Policy and competition issues currently under debate in Brussels and Strasbourg will help to define the operating conditions for publishing houses all across Europe. Decisions taken during the next five years will shape the working environment for the independent press sector for decades to come.
Advertising is an essential source of revenue for news media, making a vital contribution to the independence and pluralism of the press sector. EU institutions should avoid the introduction of any bans, restrictions or mandatory information requirements on the advertising of legally available products, which would make advertising in newspapers less attractive, resulting in a real threat to the financing of quality press content.
Newspapers and public service broadcasters (PSBs) can both thrive and contribute to promoting democracy and media diversity, but only if there is effective enforcement of the state aid and competition rules. In recent years, PSBs have greatly expanded their online activities to make press-alike offers, resulting in serious distortions of the digital market. The public service remit of PSBs must be clearly defined and their online activities should be subject to a public value test and a sectorial impact assessment through independent bodies.
A majority of Member States apply reduced VAT rates to printed press and this makes a sustainable contribution to an independent press sector and wider public policy objectives. However, the current VAT regime penalises digital press and constitutes a serious barrier to the creation of jobs and growth for the future. The EU should come forward urgently with a proposal to provide Member States with the possibility of applying zero, super-reduced and reduced VAT rates for digital press, while maintaining the existing rates for printed press.
Technology platforms and search engines have an enormous impact on which press content is visible and accessible to citizens on the Internet. Fair competition and equal search are indispensable conditions for the proper functioning of the digital ecosystem, to the benefit of all users and consumers. Furthermore, the news media sector strongly advocates net neutrality. Net neutrality guarantees the same quality of service and the same possibility to reach digital users for all content, applications and service providers, regardless of a company's financial capacity.