Lobbyists Swamp MEPs Over ‘Netflix Bill’


By Catherine Stupp

(EurActiv) — MEPs handling the controversial bill that could impose a 20% quota of European works on Netflix will meet up to 40 lobbyists at once over three meetings, after being swamped with requests.

German MEPs Petra Kammerevert (S&D) and Sabine Verheyen (EPP) were only named co-rapporteurs on the audiovisual media services directive this week.

“We have so many requests from the different sides,” Verheyen said.

One lobbyist said the large group sessions will be “like a German sauna with everyone in together”.

The two German MEPs sent out an email this morning to lobbyists asking them to register for meetings on 23 June, 28 June and 29 June to present their positions. The group sessions are supposed to help the MEPs get to meet as many lobbyists as possible.

“Since the Commission has published the proposal both of our offices get several meeting requests on this matter per day,” Verheyen and Kammerevert wrote in the email to lobbyists.

The Commission proposed changes to the 2009 audiovisual law on 25 May that extend rules that currently apply to broadcasters to online services and video on demand platforms like Netflix.

Verheyen told EurActiv.com she and Kammerevert scheduled the group meetings to “have a more balanced approach”.

The co-rapporteurs are moving fast before a Culture Committee (CULT) vote on the file expected on 13 October.

“Nobody knows what will happen with the British presidency in the second half of next year. It’s our aim to get it ready in the second half of 2017 so we can start trialogues,” Verheyen said.

“There’s no reason to debate months and years,” she added.

Some lobbyists told EurActiv the meetings were scheduled too quickly and they will not have enough time to prepare position papers by the end of the month.

Verheyen and Kammerevert wrote in their email this morning that they expect around 40 lobbyists to attend each meeting. They asked for organisations to send only one lobbyist to the meetings and requested they bring position papers to be distributed to the entire room.

Two of the meetings are scheduled to last two hours and one will last three hours. The MEPs’ wrote in their email that they will “strictly limit the speaking time for every participant in these meetings to a few minutes”.

Several lobbyists who plan to attend one of the group sessions said the setup is not a good replacement for one-on-one meetings with MEPs since they would not be able to answer questions with only a few minutes to speak.

Some said they might feel less comfortable speaking in front of such a large group of lobbyists, including many who disagree.

Verheyen and Kammerevert requested to be co-rapporteurs on the audiovisual bill. They represent the two largest political groups in parliament, which could make it easier for them to get a majority of MEPs to support their draft bill.

“I don’t think we’re far away from each other in the fundamental points,” Verheyen said.

“We won’t have a just German approach, which others are fearing. We’re long enough in the business to know that with a national approach you won’t get a majority in this house,” she added.

Kammerevert is a board member of German public broadcaster WDR. Verheyen is a substitute member of WDR’s board. Both of their constituencies are in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Verheyen said some of the main points in the directive are rules on advertising. The Commission proposed changing the law to allow a daily limit of TV advertising, instead of the current hourly limit.

In a 2013 debate, Kammerevert stressed that “findability” of media should be a major point in the directive. Platforms and TV manufacturers could be “door guards that decide what content reach and are found by the public and what aren’t.” Internet companies will be alarmed by findability measures, which could mean certain media like European films are given priority and made easier to find in app stores or on demand platforms.

In addition to a 20% quota for European media, the Commission’s proposal said EU countries could require broadcasters and on demand platforms to put additional money into producing new European films and TV shows.


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