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#COVID-19 - Commercial TV plays role in bringing people together during crisis

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The Association of Commercial Television in Europe (ACT) expresses its support and solidarity to all those in the European Audiovisual sector and beyond who are mobilized to face the current crisis.

As European broadcasters, ACT is continually looking for ways to support the communities we serve; providing accurate and trusted news and information, bringing people together and delivering quality entertainment.  It is in times of deep national and international crisis that the unique qualities of broadcasting are most needed.

Our members are each taking actions to support their own national audiences, including prioritizing news and public health information, broadcasting official recommendations and donation requests, offering additional contents to their subscribers or lowering subscription costs, carrying out technical operations to prevent network congestion…

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Regrettably, the role of media as providers of trustworthy reporting on COVID is continuously challenged online. The crisis has once again demonstrated the clear need for regulation of the internet where disinformation, conspiracy and fear campaigns have flourished, threatening to drown out quality news and information.

We face the current crisis in the context of challenges impacting the entire AV value chain. Broadcasters across Europe are not an exception. While TV viewership is experiencing a significant increase as viewers turn to trusted media and entertainment, free-to-air and pay TV players are facing a dramatic drop in advertising revenues (in some markets up to 80% for the month of April) and/or major disruptions in their programming due to the lack of availability of live sports events and delays in delivery of new contents.

Further, the production of all types of programmes is on hold, with some unlikely to resume or facing major financial consequences. This impact will increase as confinement measures are extended and the repercussions will be felt long after the confinement measures end.

In the short term, ACT calls on the European Commission to demonstrate flexibility in the application of state aid rules; in particular recognising the need for Member States to help their own national broadcasters withstand a major drop in revenue.  Such measures should include tax credits for advertising investments, a direct stimulus to the entire economy via the promotion of products and services during the recovery.

In addition, the European Commission can directly help, by extending and reorienting the Media Programme to ensure better access for operators most suited to restart productions across Europe. Broadcasters will also struggle to meet the strict and broad financial and content commitments they would perform in normal circumstances. In this regard, the crisis will only aggravate the lack of a level playing field with the digital sphere.

The European Commission in close cooperation with the European Regulators Group for Audiovisual Media Services, should thus develop guidance to enact leniency (such as standstill periods for quota obligations) and liberalization measures to ensure Broadcasters can rebound from the crisis.

While these measures may provide temporary relief, they will not be enough to ensure the long-term sustainability of European broadcasting which was already under threat pre-Covid from largely unfair market conditions in the digital environment.  The European Commission, by way of the Digital Services Act, the AV Action Plan and the Democracy Action Plan, has the means to bring structural changes to the digital environment. This means:

-          Pro-competitive structural changes to deliver a level playing field and fair competition in the digital sphere, ensuring notably that broadcasters have fair access to the data they generate whilst enabling the vast revenues generated by digital advertising to be redirected to Europe’s creative ecosystem;

-          liability rules that ensure Europe’s creative industries’ rights are upheld online, its creations properly protected and valued, and online disinformation properly tackled and sanctioned, and;

-          liberalization measures to allow Broadcasters to continue playing their essential role as defenders of cultural diversity, media pluralism and investors in high quality local and national news and jobs.

ACT stands ready to work with European policy-makers and regulators to ensure we adequately assess and respond to the immediate and long-term challenges thereby ensuring the sustainability of this vital national and international resource.

Background

The Association of Commercial Television in Europe represents the interests of 29 leading commercial broadcasters across Europe. The ACT member companies finance, produce, promote and distribute content and services benefiting millions of Europeans across all platforms.  At ACT we believe that the healthy and sustainable commercial broadcasting sector has an important role to play in the European economy, society and culture.

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Norway again postpones end to COVID lockdown

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A man wearing a protective mask carries shopping bags as he walks on the streets of Oslo following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Oslo, Norway. NTB Scanpix/Hakon Mosvold Larsen via REUTERS

Norway postponed for a second time on Wednesday (28 July) a planned final step in the reopening of its economy from pandemic lockdown, due to the continued spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19, the government said, writes Terje Solsvik, Reuters.

"A new assessment will be made in mid-August," Health Minister Bent Hoeie told a news conference.

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Measures that will be kept in place to halt the spread of COVID-19 include bars and restaurants being limited to table service and limits of 20 people on gatherings in private homes.

