representing European radios, newspapers, commercial television and public broadcasters, the event sought to stimulate discussion between the media sector and the brand-new European Commission.
The keynote speech was given by Věra Jourová, European Commissioner and Vice-President for Values and Transparency. Ms Jourová acknowledged the decreasing advertising revenues of traditional media channels and the need to support free and independent journalism. Her team is currently preparing a democracy action plan report on the 2019 European Parliament elections, including proposals to ensure clearer rules regarding political advertising. In the first half of next year, the effectiveness of the Code of Practice on Online Disinformation – of which EACA is one of the signatories – will also be analysed.
Echoed by all the industry speakers in the event, there was a call for a better level playing field and fair competition with online platforms, including better access to data to both other companies and researchers. Unfortunately, the European Commission could not provide a lot of comments on the Digital Services Act and other upcoming legislative work. A few weeks ago in his parliamentary hearing, the new Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton called for an action plan for the media and the audiovisual sector. Anna Herold, Head of Unit for Audiovisual and Media Services Policy, remarked that the exact contents of the plan are not yet known but perhaps it could address issues that are not covered by the Digital Services Act or by current competition law.
The final panel of the day ´Fair Competition in Digital Markets´ addressed imbalances between platforms and traditional media. The Platform-to-Business (“P2B”) regulation was a main discussion point. Described as the first step, panellists agreed that more needs to be done in this area. Wenzel Bulst, Deputy Head of Unit for Antitrust: Media at the European Commission, remarked that this was an interesting phase for the P2B and that guidelines on further co-operation could be issued by the Commission.
EACA would like to congratulate all the organisers of the conference and the speakers for their work and bringing attention to the opportunities and challenges facing the media sector. We look forward to participating in these debates with the industry and decision-makers during the new five-year mandate of the European Commission.