QuickLinks - Competition
QuickLinks - Competition
Issue no. 321 - 10 October 2004
- EU - Commission clears TV ratings joint venture between VNU and WPP
The European Commission has granted regulatory clearance to a proposed joint venture between VNU of the Netherlands and Britain?s WPP which will bring together their television audience measurement (TAM) services outside North America. Although the resulting company will be one of the three leading providers of TV ratings in Europe, the Commission has concluded that there will remain sufficient competition in the market.
- EU - Competition law and rights management
Herbert UNGERER, Regulatory Forum, European Cable Communication Association (ECCA), Brussels, Belgium, 23.07.2004
- EU - New cartel procedure used for the first time for Bundesliga rights
For the first time the Commission has published commitments in the Official Journal that it will declare binding under the new antitrust Regulation (EC) No 1/2003. The undertakings were given by the German Football League (DFL) regarding the marketing of rights to broadcast Bundesliga matches. The revised agreement reached with the DFL will further liberalise broadcasting rights, particularly in connection with new media, such as UMTS and broadband internet. German football fans will have the chance to see more live matches. see also New cartel procedure under Article 9 of Regulation 1/2003.
Issue no. 320 - 25 September 2004
- EU - German football: fans to benefit from broadcasting deal
The Commission has reached an agreement with the German football association opening up the broadcasting rights market for matches involving teams from the country's top two leagues. The move spells the end to a Commission enquiry into the way media rights are sold by the Bundesliga and will mean that broadcasting rights will no longer be sold to a single broadcaster in one package. In practical terms, as from the 2006-07 season, fans can expect to look forward to more access to football via the internet and video mobile phones.
Issue no. 318 - 5 September 2004
- EU - Commission opens in-depth investigation into Microsoft/Time Warner/ContentGuard
The European Commission has decided to open an in-depth investigation into the proposed joint acquisition by Microsoft and Time Warner of a US company called ContentGuard. After a preliminary review, it appears to the Commission that the transaction might possibly create or strengthen a dominant position by Microsoft in the market for Digital Right Management (DRM) solutions. In the course of the investigation, the Commission will also investigate further competition concerns related to the vertical integration of Microsoft in other markets. On 12 July, Microsoft and Time Warner, both US companies, sought clearance under the European Union's Merger Regulation for plans to jointly acquire a US company called ContentGuard, formerly controlled by Xerox. ContentGuard is active in the development and licensing of intellectual property rights (IPRs) relating to DRM solutions. DRM technology makes it possible to "hardwire" in digital content the content owner's rights, and to prevent illegal use (such as illegal copying). Originally focussed on avoiding piracy of audio digital content, DRM is forecasted to be increasingly used for confidentiality purposes, in particular to secure exchange of documents in the corporate field. After a routine, phase I, review, the Commission has decided to investigate whether the deal might create or strengthen Microsoft's already leading position in the DRM solutions market. Under Microsoft's and Time Warner's joint ownership, ContentGuard may have both the incentives and the ability to use its IPR portfolio to put Microsoft's rivals in the DRM solutions market at a competitive disadvantage. This joint acquisition could also slow down the development of open interoperability standards. As such, this would allow the DRM solutions market to "tip" towards the current leading provider, Microsoft. DRM solutions are forecasted to become pervasive throughout the entire IT industry. As a consequence, the notified concentration may have spill-over effects on a number of related markets ranging from mobile telephony to word processors.
- DE - Kartellamt nimmt Telekom ins Visier
Das Bundeskartellamt hat gegen die Deutsche Telekom ein Verfahren wegen möglicher Wettbewerbsabsprachen mit Kabelnetzbetreibern eingeleitet. Diese hätten angeblich keine eigenen Internetzugänge anbieten dürfen, um das DSL-Geschäft der Telekom nicht zu stören.
