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to the European Parliament and the Council concerning a multi-annual Community programme to stimulate the development of a European multimedia content industry and to encourage the use of multimedia content in the emerging information society.

Final Draft subject to minor editorial changes !


0. Definitions
1. INFO2000: The political context
2. The nature of the content industry and market

3. The way forward

4. Concluding remarks




Content is defined in this communication as data, text, sound, images or multimedia combinations thereof, represented in analogue or digital format on a variety of carriers such as paper, microfilm, magnetic or optical storage.


The content industry is involved in three main activities:

  • creation
  • development
  • packaging and distribution of content-based products and services

The different segments of the industry are:

  • print publishing (newspapers, books, magazines, corporate publishing)
  • electronic publishing (on-line databases, videotex services, audiotex services, fax- and CD-based services, video games)
  • the audiovisual industry (television, video, radio, audio and cinema).

The content industry is the single most important sector, both in terms of market value and employment, within the information industry at large, which includes the telecommunications equipment and services, computer systems and services, consumer electronics and office equipment industries.


The focus of this communication is on the transition from print to electronic publishing and on the interactive multimedia information services that are rapidly emerging.

This communication does not address those specific questions relating to the audiovisual industry, which are the subject of specific policy measures (Action plan for the introduction of advanced television services in Europe, MEDIA programmes and 'Television without frontiers' Council Directive). INFO2000 complements other Community programmes under the Fourth Framework Programme (especially IT, ACTS and TELEMATICS) and those addressing the cultural (RAPHAËL), SME (Integrated Programme in favour of SMEs and the Craft sector) and education and training (SOCRATES, LEONARDO) domains.


The content industry -- one of the key dimensions of the information society

The vision of a global networked economy and information society in which information and communication technologies and services play a crucial role in transforming all aspects of economic and social life is now at the heart of the global political agenda.

Content, in all its forms, is the vital raw material of the information society. This communication therefore deals with a key dimension of the European information society: the future development of the content industry in Europe.

The need for political action at European level to support Europe's transition to the information society has been widely recognised:

  • in the White Paper "Growth, competitiveness, employment: the challenges and ways forward into the 21st century"
  • in the Bangemann report "Europe and the global information society - Recommendations to the European Council"
  • at the Corfu and Essen Summits
  • in the Commission's Action Plan "Europe's Way to the Information Society"
  • at the successful Brussels G7 Conference devoted to the information society.

The content industry is a crucial sector for the European economy and society, for at least three reasons:

  1. It is important in terms of employment. It provides knowledge-intensive employment to over 2 million employees in Europe, realising a yearly turnover estimated at ECU 150 billion in 1994. The growth in this market is considerably above average growth rates and is set to remain so for years ahead.
  2. Information services are key to improving the competitiveness of the European economy as information increasingly becomes a major factor in determining the efficiency and productivity of enterprises and administrations worldwide.
  3. Information services are important carriers of Europe's cultural identity and linguistic diversity. The free flow of information supports the proper functioning of our democracies and, of course, the further development of the single market.

The content industry's role will become even more vital in the future because the expanding information infrastructure will fuel the demand for high quality, easily accessible and usable information services and will increase the opportunities for knowledge-intensive employment.

The key issue is whether the European content industries will succeed in exploiting the opportunities created by the emerging information highways.

Although basically strong and healthy, the European content industry faces some comparative disadvantages:

  • Telecommunication costs in Europe are higher than in other parts of the world
  • The European multimedia market lags behind the US by 3-5 years and remains fragmented through linguistic and cultural differences
  • Trading of multimedia rights and access to and exploitation of Europe's public sector information are more complex than elsewhere in the world.
  • Many content providers are nationally or regionally oriented, while the single market does not yet fully function in this domain.

Therefore, action is needed at the European level to mitigate these drawbacks. Europe must act quickly and vigorously to ensure favourable conditions for the development of its content industry and to foster its global competitiveness.

