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Brussels, 20 September 2005

What challenges for the publishing industry in the digital age? Commission opens public consultation

A public consultation on how to enhance the competitiveness of the publishing sector in the EU’s increasingly digital economy was launched by the European Commission today. Replies to this consultation, which are expected by mid-November 2005, should help EU policy makers to better understand the needs and challenges of Europe’s publishing industry. Already this Friday, chief editors from eight European newspapers and magazines from Austria, Denmark, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Spain, and the UK will meet in Brussels at the invitation of Commissioner Reding to brainstorm how the written press in Europe is addressing the challenges and opportunities arising from online publishing, digitisation and increased competition in the advertising markets. The results of the consultation will be presented at a publishers’ summit on 6 December in Brussels.

The consultation launched today demonstrates the importance the Barroso Commission is giving to the media industry, and in particular to the written press”, commented Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding. “I expect that the outcome of this consultation will give the industry, but also the EU institutions and national governments a precise picture of the economic situation of the publishing industry and of the challenges it is currently facing.”

The starting point of the consultation launched today is a Commission study on factors affecting publishing industry competitiveness indicators. The study indicates that innovation and reform are major challenges facing the EU publishing industry. Newspapers, for example, are read by over 180 million people across Europe. But their advertising revenue is falling, their core readership is aged over 45 and younger readers appear to prefer other media. Digital technologies are fast changing the ways in which content is created, combined, distributed and consumed.

Comments by all interested parties are invited, inter alia, on: obstacles to the take-up of information and communication technologies; business models, including digital rights management systems; media ownership structures; differing regulatory traditions (licensed broadcast media, unlicensed press); and advertising rules.

The new Commission “Task Force on Media Affairs” – established under the responsibility of Commissioner Reding at the beginning of this Commission’s mandate – will analyse stakeholder responses. Set up in order to scrutinise any Commission proposal that could affect the media industry, this Task Force also contributes where necessary to ex-ante assessments of their likely impact on the economic foundations and editorial freedom of the media. It also acts as an “entry point” for small players in the media market who wish to raise specific issues with the Commission.

According to the available official statistics, the EU publishing sector contributes 0.5% of GDP across the EU 25 Member States, with a yearly output valued at €121 billion, and value-added amounting to €43 billion in the EU 15. Publishing provides nearly 750,000 jobs in 64,000 companies across the EU 25. This sector comprises a majority of small and medium-sized enterprises, although firms that employ over 250 people account for over half the sector’s total revenue.

Within publishing, newspapers are the most important sub-sector, with 36.8% of production value in 2001, followed by journals and periodicals (32%) and books 24.6%). Although the over-45s are expected to sustain newspaper publishing for some years yet, advertising, which commonly contributes over half a newspaper’s total revenue, is in slow decline overall, and in some segments, such as recruitment advertising, is fast switching to the internet.

The consultation documents can be found at:

Website of the Commission’s Task Force on Media Affairs:

+ MEMO/05/327

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