Friday, December 07, 2007

The convergent European publisher not born yet!

Yesterday Viviane Reding, Member of the European Commission responsible for Information Society and Media, addressed the Publishers’ Forum in Brussels (Belgium): On the convergent publisher: print media in the broadband economy. Her basic message of the presentation was a brut one: The convergent European publisher has not been born yet! In the online content and services markets, most European media companies have not yet fully adapted their business models to leap-frog both national borders and traditional sectoral boundaries. On the one hand, I can understand that the uncertainties associated with the so-called 'digital paradigm shift' block many online offerings. On the other hand, I strongly believe that this paradigm shift offers an opportunity for the publishing sector and other content sectors to increase their revenues, for instance by means of cross-fertilisation between their on-line and off-line offerings.

She presented her list of activities for the coming year in the field of publishing :
- telecom and copyright;
- media literacy;
- content online;
- rights of journalists.

In the field of telecom she is very active. Last week she presented a new regulatory framework, which is important for the written press, the book publishers and the database industry. It will ensure that those offering services on the web or wireless benefit from an open and competitive market for electronic network services. For the consumer, there will be a wider broadband access. Lower prices mean more eyeballs online and this will be positive for print online and databases. Better broadband offers also mean more user generated content, more uploading and downloading, and therefore more competition on the online content market. Press web sites rank among the most popular on the net just after the peer-to-peer ones.

With the telecom package, she wants to support competitiveness, innovation and creativity. It is the first time that an electronic communications package includes specific requirements for network operators and users to respect copyright law. People don't buy technology, they acquire contents and services. The Universal Service Directive says that Member States shall ensure that subscribers to electronic communications services or networks are clearly informed in advance of their obligations to respect copyright and related rights and of the most common acts of infringements and their legal consequences. This is a concrete legal endorsement of the role of copyright and I hope it will send a signal across the whole industry at a critical time.

Copyright is a cornerstone of the information and knowledge based society. This is why I introduced in the new framework an appropriate balance between ownership and access. But, law cannot achieve everything alone. As you know, I am an enthusiastic follower of self and co regulation to prevent or to supplement legal provisions. I also believe that new technologies can support rights management and enforcement. Therefore, I am following the Automated Content Access Protocol (ACAP) project – as one of many projects to ensure respect of copyright - with high interest and I very much hope that companies offering search engines will cooperate with ACAP. Obviously, ACAP has to work on a fully open and non-discriminatory basis.

In the field of media literacy, the Commission will adopt in the next few weeks a Communication on "media literacy in the digital environment", where we notably deal with media literacy for online. This includes raising awareness about how search engines work and empowering users with tools to critically assess online content.
In more general terms, the Communication will address questions such as: How do the media work in the digital world? Who are the new players in the media economy? What are the benefits that new media offers? What are the dangers new media may cause? This issue will be a priority for the Slovenian Presidency.

In the field of content online, the Commission intends to play an important role as catalyst to promote win-win situations for content providers, creators, transmission and access companies, technology providers and users. The next Communication on Creative Content Online in the Single Market is going to help these win-win situations develop. With the Creative Content Online initiative, I am not imposing a model upon the market players, but starting a process aimed at facilitating business negotiations and at improving legal certainty. In this process, I intend to work closely with the main players, including the print industry and the journalists.

The Commissioner also went into the rights of journalists. As a former journalist herself, she wanted to use this appropriate opportunity to remind Member States and employers of their obligations to protect the work of journalists, notably the right not to reveal their sources – unless this results from the penal law – and the right to exert their work without unnecessary restrictions. In this context, I would like to mention that the introduction in the new "Audiovisual Media Services without frontiers" Directive of a new right to short extracts for the purpose of news coverage, which includes a right to access events.

Blog Posting Number: 943

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