An integrated and co-ordinated approach at the European level

Important steps are already being undertaken by the Union to create the preconditions for a thriving content industry:

  • The liberalisation of telecommunications networks and services by 1 January 1998 will facilitate the distribution of content and drive distribution costs down.
  • A clear and stable regulatory framework, particularly in relation to intellectual property rights and privacy protection, will ensure protection of rights and people. 
  • Research and Technological Development (RTD) on applications of public interest is being supported in the Fourth Framework Programme.

To complement these actions, INFO2000 aims at stimulating the emerging multimedia content industry (a large part of which comprises small and often new enterprises) to recognise and exploit the new business opportunities that will be created. Its focus is on the transition from print to electronic publishing and on the interactive multimedia information services that are emerging.

The actions of INFO2000 take a dual approach: firstly, building on the basic strengths of Europe's content industry, and secondly addressing some of theweaknesses of the content industry and market in Europe.

To ensure that the actions fit into the global context, specific attention will be given to linking them to the recent Group of Seven (7 most industrialised nations - G7) initiatives and to the relevant activities of international organisations such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organisation (WTO), World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and the Council of Europe.



Structural changes are taking place in the information industry with unprecedented speed:

  • the rapid progress in the development of information and communication technologies (ICT)
  • the continuing improvement in the performance and the reduction in prices of these technologies
  • the development and increased availability of new applications
  • the blurring of boundaries between historically distinct sectors of the content industry (like print publishing, electronic publishing, audiovisual) as content is increasingly produced in digital form.

These structural changes are having the following effects:

  • New players are entering the market New players, often from other parts of the information value-chain like distribution (telecom operators) or end-user access (computer, consumer electronics or software companies), are entering what used to be the exclusive domain of the content providers
  • High capacity distribution channels Broadband technology (high capacity 'pipelines' and ultra fast switches) and compression techniques (ability to 'squeeze' information in digital form) are turning previously scarce delivery channels into a commodity, soon to be in plentiful supply
  • Increased international competition Globalisation of electronic publishing market, coupled with deregulation, is increasing international competition in, up till now, mainly national or regional content markets
  • It is more difficult to protect intellectual property rights Protection of intellectual property rights - the main instrument to ensure fair rewards for those who create new content - is no longer self evident
  • More choice and more independence for the user Interactivity made possible by producing or converting content into digital form (which can then be processed by a computer) and market segmentation increase the choice for the user and give him/her the ability to manipulate directly the information services that are offered.

The many take-overs, mergers, joint ventures and strategic alliances taking place, particularly in Europe and in the US, between the different communications and media-related businesses, are a clear proof of the changing environment the content industry will be facing in the years to come.


The importance of the content industry now and in the future can be illustrated by the scope and size of its employment, sales, value creation, and trade position.


Content-related activities cover a whole chain whereby value is added during the various steps in the process from source material to end-user. Creators, developers and packagers of the 'raw material' fuel the chain. Distributors provide the on- and off-line delivery mechanisms allowing end-user access by a variety of terminal devices and networks. The table on the next page illustrates this.

In addition, information is every business's second business. Different parts of the information value-chain can be found in other industrial sectors, since most economic or commercial activities involve the handling of information.

Employment and sales

The content industry is a big generator of revenue and jobs. Estimates of the content industry in the European Union suggest a 1994 turnover of around 150 BECU, employing over 2 million people. Content-related activities have historically generated growth rates in turnover and employment well above average for the overall EU economy.

The economic importance of the content industry within the EU can also be illustrated by comparing it with the 1994 sales and employment levels of some related sectors: telecommunications (133 BECU; 1.2 million full-time employees), information technology (113 BECU; 0.96 million full-time employees) and consumer electronics (43 BECU; 0.32 million full-time employees). Estimates for the US 1994 multimedia market at large value the content industry at US$ 255 Billion, as against the telecommunications sector at US$ 160 Billion and the information technology sector at US$ 151 Billion.

If the revenue and employment associated with information activities in other industry sectors are included in this analysis, content becomes an even more significant activity.

