Conference Report: Monitoring Media Pluralism in Europe – Between Old Risks and New Threats, 7 December 2018

Following the publication of the 2017 Media Pluralism Monitor the CMPF held a major conference in Brussels to discuss the results and reflect on the potential for including digital-related indicators in future implementations of the monitor. Director, Pier Luigi Parcu, Scientific Coordinator, Elda Brogi and researchers Iva Nenadic and Mario de Azevedo Cunha Viola were joined by experts, scholars, stakeholders and officials at the Borschette Centre in Brussels. After an introduction from Professor Parcu, Giuseppe Abbamonte, Director of the Media and Data Directorate of the European Commission, spoke observing that Europe has witnessed the biggest drop in media freedom despite being the best overall region in the world.

In reviewing the results of the MPM2017, CMPF researchers highlighted key areas of concern:

  • Whistleblower protection
  • A significant increase of risk in the area of Basic Protection, which is about essential conditions for media freedom and pluralism
  • Deteriorating conditions for media and journalism in particular in Central and Eastern Europe
  • A gap between freedom of expression in EU28 and the three candidate countries surveyed in the MPM (Serbia, FYRoM and Turkey).
  • No significant increase in Political Independence of media in five years, and
  • Access to media for women. The MPM results suggests that women are underrepresented in both managerial roles and content of media in Europe.
  • Most of the countries analysed either have underdeveloped media literacy policies or no media literacy policy at all.

The attendees also heard from MPM country expert for Czech Republic, Vaclav Stetka, who spoke about the conditions for media ownership in Central and Eastern Europe where, following the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, foreign investment in media faltered and a significant proportion of local media were acquired by oligarchs.

Another MPM country researcher, Ceren Sozeri, spoke about the situation in Turkey where freedom of expression and the press has seriously been curtailed despite the country’s status as an EU candidate country. The severity of the situation was urged by the announcement that Dr. Sozeri herself would be on trial the following week for signing a petition for the Academics for Peace Initiative. Dr. Sozeri has since received a deferred sentence of one year and three months. 

In the second session, chaired by EUI Professor Madeline de Cock Buning, ideas for measuring digital media pluralism and freedom were floated. Anna Herold, Head of Audiovisual and Media Policy Services Unit at the EC, offered reasons to be positive about the future of Europe’s media environment and gave recognition to the AVMSD as the first piece of EU legislation to tackle the issues of large online platforms. But cautioned that traditional media are still struggling to sustain themselves in the face of diminishing revenues from advertising. 

Head of Media Unit at the Council of Europe’s Information Society Department, Urška Umek spoke about some of the difficulties of developing new indicators for measuring media freedom online, noting that whenever a new instrument is designed it is already outdated. Renate Schroeder of the European Federation of Journalists spoke of the need for more tools to moderate content such as disinformation and hate speech effectively, but also to regain trust in journalism. CMPF researcher Mario de Azevedo Cunha Viola presented the case for data protection as a way to ensure media freedom and pluralism. Ľuboš Kukliš, chair of ERGA, spoke about the role of national regulators in protecting media pluralism. Lastly, Adeline Hulin from UNESCO demonstrated the UNESCO Internet Universality Indicators as a source of inspiration for measuring digital indicators for media pluralism.

Many of the speakers also noted that some threats to media pluralism and freedom are not member state specific, citing net neutrality and the pervasive dominance of the online platforms as examples of this.

For more information on the event, the speakers and to download the slides presented at the conference, click here.