The European Commission watered down its criticism of a German media reform following a lobbying campaign by German interests, according to documents seen by POLITICO.
The European executive body spent the past three months assessing whether Germanys state media treaty, a reform that updates rules for broadcasters, was compliant with EU law. Berlin notified the Commission in January that it was changing the law to cover “online service providers of media content,” including the Google-owned platform YouTube.
On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the Commission confirmed that the German reform was cause for concern.
“The Commission has commented that some provisions of the draft German Treaty raise some concerns in terms of compatibility with the EU legal framework, which strikes a careful balance between offering a single market for European providers and protecting media diversity,” the spokesperson said.
However, the institution downgraded the severity of its criticism following input from German interests, according to three letters and two Commission drafts seen by POLITICO.
After meetings at the highest levels of the Commission, including between heads of commissioners cabinets, the EU executive only sent nonbinding comments to Germany.
“We urge you not to send a detailed opinion and, if necessary, to pursue dialogue with the [German states] and the industry,” the Verband Privater Medien, the lobby of private TV and radios, wrote to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton on April 23, according to one of the letters seen by POLITICO.
The Commission did not publish the final version of the written comments that were sent to Germany on Monday.
Binding to nonbinding
In its review of the German law, the Commissions services originally wanted to raise concerns through a so-called “detailed opinion,” that would have required Berlin to send additional information, according to a draft dated April 22 and seen by POLITICO.
But after meetings at the highest levels of the Commission, including between heads of commissioners cabinets, the EU executive only sent nonbinding comments to Germany, according to another draft dated April 26 and the notification website.
Some of the most critical comments had also been struck out in the April 26 version of the comments. The April 22 document read: “The German authorities have failed to clearly identify the risks to media pluralism that would justify the measures in the notified draft, as well as to explain how such measures would mitigate those risks.”
Four days later, that sentence had been removed.
After the first, more critical draft, started circulating, German interests reached out to the highest levels of the EU executive, including to von der Leyen, according to the letters reviewed by POLITICO.
Last week, German states, the German audiovisual industry and German MEPs wrote to the Commission to request softer comments. They argued that criticism from Brussels would only benefit the U.S. tech platforms targeted by the new German rules.
“We urgently ask you to consider very carefully whether the internally drafted concerns should actually be taken forward in this way,” heavyweight German MEPs Sabine Verheyen from the European Peoples Party and Petra Kammerevert from the Socialist and Democrats wrote in an email to von der Leyen on April 22.
On April 23, Heike Raab, the deputy minister of the interior, sports and infrastructure of Rhineland-Palatinate sent a letter to von der Leyen and Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager to ask for the review to be watered down
“I have heard with great concern that the Commission is apparently considering questioning the relationship between commercial and media law in Europe in the context of the ongoing notification procedure for the German Media State TreRead More – Source