Shaded areas indicate the focus of INFO2000


Activity Source
Project managers
Database producers
CD-ROM/CD-I producers
Print publishers
TV producers
Multimedia companies
Database service providers
Electronic book titles
CD-ROM titles 
CD-I titles
Game titles
TV programmes
Electronic books
CD-ROM/CD-I products
On-line database services
Interactive TV services

Activity Distribution End-user
Effects of
Retail outlets
Subscription agencies
Museums / Libraries
Cable operators
Telecom operators
Broadcasters operators
Public sector
Education and 
Training sector 
Education and training
Magnetic media
Optical media
Cable networks
Telephone networks
Mobile networks
Satellite networks
Game consoles
Set-top boxes
Mobile terminals
Better lifestyle
Better public service 
Better education

Share ~38% ~14% N.A.
Trend down constant up

Value creation

Content accounts for a major share of the total value added generated in the information value chain. Some private strategic studies estimate that at present the share of content in the total value added is around 48%. Distribution activities and end-user equipment generate some 38% and 14% respectively of total value added.

Due to increased competition and capacity in the distribution sector and wider availability of distribution channels and delivery platforms, the relative share of content in the information value chain is expected to grow even further. Recent market trends and various studies support this expectation.

Trade position

The trading position of the European content industry is variable and contrasts with the trading position of the IT and consumer electronics sector:

  • The audiovisual sector, although strong in some areas such as music, has a negative and deteriorating trade balance overall, estimated at -3.1 BECU with the US for 1994. The problems of the audiovisual sector have a marked structural component, which is receiving growing attention and is the subject of a separate communication.1)
  • The computer and office equipment and consumer electronics sectors have significant and growing negative trade balances, evolving from -8.8 BECU in 1983 to -26 BECU in 1993.
  • The traditional European publishing industry has a positive and improving trade balance with the rest of the world, growing from 1.2 BECU in 1983 to 2.1 BECU in 1993. The strong trading position in publishing has to be built upon, especially as print publishing in its present form will be among the key sectors affected by the move towards electronic publishing.
  • An active policy as proposed in the INFO2000 programme is all the more important because many indicators show that, within specific segments of the emerging electronic publishing markets, Europe's position is weakening.


The European Union's content sector possesses many strengths:

  • overall market size and population
  • the presence of world-ranking information and media conglomerates
  • a long-established publishing tradition
  • rich content base
  • large established markets in key industrial sectors
  • rich cultural and linguistic diversity.

But, as said before (page 3), it also suffers from important weaknesses:

  • more fragmented markets along cultural, linguistic and national lines
  • more expensive telecommunication services, particularly transnational
  • more difficult access to and exploitation of public sector information
  • substantially lower demand for advanced information services
  • most content providers are nationally or regionally oriented.

Considering Europe's competitive position in terms of electronic publishing and infrastructure in the global context, it is vital that the position of European content providers be strengthened. Action must be focused on:

  • stimulating the necessary structural adjustments of the industry
  • mobilising demand, particularly at the European level
  • exploiting the full potential of the single market.


Revenues In 1994 revenues of the US electronic information sector were more than two and a half times the revenues of EU-based companies. 
Equipment The US is considerably ahead in terms of the penetration of information technology equipment such as cable TV, personal computers (PCs) and modems (for linking PCs to telecommunications networks).
Tariffs High tariffs for the use of infrastructure inevitably have a negative impact on the use and development of multimedia content. Tariffs for high capacity infrastructure in the EU are on average 10 times higher than for equivalent capacity over equivalent distances in North America.
Telephone use The number of telephone calls per person per year in the EU is just over a quarter of those in the US, even though a similar number of people have phones.



The proposed actions serve three long-term strategic objectives (see box below). These objectives aim at maintaining, extending and exploiting Europe's strength in content whilst narrowing the gap with our competitors.

They are designed to encourage an integrated development across the European Union.


