Media industry

Set Europe's Creatives Free

Ein Mann verkauft raubkopierte Musik CDs am Strassenrand in Saint John's der Hauptstadt von Antigua.  Foto vom 05.10.2013. - Oktober 2013 [ Rechtehinweis: Verwendung weltweit, usage worldwide ]
Pirated DVDs are a big threat to Europe's media industry.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The author argues that traditional European media companies are subject to more regulation than their non-European but globally present rivals.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • The German-owned RTL Group operates 52 TV channels and 29 radio stations in ten European and Asian countries.
    • It is one of the world’s leading producers of television content.
    • New video streaming firms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video are eating into audience shares.
  • Audio

    Audio

  • Pdf

 

It would be hard to find two sisters who are more different. One of them is Egypt’s most famous belly dancer, provocative and self-assured. The other a strict Salafist, a member of the ultra-conservative branch of Sunni Islam, who always wears a veil, is shy and even distrustful.

One leads a life in the spotlight. Her every appearance is recorded on countless cell phones. Among her fans are many women wearing headscarves.

The other sister lives withdrawn, almost entrenched in her home. A nun-like shadow existence.

For close to a year, RTL television’s chief reporter, Antonia Rados, accompanied the sisters in times of grave political unrest in their country. Her summary: “The fate of Egypt – of a whole country – is reflected in the fate of the two sisters.”

This example shows that whoever wants to report beyond the daily news about politics and history as it is being made, must be in the field, talk with the people, and tell their stories. And that means investing time and money.

Whether private TV and radio broadcasters, public radio, newspapers or magazines, it is primarily the “classic” media companies that finance the creation of journalistic and creative value, thus making it possible in the first place. This is also the case in the digital media world.

The big concern is about professional piracy that quickly and permanently devalues the most important raw material of our industry, intellectual property.

Media companies have always been the most important partners of creative people, of producers, writers and journalists. They package the content of authors, create brands, monetarize the demand for this content and in turn reinvest in creativity, journalism and new talent. This is also the case with the media group RTL Deutschland, which this week opened its new offices in Berlin with a staff of over 150 people. This is the only way a healthy creative cycle can function.  

But what if this cycle is seriously disrupted?

That is precisely what is happening when content is copied without asking, bundled up in a new package and spread all over the Internet. The big concern in the digital world is no longer CDs or videos being copied for personal use. It is about professional piracy that quickly and permanently devalues the most important raw material of our industry, intellectual property.

That is why strong copyright protection is an indispensable prerequisite for a functioning creative industry – after all, it is the fourth largest industry in Germany.

However, the creative cycle is also disturbed when other market participants are allowed to do what the broadcasting companies are not. And this is happening although the content of television broadcasters, online video services, print publishing houses and social networks today appear together on the same display screens of the same recipients.

One example is European TV companies competing in the market for online video advertising with global players. On the one hand, the government is constantly exhorting us to further develop our business model to keep pace with the American Internet giants and, on the other, a joint technological platform combining all stations for television on demand in Germany was prohibited even before it got started.

The winners of this over-regulating of our sector have their value creation primarily on the other side of the Atlantic. And incidentally, the creative business is too expensive, involved and risky for many of them. Instead of investing in new content, they depend on “scaling” their business model with the content of others.

Their goal is to roll out their data-driven and undoubtedly technically cutting-edge platform in as many markets as possible – to tie more and more market participants to their platform and the software and marketing solutions that go with it.

An unhelpful implementation of the antitrust law, deficiencies in the enforcement of copyright laws and a down-right absurd meshwork of largely outdated rules on advertising – these are the factors crippling the German and European creative industry and, by doing so, are making others strong.

With all due respect for the complexity of fair regulation in rapidly changing markets, we at RTL accept the challenge. Now is the time to also completely rethink media regulation and remove structural disparities. In the interest of a strong European creative industry, this important task belongs at the top of every digital agenda.

 

To contact the author: gastautor@handelsblatt.com

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