EPRA convenes in Istanbul for 20th meeting

posted on 17 October, 2004   (public)

Istanbul was the location of the 20th EPRA meeting on the 14 and 15 of October 2004.

128 participants from 39 countries attended the meeting, which was hosted by the Radio and Television Supreme Council. Forty-five regulatory authorities were represented and were joined by the permanent observers from the Council of Europe, the European Audiovisual Observatory and the European Commission. Representatives from Azerbaijan and Croatia participated for the first time as observers.

The first plenary session was dedicated to 'The Commission's Interpretative Communication on Advertising' from the perspectives of regulators. The session started with four presentations from the (French-speaking) Belgian, German, Latvian and Turkish authorities on remaining uncertainties and concrete problems of application in their respective countries. The Commission's Communication has been received with very varying degrees of enthusiasm among regulators. However, common issues of concern could be identified, such as the operability of the TVWF Directive to define surreptitious advertising, the new rules allowing minispots during football games, whether virtual sponsoring is included or not in the amount of advertising time and some forms of split-screen and virtual advertising.

'The Control of Programmes inciting to racial hatred' was the theme of working group 1. The first video example dealt with non-EU satellite channels, which are under French jurisdiction and broadcast blatant examples of hate speech and anti-Semitism. The complex issues of jurisdiction and control of non-EU satellite channels were at the centre of the debate. The second example presented the case of a programme inciting hatred, which was broadcast in a particularly sensitive environment, i.e. Bosnia-Herzegovina, a country still suffering from the aftermath of a recent war and characterised by a multi-ethnic population, and how the local regulator dealt with the case. It was emphasised that an efficient supervision of hate speech broadcasts could only be guaranteed through a strong co-operation between regulatory authorities in Europe. The first step would be the implementation of a centralised database of all TV channels which were granted a licence by European regulators.

The second workshop dealt with 'Media and Disability: access and representation'. The first two presentations provided an overview of new developments and approaches to the issue of access to media services for people with disabilities in the context of broadcasting in the UK and Ireland. The Irish experience outlined the comprehensive consultation process involving all stakeholders, which ensured the success of the policy. The British Ofcom showed the benefits of a framework/costs model (outlining an appropriate time frame and assessing a reasonable level of resource allocation for broadcasters), and a non technology-neutral approach. The third presentation dealt with Codes of Practice in relation to Disability and its Portrayal in the Broadcasting Media, with one example from Malta. This case reflected the very positive effects of the Maltese Code of practice on the misrepresentation of disabled people on TV.

On the second day, representatives from the European Commission and the Council of Europe reported on their recent activities. The rest of the day was dedicated to a plenary discussion on media concentration. The first presentation focused on new developments regarding media concentration in the 25 EU countries on the basis of a report recently produced for the European Parliament. The second looked at the regulatory challenges of supranational concentration and the possible remedies that can be used to prevent it. During the discussion, concern was expressed regarding countries with no media ownership regulations where pluralism might be endangered. It was also emphasised that detailed media ownership regulations do not automatically ensure a high level of pluralism and that additional mechanisms such as journalist codes of conduct, editorial statutes and licensing requirements are useful instruments to that purpose.

The issue of the future location of the EPRA Secretariat was also on the agenda, as the current host, the European Institute for the Media (EIM), will close its offices in Düsseldorf at the end of the year. The Executive Board was entrusted with opening negotiations with interested parties.

The next meeting of the EPRA is scheduled for 12-13 May 2005 in Sarajevo at the invitation of the Communication Regulatory Agency (RAK).