  • facilitating the development of the European content industry
  • optimising the contribution of new information services to growth, competitiveness and employment in Europe
  • maximising the contribution of advanced information services to the professional, social and cultural development of the citizens of Europe.


In working towards the objectives of INFO2000, the weaknesses indicated above will be tackled in an integrated and co-ordinated manner, along three action lines (see box below). These actions aim at accelerating market uptake of multimedia products and services; at unleashing the economic and cultural potential of public sector information; and at strengthening the international and pan-European dimension of the emerging European multimedia content industry. They are described in detail in Annex 1 to the Council Decision establishing INFO2000 and summarised in Annex 1 to this Communication.


  • stimulating demand and raising awareness
  • exploiting Europe's public sector information
  • triggering European multimedia potential

3.2. Addressing obstacles to growth

The European content industry is faced with a number of obstacles to growth that prevent it from quickly realising the critical mass necessary to compete on equal terms in the newly emerging multimedia markets.

These obstacles need to be addressed by actions both at national and European level if Europe is to expand its content industries, to exploit its richness of content and to face international competition. It are these remaining barriers that will be addressed by the proposed action lines as indicated below.

Stimulating demand and raising awareness

The variety of Europe's cultural and linguistic traditions makes economies of scope and scale (economies made through being able to address a large single market with customised products) difficult to achieve and constrain product development. In addition, many surveys point to a limited awareness of content available to users across Europe. The aim here is to create new markets and to encourage clusters of pan-European users.

Awareness-raising initiatives (action 1.1) are needed to develop further the opportunities, as are actions to favour the development of pan-European user groups (action 1.2). In addition, a common approach to information service interoperability (action 4.2) will help to open up market potential.

Exploiting Europe's public sector information

The public sector holds a dominant position in some segments of the European content market.

The actions proposed involve unleashing the economic and cultural potential of Europe's public sector information by developing relevant EU policies (action 2.1), by linking directories of European public sector information (action 2.2) and by making use of content resources in the public sector (action 2.3).

Triggering European multimedia potential

The provision of attractive European multimedia content is still in its infancy. For this market to take off the content must be attractive to the user, i.e. easy to access, well presented and with adequate transaction and payment mechanisms. Solutions for electronic advertising, electronic markets and digital revenue collection mechanisms need to be identified, evaluated and encouraged at the European level.

Three areas of specific importance to Europe to stimulate the development of attractive multimedia content are the exploitation of Europe's cultural heritage, business services for SMEs, and geographic information (action 3.1). Also actions aimed at making use of content resources in the public sector (action 2.3) will further contribute to providing an attractive pan-European multimedia content package.

Encouraging small multimedia producers

Although large enterprises play an important role in the content industries, the great majority of actors are small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).

Most of the actions foreseen seek to encourage SMEs to overcome some of the problems of the emerging multimedia market. However, the actions aiming at catalysing high quality European multimedia content (action 3.1) and at facilitating trading in multimedia rights (action 3.2) are particularly relevant.

Initiating European multimedia trading systems

The licensing and re-use of content is constrained by a lack of uniformity of approach between media types, in different regions and in different markets. New digital technology is only slowly being deployed to expand information trading markets.

Action is needed to ensure that multimedia trading systems can work across national and sectoral borders and to encourage intellectual property owners to trade multimedia rights. The actions foreseen aim at favouring a practical approach to this trading of multimedia intellectual property rights (action 3.2).

Promoting new business practices

The newly emerging multimedia markets are often transnational in nature and require new business approaches cutting across what used to be distinct business sectors.

New alliances and multidisciplinary teams will be increasingly required. For many actors in the content industry this means that new forms of creativity will have to be explored, new skills acquired, and new ways of conducting business implemented.

The changes and adjustments need to take place rapidly and be supported by developing and exchanging best business practice to encourage entrepreneurship (action 3.3) and by encouraging skills development (action 4.3).


