The Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom welcomes the European Commission’s initiative of the European Media Freedom Act and supports its goal of safeguarding the independence and pluralism of the media in Europe.
In these challenging times of profound transformation and crises, the proposed European Media Freedom Act acquires a high value, as it confirms the role of media freedom as a pillar of democratic societies and aims to effectively guarantee the independence and safety of journalism and of journalists.
Times were ripe to give the European Union new tools to protect and foster journalism as a public good in a digital environment proposing old and new threats. The data we observed during the past ten years of research in the Media Pluralism Monitor, as well as in the Study on Media Plurality and Diversity Online, highlight several main risks for media pluralism in the EU. Specifically, they relate to the fragmentation of the national regulatory frameworks in addressing the issues of media ownership transparency and concentration; in the wider reform process to regulate the digital sphere, where specific attention must be given to the media industry, which can’t be considered an economic sector like the others, as the democratic life depends on it.
The new risks related to the concentration of market power in the digital environment and to the economic sustainability of the production of quality journalism, have summed up to the old ones, related to the traditional media concentration and to the threats to political independence, through the political capture of Public Service Media and/or the discretionary and non-transparent allocation of public subsidies and State advertisement.
We are pleased to observe that many issues and risks we highlighted in our research are addressed in the proposed law, which introduces a new regulation on:
- The protection of professional journalists from physical and digital attacks;
- Coordinated rules and oversight on the media mergers, with a media pluralism test;
- Common minimum rules on the disclosure of media ownership and potential conflict of interests;
- Strengthened protection against interference of political actors in Public Service Media and in editorial choices of private media;
- Transparency obligations on State advertising;
- Standardised methods of audience measurement, crucial to reducing the asymmetry of information in the advertising and media market;
- The recognition of a specific status for the professional media providers in relation to the content distributed by global platforms.
All these topics deserve careful attention, scrutiny and discussion to ensure that the final legislative solution is fully adequate to the challenges. If passed, this law could constitute a key step in preserving and strengthening the role of EU media in the digital public sphere.
In this context, the CMPF team will strive to provide the best independent, policy-relevant research on media pluralism to contribute to informed policy making, with the Media Pluralism Monitor and other aimed research.