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AOP champions publishers' interests online

AOP representatives attended two crucial meetings yesterday (21 September) to represent publishers’ interests at UK and EU level, on issues regarding defamation and territoriality, and the regulation of audiovisual content online:

  1. with Diana Wallis, MEP and rapporteur for ‘defamation dossier’ Rome II
  2. and a meeting on the latest developments on the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMS - formerly called TV Without Frontiers) held by the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport

AOP Board members Bill Murray, Haymarket Publishing and Duncan Tickell, VNU Business Publications, and AOP director Alexandra White were among those attending a lunch with Diana Wallis, MEP, organised by PPA.

Wallis was invited to speak to publishers about two important pieces of legislation: Rome II and the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (formerly called TV Without Frontiers).

The defamation dossier, Rome II, is a 'roadmap' for which law should be applied in cases where two parties or issues, bring two or more national laws into conflict, said Wallis. Defamation was one of the areas that the regulation aimed to address, and was of particular interest to the press.

Wallis expressed her uneasiness at the latest decision by The European Commission to exclude defamation from the scope of Rome II following years of legal wrangling, saying: "If there are no rules, there is no legal certainty: we just have a blank space.”

The European Parliament will start debating Rome II in October, and Wallis will steer it through second reading. There are a number of options - including the untenable scenario that the law of the ‘country of destination’ could apply, which would lead to digital publishers’ content being subject to the laws of any country in which that content is accessed.

Wallis maintains that she has an open mind. However, for the media, only the ‘country of origin’, ‘country of principle destination’, or exclusion of defamation are acceptable outcomes.

She went on to clarify that the aim is to prevent forum shopping as opposed to encouraging it, and that the last thing she and the European Parliament (EP) wanted was the 'chilling' effect on the press.

Wallis also spoke about the industry’s concerns over scope of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMS, formerly called TV Without Frontiers).

Also yesterday, AOP consultant on intellectual property Andrew Yeates attended a stakeholders meeting on AVMS organised by the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, to hear the latest developments under UK lobbying.

The UK delegation has been responsive to concerns raised by AOP and other representative bodies and has submitted a comprehensive briefing note to MEPs.

AOP continues to raise concerns about the practicalities of excluding 'on demand services’ as currently defined, because of the practicalities of drawing lines between TV-regulated and non TV- regulated services as members develop more and more sophisticated mixed offerings for consumers online.

Whilst soothing noises are being made about exclusion of magazines and services whose 'primary purpose' is news - AOP still has concerns that life will get complicated for members if they wish to link their core content with content made available in a service that falls under the regulatory definition of 'television licensable service'.

The DCMS is very keen to hear about practical examples of new or planned services where the mixed nature of the content may result in mixed levels of editorial responsibility.

The European Culture Committee Council will meet on 13 November to try to agree a common position text, after which the Plenary session in the European Parliament will take place from 11 to 14 December.

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