Participants will be drawn from both users and suppliers in primarily content-related activities in the information value chain. They will include those involved in:

  • source material creation of images, text, graphics, music, sound
  • content development for databases, electronic book titles, CD-ROM/CD-I titles, game titles, and interactive TV programmes
  • content packaging, producing information services such as on-line databases, videotex-, audiotex- and fax-based services, books, newspapers, magazines, interactive TV services, electronic books, CD-ROM/CD-I information and infotainment products, etc.
  • content distribution, exploiting delivery channels such as optical and magnetic media, cable, satellite, and telephone networks, mobile networks, and paper
  • end-users such as large and small businesses, public sector administrations, professionals, researchers, the education and training sector, consumers and citizens. Particular attention will also be given to those end-users who will see their roles evolving into suppliers of information services, as part of the move towards electronic markets and communities.

Those involved in end-user equipment, communications software and hardware and production tools will be invited to participate on the basis of the specific contributions that they can make to the programme.

Although large corporations will be important players in the global information market, they are not the main target for the programme actions. The emerging multimedia market potentially creates a broad range of opportunities for small and new enterprises. It is particularly this population and its inherent growth potential, in terms of both jobs and revenue, that INFO2000 is targeting.

Distinctions between roles in the content industry are, however, blurring. An increasingly wide range of actors from an ever broader group of sectors is becoming involved in exchanging and trading content over electronic networks. It is important that this whole range of experience be included in the programme if obstacles to growth are to be properly identified and appropriate action taken.


The main vehicle for the implementation of the INFO2000 programme will consist of Calls for Proposals as described in Annex III to the Council Decision.


The role of the private sector Building the information society and its constituent elements (networks, basic services, applications, content) is first and foremost the responsibility of the private sector. Its role is crucial because its protagonists are accustomed to risk-taking, have extensive experience in exploring and developing new markets and are a valuable source of capital.

The role of the public sector Nevertheless, the public sector role is essential in supporting the emergence of the information society at global, European, national and regional levels. Firstly, by developing a vision that responds to the many social, societal and cultural challenges. Secondly, by creating the appropriate regulatory conditions through the liberalisation of telecommunications networks and services and a clear and stable regulatory framework, particularly in relation to intellectual property rights and privacy protection. And thirdly by catalysing the changes needed to adapt to the new situation.

The actions proposed above aim at encouraging the transformation from print to electronic publishing in Europe and at stimulating the emergence of interactive multimedia information services.

The programme is based on extensive consultations with market actors, including user groups, and with representatives of the Member States. It seeks to ensure the greatest possible involvement of all relevant actors in the information value chain.

During the programme, the development of the European multimedia content market will be regularly monitored. Particular attention will be given to the competitive position of the multimedia content industry and its contribution to employment, social development and cultural diversity.


1 Stimulating demand and raising awareness

1.1 Creating new markets by raising awareness at the European level with specific user groups 
Call for proposals for participating organisations (30-50) to:

  • Facilitate access to European wide repositories and catalogues
  • Demonstrate access to the information highways
  • Support awareness campaigns and user training

Awareness and promotion are an important dimension of information society policy actions. Activities will:

  • Add a European dimension to European national/regional activities
  • Support know-how/experience exchange
  • Facilitate co-operation in joint projects to achieve economies of scale and European-wide coverage
  • Build on previous experience and co-operation with other networks

1.2 Encouraging clusters of pan-European users 

  • Studies to analyse current situation
  • Start-up incentives for creationand functioning of clusters of pan-European users
  • Stimuli for co-operation and exchange of experience


  • Lack of a well-articulated and organised demand-side at European level because of dispersion of users
  • Common European user problems for instance in relation to quality assurance or liability questions need addressing
  • European user groups are lacking in the multimedia content sector

2 Exploiting Europe's public sector information

2.1 Developing policies to access and exploit European public sector information 

  • Studies to prepare a Green paper on access policies


  • Co-ordination of access conditions for individuals and businesses across the Union
  • Co-ordination of conditions for re-use of content for businesses across the Union
  • Provision of equal opportunities for all individuals and businesses to access public sector information in the EU

