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Newsletter 4 skickades den 27 december 2022.
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The European Commission‘s proposal for a Regulation on political advertising continues to raise concerns in the advertising ecosystem. The proposal’s objective is to support the functioning of the single market for advertising services, ensure the source and purpose of advertising is known and combat disinformation and interference in democracy in the EU. However, the definition of political advertising in Article 2 leaves much room for interpretation, and it would very likely cover commercial issue-based advertising.
The Advertising Information Group, a Brussels-based advertising and media industry network, published on 9 December an Op-Ed calling to make a clear distinction between ads that try to affect or manipulate political outcomes and those that promote certain issues to essentially build a brand.
The parliamentary committees CULT and AFCO have adopted last month their respective opinions on the proposal. They recommend the insertion of wording which would unequivocally put commercial issue-based advertising within scope of the Regulation. JURI has published its opinion on 5 December. In particular, this committee is asking to exclude editorial content from political advertising by definition, and a scope limited to digital political advertising services. Furthermore, the regulation should apply only to EU and national elections, therefore excluding regional and local ones.
These opinions are meant to feed into the work of the lead committee IMCO in the preparation of the position of the European Parliament. In IMCO, the draft report tabled by rapporteur Gozi in June proposed a more restrictive definition, taking into account the notion of intention to influence a voter’s behaviours or a legislative process. However, the draft amendments and the latest declaration of the rapporteur cast a doubt over whether he will hold on to this stance. The vote in the IMCO Committee is expected on 23-24 January 2023.
In the Council of the EU representing the EU Member States, the General Approach adopted on 13 December includes new wording clarifying that “political advertising” does not extend beyond messages “liable and designed” to influence the outcome of an election, referendum, voting behaviour or legislative process. The existence of a “clear and substantial link” between the message and its influence potential would be required for the message to qualify as political advertising. Such wording makes it less likely for the Regulation to encroach over purely commercial advertising. However, a point of attention remains that the Council states, in the Recitals, that some issue-based advertising may fall under the definition of political advertising.
Before the Council enters negotiations with the Parliament, the latter will finalise its report, which adoption is expected on 23 or 24 January 2023.