I am pleased to welcome authoritative representatives of an industry that is strategic for the European economy and culture. You are at the heart of a key sector as cultural and creative industries account for 9% of GDP and 12 million jobs at the EU level.
A European framework of rules to support the competitiveness of the EU audio-visual industry
Your importance goes far beyond the economic aspects. You play an essential role in defending our cultural heritage, European identity and the freedom to inform us properly.
Thank you for your participation. I am also grateful to Commissioner Gabriel for her presence and the excellent work she is doing.
I wanted this debate to discuss what has been accomplished, what remains to be done to support your competitiveness and ensure that citizens are properly and fully informed.
Since the late 1990s, digital technology and its applications have become an integral part of our daily lives. As with previous technological and industrial revolutions, the way of producing, providing services, information, working and consuming is changing. The audio-visual sector is undoubtedly one of the sectors most affected by this revolution.
As with the advent of steam power, electricity or telecommunications, such a radical transformation needs rules; without which we risk a jungle where the law of the strongest applies.
In our liberal democracies, freedom and responsibility must go hand in hand.
Until now, this has not always been the case. Not only because of the very rapid development of digital applications, but also because of a mistaken ideological conception that sees any regulatory intervention as a brake on development. It would be as if, in order not to slow down the spread of cars at the beginning of the last century, we had refused to introduce a highway code with fines and traffic lights.
In fact, good rules are the basis for balanced development, where the protection of people and the market creates confidence and acts as a driver for investment, technology and growth.
Web giants cannot be above the law. They must be subject to the same rules on liability for content, advertising, privacy, protection of intellectual property and consumers, transparency or taxation, as other companies. This is also to ensure fair competition with traditional operators. For example, platforms that act as publishers, with high advertising revenues, must also be responsible for the prevention of dissemination of child pornography, radicalisation, racial hatred, counterfeiting or clearly false news.
The new copyright rules
Moreover, it is not acceptable for web giants, who pay derisory taxes in the EU by transferring their earnings to the US or China, to be enriched at the expense of content created in Europe. Without adequate remuneration for your work, thousands of jobs and Europe’s very cultural identity are at risk.
With the agreement reached last week on the new copyright directive, the EU has demonstrated its determination to protect and enhance the priceless heritage of European culture and creativity.
It puts an end to the current digital far-west, guaranteeing fair remuneration from platforms to creators while defending authors, writers, and all artists, from musicians to playwrights, from designers to stylists.
Journalists will also be guaranteed fair compensation for their work, thus safeguarding freedom, independence and media quality. Only by rewarding professionalism can we counter the rampant phenomenon of fake news.
Protection of personal data
Giving oneself good rules also means finding the right balance between user freedom and respect for their private lives. In a market where advertising collection is increasingly linked to the use of personal data, we must avoid the misappropriation and misuse of this data.
Our data is the real value on which the fortune of large digital platforms is based. It is not acceptable that the price our citizens pay to access social media should be to give up their privacy. At present, American or Chinese platforms use our data to create value, which is then taken away from the European economy. Systems should be put in place in the EU to allow Internet users to monetise their consent to the use of their data.
The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal reminds us of the need to be vigilant to prevent abuse, but also that the EU is at the forefront of respect for privacy. On 25 May, new rules came into force that guarantee, among other things, the right to be forgotten, to be protected from spam.
Our internal market cannot function if some audio-visual operators pay taxes, while their web competitors enjoy derisory tax regimes. EU countries that offer favourable conditions to web giants to attract them to their territory, undermine the entire EU and penalise our audio-visual industry for the benefit of US or Chinese industry.
As proposed by the Parliament and the Commission, platforms should be taxed where they create value; where they collect advertising, sell data, have views and contacts, or carry out transactions.
The European Parliament wants the proceeds from taxes on web giants to become own resources, which can also be used to provide greater support for European culture and the audio-visual sector.
Promoting full and fair information in view of the European elections
The European elections must be the occasion for a debate on the Europe we want and on solutions to problems such as unemployment, security, immigration and overheating.
In an increasingly complex world, with authoritarian tendencies even on our borders, European states cannot delude themselves into thinking that they can provide truly effective responses to citizens without strong European unity.
But in order to have a Europe that is more open to the participation of its citizens, we need a democratic debate, with the progressive development of a European public opinion.
The media must play an essential role in promoting this debate and in providing correct and complete information.
The vote must not be distorted by deliberately false information, disinformation campaigns, hate speech about social issues and any other conditioning based on the use of algorithms or the indiscriminate misuse of personal data.
There is still much to be done. 99% of citizens encountered totally fake news spread by platforms. 83% of Europeans consider fake news to be a threat to democracy.
Commissioner Gabriel is doing an excellent job countering misinformation. A few months ago, the EU executive adopted a package of measures against fake news. All major platforms - Facebook, Google, Twitter and Mozilla - as well as the advertising industry, have signed up to an EU-sponsored Voluntary Self-Discipline Code.
The code includes measures such as greater transparency of political and electoral advertisements or the closure of fake accounts. If the voluntary code proves to be insufficiently effective, the option of binding rules should be on the table.
Three months ahead of the vote, today's meeting allows us to analyse the new threats and, above all, to discuss possible technical and legislative countermeasures.
We must join forces to defend the right of all European citizens, of all European voters, to vote freely and fairly.
When I was a journalist we worked on typewriters, the verification of sources and the accuracy of news were the foundations of the profession. I believe that today, more than ever, the exercise of that right and the duty to provide information, credibility and fairness, must be the pillars of your work.
I will conclude by recalling those who recently lost their lives in the line of duty as journalists: Daphne Caruana Galicia, Ján Kuciak, Adnan Khashoggi - whose companion I met today - who died for having been the watchmen of our freedom.
I would also like to mention Antonio Megalizzi, the young Italian journalist with Europe in his heart, who was brutally killed in Strasbourg, after whom we named our radio studio last week.
Finally, I would like to thank the Director-General for Communication, Jaume Duch, for the work he is doing with the "This time I’m voting" campaign, which will show you the opportunities that Parliament offers the media.