2.2 Linking directories of European public sector information 
DESCRIPTION: Call for proposals for:

  • Pilot projects that interconnect existing national and regional directories of public sector information
  • Pilot projects for collaborative production of new directories of public sector information


  • Demonstration of practical solutions to make European public sector information easily accessible to users in the EU
  • Co-ordination and EU-wide co-operation

2.3 Making use of content resources in the public sector (particularly in the cultural area) 
Call for proposals for:

  • pilot projects for the networking of inventories to exploit the digital content resources in the public sector
  • pilot projects that integrate digital inventories with intellectual property trading systems


  • Strengthening the European content sector by providing easier access to and transparency of content resources across Member States
  • Strengthening Europe's cultural identity
  • Stimulating co-operation and experience exchange at European level

3 Triggering European multimedia potential

3.1 Catalysing high quality European multimedia content 
Call for proposals to support the initial and precommercial phases of pan-European multimedia content development in the domains of:

  • European cultural heritage
  • Business services for SMEs
  • Geographic Information


  • Multimedia content developers (mainly SMEs and new companies) have difficulty in exploiting the single market
  • Partner finding, acquisition of rights, multilinguicity, multicultural aspects, etc. are particularly problematic

3.2 Trading multimedia intellectual property rights 

  • Call for proposals to support pilot projects that lay the foundations for trading multimedia rights across sectors (text, sound, images) and across borders electronically
  • Studies to determine how different multimedia market existing trading systems for intellectual property rights can work together
  • Development of practical tools that help SMEs in trading IPRs


  • Management of rights presently dispersed by sector and by country
  • A new approach is necessary for multimedia trading on a pan-European scale
  • Critical mass is a vital element in creating a true European

3.3 Developing and exchanging best business practice 

  • Support to descriptions of best business practice, e.g. studies, manuals
  • Support to diffusion of best business practice, e.g. workshops, seminars


  • Normal business rules of sectors in the content industry do not apply to multimedia
  • Common development of best practice and experience exchange stimulate development of multimedia content industry

4 Support actions

4.1 Observing and analysing the multimedia content market 
Support to:

  • scenario development
  • quality assurance actions
  • strategic studies in specific areas
  • concertation meetings with relevant players (suppliers, users, administrations) to identify key issues affecting the multimedia content industry


  • Multimedia content industry the multimedia content largely composed of SMEs
  • Global and international markets
  • market monitoring rapidly changing
  • SMEs lack resources for such critical activities
  • Programme actions need to remain rooted in reality

4.2 Spreading the use of multimedia content standards 

  • Support to actions that raise awareness of multimedia content standards
  • Support will be given to consensus building (workshops, etc.)


  • Lack of interoperability and standardisation are obstacles to development of the multimedia content market

4.3 Encouraging skills development at European level 

  • Support to develop pilot courses for multimedia developers
  • Full implementation in Community education and training programmes (LEONARDO and SOCRATES)


  • Adequate skills a key element for high quality multimedia titles
  • Interdisciplinary approach necessary (text, sound, video, stills, animation)
  • European dimension (mutilinguicity, multicultural) needs to be incorporated at the design stage

ANNEX 2: List of Acronyms/Abbreviations

RTD in the field of Advanced Communication Technologies and Services
Billion ECU
Compact Disk
Compact Disk Interactive
Compact Disk Read Only Memory
Group of Seven Most Industrialised Nations
Information and Communication Technology
Information Market Policy Actions
Technological Development in the field of Information Technologies
Vocational training programme
Million ECU
Audiovisual Policy: Stimulating dynamic growth in the European programme industry
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
Personal Computer
Community action programme in the field of cultural heritage
Research and Technological Development
Small or Medium Sized Enterprise
Community education programme
RTD in the field of Telematics Applications
World Intellectual Property Organisation
World Trade Organisation

1) COM(94)523 of 8 February 1995 'Audiovisual Policy. Stimulating dynamic growth in the European programme industry (MEDIA2 1996-2000)'

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