- IHT: Vivendi gets big tax break to create jobs
(International Herald Tribune)
Vivendi Universal, the entertainment and communications group, clinched a deal with the French government that would reduce the company's tax bill by billions of euros over the next several years in exchange for a pledge to create several hundred new jobs in France. The agreement, which modifies Vivendi's corporate tax status here, is the result of eight months of negotiations with the Finance Ministry and comes at a time when Paris is actively seeking ways to reduce unemployment and to discourage French companies from sending jobs abroad. Vivendi is the first company to apply for the new tax status, which is reserved for multinational corporations headquartered in France. Under the new 'consolidated global profits tax,' international corporations can use past losses at unprofitable divisions to offset future earnings at profitable units in which they own at least a 50 percent stake. Previously, such credits could only be used to reduce taxes for wholly owned subsidiaries.
- Olympic athletes largely barred from posting online diaries
The International Olympic Committee is barring competitors, as well as coaches, support personnel and other officials, from writing firsthand accounts for news and other Web sites. An exception is if an athlete has a personal Web site that they did not set up specifically for the Games.
Issue no. 317 - 22 August 2004
- EU / US - The trans-Atlantic rift in antitrust law
(International Herald Tribune)
by Jonathan Zuck and Laurent Ruessmann. Since the European Commission's surprising rejection of the merger of General Electric and Honeywell, the tension between European and American antitrust enforcers has gotten continually worse. Despite the polite tone and optimistic rhetoric, the growing divergence could easily devolve into a trans-Atlantic trade war and create critical problems for the future of global business, especially in the information technology sector. [Jonathan Zuck is president of the Association for Competitive Technology, an advocacy group for the U.S. technology industry. Laurent Ruessmann is the association's antitrust counsel in Brussels].
Issue no. 316 - 1 August 2004
Issue no. 315 - 18 July 2004
- EU - Access to content and the development of competition in the New Media market
Speech by Mario Monti, European Commissioner for Competition Policy. Workshop on access to quality audiovisual contents and development of New Media. Hotel Hilton, Brussels, 8 July 2004. see also EU - New media firms seek help for content rights (Reuters). Mobile phone operators and suppliers of video on demand have asked the European Commission to help them gain access to the rights to sell consumers the latest movies, music and soccer content. Company executives told Competition Commissioner Mario Monti hat movie producers and other content providers have little interest in doing business with the new media, while video stores and TV networks have no interest in making way for new rivals.
- EU - Microsoft pays fine in full
Microsoft has paid the $600 million fine handed down by the European Commission in its antitrust ruling against the company. Microsoft deposited the payment in an escrow account while the company's appeal is taking place. While Microsoft had the option of submitting a promissory note in place of such a payout until proceedings are complete, the company dipped into its massive cash reserves, estimated at $50 billion, to cover the largest antitrust fine ever levied against a company by the European Union. see also Microsoft wants EU to learn from its U.S. victory (Reuters).
- UK - BBC websites must redraft remit
The BBC has just under four months to redefine the remit for its online services, the government has said. The Graf Report, commissioned by the government, also said at least 25% of the BBC's online content should be externally supplied by the end of 2006. BBC Online should prioritise its coverage of news, current affairs and education, the report concluded. see also BBC review may shut more websites and Graf's report pleases almost all.
Issue no. 314 - 24 June 2004
- EU's Antitrust Chief Clears Sony-BMG Deal
The European Union's antitrust chief approved a merger between Sony Music Entertainment Inc. and Bertelsmann AG's BMG Entertainment after a review failed to support charges that the deal would harm consumers by raising CD prices, according to people familiar with the negotiations.
Issue no. 313 - 13 June 2004
Issue no. 311 - 31 May 2004
Issue no. 310 - 16 May 2004
Issue no. 309 - 9 May 2004
- EU - Commission opens proceedings into collective licensing of music copyrights for online use
The European Commission has warned sixteen organisations that collect royalties on behalf of music authors that their so-called Santiago agreement is potentially in breach of European Union competition rules. This is because the cross-licensing arrangements that the collecting societies have between themselves lead to an effective lock up of national territories, transposing into the Internet the national monopolies the societies have traditionally held in the offline world. The Commission believes that there should be competition between collecting societies to the benefit of companies that offer music on the Internet and to consumers that listen to it.