The government in April launched a four-step plan to gradually remove most pandemic restrictions, and had completed the first three of those steps by mid-June.

On July 5, Prime Minister Erna Solberg said the fourth step could come in late July or early August at the earliest because of concerns about the Delta coronavirus variant. Read more.

About 80% of adults in Norway have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 41% of adults are fully vaccinated, according to the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

Thanks to an early lockdown in March 2020 and tight restrictions that followed, the nation of 5.4 million people has seen one of Europe's lowest rates of mortality from the virus. Some 800 Norwegians have died from COVID-19.

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EU signs deal with GSK for supply of potential COVID drug

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Company logo of pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline is seen at their Stevenage facility, Britain October 26, 2020. REUTERS/Matthew Childs/File Photo

The European Union has signed a contract with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L) for the supply of up to 220,000 treatments of its investigational monoclonal antibody therapy sotrovimab against COVID-19, it said on Wednesday (28 July), write Francesco Guarascio with additional reporting by Jo Mason, Reuters.

The drug, which is developed together with U.S. firm Vir Biotechnology (VIR.O), can be used for the treatment of high-risk coronavirus patients with mild symptoms who do not require supplemental oxygen, according to the Commission.

The deal is a boost to GSK work on potential treatments for COVID-19 after the company played a limited role in the development of vaccines. Rather than making its own coronavirus shot, GSK has focused on supplying its booster to other developers and has partnered with Sanofi (SASY.PA) to develop a jab.

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GSK confirmed the deal in a statement on Wednesday, saying it represented "a crucial step forward for treating cases of COVID-19" in Europe.

The drug is currently being assessed by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) under a rolling review.

It has received emergency authorisation in the United States to treat mild-to-moderate COVID-19 patients who are at high risk of developing a severe infection.

The contract has been backed by 16 of the 27 EU states, which can buy the drug only after it is approved by EMA or by national drug regulators. The price agreed for potential purchases has not been disclosed. A spokesman for the Commission declined to comment on the matter.

Monoclonal antibodies mimic natural antibodies that the body generates to fight infection.

The deal with GSK follows a contract the EU signed in April with Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche (ROG.S) to secure about 55,000 doses of a potential treatment based on a cocktail of monoclonal antibodies developed by Roche together with U.S. drugmaker Regeneron (REGN.O). Read more.

Apart from monoclonal treatments, the only other anti-COVID drug the EU has bought is Gilead's (GILD.O) remdesivir, an antiviral medicine. Last year, the EU reserved half a million courses after the drug obtained a conditional EU approval.

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Coronavirus disinformation: Online platforms take new actions and call for more players to join the Code of Practice

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The Commission has published the reports by Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Microsoft and Google on measures taken in June to combat coronavirus disinformation. The current signatories and the Commission are also calling on new companies to join the Code of Practice on disinformation as it will help broaden its impact and make it more effective. Values and Transparency Vice President Věra Jourová said: “The COVID-19 disinformation monitoring programme has allowed to keep track of important actions put in place by online platforms. With new variants of the virus spreading and vaccinations continuing at full speed, it is crucial to deliver on the commitments. We look forward to the strengthening of the Code of Practice.”

Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton added: “The EU stood by its promise to deliver enough doses to safely vaccinate every EU citizen. All stakeholders now need to assume their responsibility to beat vaccine hesitancy spurred by disinformation. While we are strengthening the Code of Practice with platforms and signatories, we are calling for new signatories to join the fight against disinformation”. 

For example, TikTok's campaign supporting vaccination, with the Irish government, reached over one million views and over 20,000 likes. Google continued to work with public health authorities to show information about vaccination locations in Google Search and Maps, a feature available in France, Poland, Italy, Ireland, and Switzerland. On Twitter, users can now train automated systems to better identify violations of the platform's COVID-19 disinformation policy.

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Microsoft extended its partnership with NewsGuard, an Edge extension that warns about websites spreading disinformation. Facebook cooperated with international health authorities to increase public awareness of vaccine efficacy and safety and with Michigan State University (MSU) researchers to better detect and attribute deepfakes. These joint efforts need to continue in view of the persisting and complex challenges that online disinformation still presents. The Commission's COVID-19 disinformation monitoring programme has been extended until the end of 2021 and reports will now be published every two months. The next set of reports will be published in September. Following the recently published Guidance, the signatories have kicked off the process to strengthen the Code and launched a joint call for interest for potential new signatories.

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