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Education, Youth and Culture Council

Volume 476: debated on Monday 19 May 2008

The Education, Youth and Culture Council will be held on 21 and 22 May in Brussels. Rhodri Glyn Thomas, Minister for Heritage for Wales, will be representing the UK on 21 May when Culture and Audiovisual issues will be taken. Education and Youth issues will be taken on 22 May.

The first item on the agenda concerns the Council conclusions on a European approach to media literacy in the digital environment. The new audiovisual media services directive calls for the “development of media literacy in all sections of society” and for close inspection of progress in media literacy. It sets out a reporting obligation for the Commission to measure levels of media literacy in all the member states. In January this year the Commission adopted a communication on the development and promotion of media literacy. The UK’s main proposals on the text have been incorporated in to the conclusions that reflect the UK view that it will be appropriate to assess recent developments in this area and monitor the extent of media literacy in member states—as required under the new AVMS directive—before coming forward with proposals for a recommendation. The Council is expected to adopt the conclusions and the Government intend to endorse this course of action.

The presidency will then seek to reach a general approach on the proposal establishing a multi-annual Community programme on protecting children using the internet and other communication technologies. This proposal is a renewal of the existing safer internet plus programme and will run from 2009-13. The programme promotes the safer use, particularly by children, of the internet and other online technologies, fighting illegal and harmful internet content ranging from child pornography to incitement to racial hatred. It carries out this aim by a combination of funding for various programmes and by fostering co-operation between a wide range of organisations from business to child welfare NGO’s. The Government intend to support this proposal.

There will then be an exchange of views on the communication on creative content online in the single market which was adopted by the Commission in January this year after consultation with stakeholders in Government and industry. The Communication establishes a “Content Online Platform” that would bring together experts from across Europe in a forum for discussion. It also outlines the Commission’s plan for a recommendation of the Council and Parliament on this area, due in the autumn. The scope of this recommendation is currently not defined, but it is likely to cover Digital Rights Management Systems, Multi-Territory Rights Licensing and Legal Offers and Piracy. The UK’s response to the Communication stated that we are not convinced that regulatory action at the European level at such an early stage in the development of this sector is the correct approach; work on Digital Rights Management (DRM) is already being undertaken in several member states; the Commission’s evaluation of this issue would benefit from greater use of a more rigorous evidence base; engaging with stakeholders is the right approach but the Commission needs to ensure that their views are incorporated into any future proposals. The Presidency is now asking two questions of Ministers at the Council: What are the challenges facing creative content online? And where would an EU-level initiative add value? Our contribution to the exchange of views will be similar to our original response.

The Council will then be invited to adopt conclusions on intercultural competences. The conclusions recognise, in this the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue, the importance of such dialogue as a key tool in addressing some of the challenges Europe currently faces. Intercultural competences are defined as communication in foreign languages, social and civic skills and cultural awareness and expression. Member states and the Commission are invited to promote intercultural competences through existing initiatives in the fields of culture, education and youth and audiovisual policy.

The conclusions on Intercultural Competences have been discussed and finalised at official level and the Council is now expected to adopt the conclusions at this meeting. The Government intend to support the adoption of these conclusions.

The presidency will seek the adoption of Council conclusions on the Work Plan for Culture 2008-10. In February this year the Presidency drafted a discussion paper for member states on the Work Plan for Culture 2008-10 based on the five priority areas for action set out in the resolution on a European Agenda for Culture adopted by the Council in November 2007. Working groups set up under each priority and chaired by member states will be consulted on the preparation of the studies relevant to their field of competence. These conclusions, which have been negotiated and agreed at official level, outline the objectives for each priority area. The UK has interests in all these areas, in particular the groups on the creative economy and on improving the mobility of collections. The Government intend to support the adoption of these conclusions.

Under Any Other Business, the Presidency and Commission will provide information on the state of play of proposals on the review of the EU regulatory framework for electronic communications networks and services. The Commission will present the Communication on the protection of consumers, in particular minors, in respect of the use of video games. Belgium will raise concerns about satellite television channels from outside the EU which broadcast anti-Semitic material and incitement to hatred and terrorism and which can be received within the EU. The Council may invite the Commission and the Presidency to consider what measures can be taken to deal with such channels. Also under Any Other Business will be an information item from the Swedish delegation raising concerns on the definition of the concept of books with regard to reduced VAT, The Government do not foresee any need to intervene on any of these items.