Issue no. 307 - 25 April 2004
- EU - European regulators agree on competition remedies in electronic communications
The European Regulators Group (ERG), which brings together the national authorities responsible for electronic communication markets, have published a Common Position on how they apply remedies to address competition problems in the newly opened markets for electronic communications. The EU regulatory framework sets out a 'menu' of remedies that National Regulatory Authorities (NRAs) can apply to address specific problems that may arise in markets where there is one or more operators with significant market power. The 'menu' includes obligations to provide access, non-discrimination, transparency, cost accounting and price control. see also explanatory memorandum and Common Position on bitstream access.
- EU - Microsoft commentary slams ruling
Aiming to portray itself as the victim of overreaching regulators, Microsoft has released a position paper insisting that the European Union's antitrust sanctions amount to 'new law' that could hurt others in the technology industry. The seven-page paper is a cross between a treatise and a legal brief, citing both the potential damage of the ruling as well as alleged legal shortcomings of the decision. "The Commission is seeking to make new law that will have an adverse impact on intellectual property rights and the ability of dominant firms to innovate," Microsoft said. "This adverse impact will not be confined to the software industry or to Europe." The release of the paper comes just as the European Union is preparing to issue the full 300-page text of its ruling against Microsoft. The software maker has already seen the report, which is expected to be made public Thursday.
- EU report takes Microsoft to task
A record fine imposed on Microsoft in Europe last month arose from the longstanding nature of the software company's anticompetitive practices, according to a massive report from European regulators. The European Commission's 300-page document says the more than five-year duration of those practices pushed the fine to 497 million euros--now about $590 million--well above what Microsoft would have been charged simply on the basis of its business practices. 'The amount of the fine to be imposed on the basis of the gravity of the infringement should therefore be increased by 50% to take account of its duration. On that basis, the base amount of the fine is EUR 497,196,304,' the document says.
Issue no. 305 - 28 March 2004
- EU - Commission imposes conduct remedies and a fine on Microsoft
The European Commission has concluded, after a five-year investigation, that Microsoft Corporation broke European Union competition law by leveraging its near monopoly in the market for PC operating systems (OS) onto the markets for work group server operating systems(1) and for media players(2). Because the illegal behaviour is still ongoing, the Commission has ordered Microsoft to disclose to competitors, within 120 days, the interfaces(3) required for their products to be able to 'talk' with the ubiquitous Windows OS. Microsoft is also required, within 90 days, to offer a version of its Windows OS without Windows Media Player to PC manufacturers (or when selling directly to end users). In addition, Microsoft is fined € 497 million for abusing its market power in the EU. see Can Microsoft be tamed? (Economist) and Europe plays hardball with Microsoft (CNET News.com).
Issue no. 304 - 21 March 2004
- EU - Commissioner Monti's statement on Microsoft
I would just like to inform you that a settlement on the Microsoft case has not been possible. I therefore intend to propose to my colleagues in the Commission next Wednesday to adopt a decision, which has already received the unanimous backing of Member States. I would like to stress the constructive and co-operative spirit displayed by Microsoft in the last few weeks. I also want to acknowledge the high degree of professionalism of the members of the Microsoft team at all levels. We made substantial progress towards resolving the problems which have arisen in the past but we were unable to agree on commitments for future conduct. In the end, I had do decide what was best for competition and consumers in Europe. I believe they will be better served with a decision that creates a strong precedent. It is essential to have a precedent which will establish clear principles for the future conduct of a company with such a strong dominant position in the market.
- EU - Competition probe leads to decrease in tariffs for broadband access via line sharing in Germany
Deutsche Telekom has committed vis-à-vis the European Commission to terminate the presumed margin squeeze with effect from 1 April 2004. This commitment leads to a significant reduction in the line sharing fee that competitors have to pay to Deutsche Telekom for shared access to its local loops.
- EU - Panel backs Microsoft ruling
A EU competition panel has unanimously backed a draft plan of action which could see US software giant Microsoft hit with fines and penalties. The EU advisory panel of national antitrust experts endorsed a decision drawn up by the European Commission. Reports say Microsoft will be forced to share proprietary details with rivals and provide a second, stripped-down version of its Windows system. Microsoft would have to offer consumers a choice of buying Windows with or without the company's own AV software. The panel is also expected to endorse a fine of hundreds of millions of euros against Microsoft, although not until a second meeting scheduled for 22 March.
Issue no. 303 - 29 February 2004
- JN - Microsoft faces antitrust probe in Japan
Microsoft's Japan unit is being investigated by the country's Fair Trade Commission on suspicion of violating antitrust laws, at a time the U.S. software giant faces similar accusations in Europe. The commission said Thursday that it believed Microsoft imposed unfair conditions on computer manufacturers wanting to license its Windows XP operating system software.
Issue no. 302 - 15 February 2004
- UK - BBC accused of trying to 'banish' rival
A new TV company hoping to offer Freeview customers 10 new subscription channels, has reported the BBC to media watchdogs accusing it of trying to strangle the new venture at birth by banishing its channels to the outer reaches of the onscreen programme guide.
- UK - MPs call for BT to loosen its stranglehold on broadband
MPs called on Ofcom to loosen the stranglehold that BT has on broadband as the telecommunications regulator prepares to launch a full scale review. In its eagerly awaited report on the broadband market, the House of Commons trade and industry select committee highlighted the failure of BT's rivals to gain access to its phone lines so they can offer broadband services.
Issue no. 301 - 8 February 2004
- UK - BBC 'too commercial' say advertisers
The advertising industry has weighed into the row over the future of the BBC, claiming the corporation has strayed too far from its public service remit with shows such as Fame Academy and EastEnders and should be reined in by Ofcom. The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising has accused the BBC of favouring 'mass market appeal' over its public service commitments.
Issue no. 300 - 1 February 2004
- EU - Commission launches sector inquiry into sale of sports rights to Internet and 3G mobile operators
The European Commission has decided to launch a broad investigation regarding the sale of sports rights to Internet companies and to providers of the third generation (3G) of mobile phone services. The purpose of the inquiry is to have as clear and wide a view as possible of the availability of audiovisual sports rights in the European Union. Sports rights and notably football rights are powerful drivers for the sale of pay-TV subscriptions but also for the roll-out of new media markets, such as enhanced Internet and UMTS services. In the interest of entrepreneurship, consumer choice and innovation, the Commission wants to make sure that access to this key premium content is not unduly restricted.
Issue no. 297 - 11 January 2004
- EU - Commission clears Nordic satellite pay-TV distribution deal
The European Commission has cleared a number of agreements regarding the exclusive co-operation between Norway's Telenor, its satellite TV platform Canal Digital and Canal+ Nordic for the satellite distribution of Canal+' premium pay-TV channels in the Nordic region.
- EU - Commission gives go-ahead for Lagardère acquisition
The European Commission has authorised the French group Lagardère to acquire part of the publishing business of Editis (formerly known as Vivendi Universal Publishing or VUP). The transaction initially notified was for Editis to be taken over in its entirety, but this would have created or strengthened dominant positions on many of the markets making up the French-language book chain, such as those for publishing rights, marketing and distribution services and sales of books to dealers and by wholesalers. Lagardère's decision to retain only part of the Editis business satisfied the objections.
Issue no. 295 - 21 December 2003
- EU / UK - And coming up on Sky after the football...
The deal between the Premier League and the European commission contained a timebomb for BSkyB. The league agreed that the format of its latest live TV rights deal with the broadcaster, to run from 2004 to 2007, will not be used again. Instead, it will ensure that at least two companies share access to the live rights from 2007 onwards. As a result, BSkyB will lose its stranglehold on live Premier League football for the first time since the competition started in 1992. see Commission reaches provisional agreement with FA Premier League and BSkyB over football rights (RAPID).
- EU - Commission adopts merger control guidelines
The European Commission has adopted guidelines on the appraisal of mergers between competing firms (Horizontal Guidelines). The guidelines are one of the cornerstones of the comprehensive reform of merger control in the European Union and complement the changes to the Merger Regulation, already agreed by EU Ministers, and several improvements introduced in the Commission's decision making process.
- EU / SE - Commission suspects TeliaSonera of abuse of its dominant position in provision of high-speed Internet access
the European Commission has sent a statement of objections to TeliaSonera of Sweden. The statement concerns a contract for the construction and operation of a fibre-optic broadband network for the provision of high-speed Internet access and other services on behalf of HSB Malmö, a regional housing association. The Commission takes the view that TeliaSonera's bid for that contract was intentionally set below cost and did not allow the operator to recover the investments and expenses derived from the provision of infrastructures and services contained in the contract. By setting such a low price, TeliaSonera prevented the development of alternative infrastructure and the entry of competing service providers. TeliaSonera thereby strengthened its dominant positions in the markets for the provision of local broadband infrastructure and the provision of high-speed Internet access.
- IT - PM 'fury' at media law veto
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is said to be reeling from his president's refusal to sign a bill that relaxes limits on media ownership. Critics say the bill would allow Mr Berlusconi, who owns three TV stations, to strengthen his hold on the media. President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi asked parliament to re-examine the bill passed earlier this month. Mr Berlusconi has said he is open to what he described as 'intelligent' changes to the bill. The European human rights organisation, the OSCE, welcomed the president's decision as it believes the bill undermines the independence of the media.
- UK - Government launches consultation on media mergers guidance
Draft guidance on the way mergers involving media companies will be considered and dealt with was published for consultation by Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt. Most of the guidance refers to the procedures by which media mergers will be handled. The competition authorities - the Office of Fair Trading and the Competition Commission - will decide on competition grounds whether mergers can proceed. Ministers will only be able to intervene if it is considered that the merger raises specified "public interest" issues.
- UK - Online media rival sues Microsoft
Internet media company RealNetworks has sued Microsoft, accusing it of unfairly monopolising the growing market for digital music and video. Accusing Microsoft of 'predatory conduct', RealNetworks has asked for more than $1bn (£564m) in compensation. Microsoft has denied the allegation, insisting the market was competitive.
Issue no. 294 - 14 December 2003
- EU - Commission appoints Consumer Liaison Officer
European Competition Commissioner Mario Monti announced the appointment of Juan Riviere y Marti to the newly created function of Consumer Liaison Officer within the Commission's Competition Directorate General.
- EU - Competition and Regulation in the Telecom Industry, The way forward
Mario Monti European Commissioner for Competition Policy, ECTA Conference Brussels, Conrad Hotel, 10 December 2003.
- EU - Public financing of television in France
The Commission has decided that the ad hoc public financial assistance paid between 1988 and 1994 by the French Government to the French public television stations France 2 and France 3 was limited to compensation for the costs associated with the fulfilment of their public service obligations. The Commission's competition department have also set out its preliminary position on how to introduce public broadcaster financing that is transparent and proposed sufficient safeguards so that public financing does not exceed the cost of public service activities.
- UK - Rivals attack BBC web services
The BBC has 'broken a catalogue of promises', spending £100m a year on its internet services instead of an agreed £21m budget, the government has been told. Major commercial rivals including News International, the Telegraph, the Mail group and the Guardian have called on the government to make 12 key changes to the BBC's internet operations, protesting that the corporation's internet service is out of regulatory control.
Issue no. 293 - 7 December 2003
- EU - Commission welcomes agreement on new Merger Regulation
The Council of Ministers responsible for EU competitiveness gave its unanimous political agreement to the amended text of the Merger Regulation, which is due to enter into force on 1 May 2004, the date for enlargement of the Union. This clarification of the substantive test creates an improved legal security given that the new text (significant impediment of effective competition) clearly defines the assessment criteria by, on the one hand, covering all forms of concentration that could be harmful for the consumer and, on the other hand, by clearly defining the limits of the Commission's scope for intervention.
Issue no. 292 - 23 November 2003
- UK - Review of BBC online services.
Speech given by Ashley Highfield, Director of BBC New Media & Technology, at a Westminster Media Forum on the Department for Culture, Media & Sport review of BBC online services.
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