Cultural Pluralism In The Media

The cultural risk domain is the risk domain, which has passed through the most significant transformation if comparing the MPM2009 and MPM2014. Due to the more focused approach of the MPM2014, which targets only news and current affairs, most of the risks related to cultural production and representation have been eliminated from the Monitor and, in particular, from this risk domain. One aspect which, however, still remains important for the MPM2014, and which is reflected in this risk domain, is the universality of the media in the respective countries, including media for minorities and special needs groups. This change of focus in the risk domain makes it appropriate to consider a future revision of the name of the domain itself, which would better reflect its content. The risk domain consists of four indicators – two legal, one economic, and one social-political.

The legal indicators are indicator 7 Regulatory safeguards for access to airtime on PSM by the various cultural and social groups, and indicator 8 Regulatory safeguards for minority & community media. Indicator 7 aims to assess the regulatory safeguards that are typically related to internal pluralism, in particular regarding the Public Service Media, which is a fundamental element of media pluralism, and the mission of the PSM is to provide access to airtime for different cultural and social groups. The risk evaluated is that of the insufficient representation of the various cultural and social groups in PSM (C1). The main challenge to the implementation of this indicator is the lack of properly politically approved definitions, and of internationally harmonised definitions and methods for the measurement of issues related to minorities. Despite the efforts of the CMPF to provide a rather robust definition of a minority, the differences in the way the phenomenon is treated (conceptualised, measured, acknowledged, etc.) in different countries made it difficult to follow a fully unified standard. A further need for definition and measurement of functional equivalents regarding minority related legislation is needed in the future applications of the MPM. For example, in France, a specific legislation on minority media representation is missing, however, there are efforts to safeguard access to airtime on PSM by the various cultural and social groups. Generally speaking, the results of indicator 7 show that access to airtime on PSM by the various cultural and social groups is something that needs to be further analysed and tackled, as two countries report low risk, three medium, and four high risk (Denmark, Estonia, France and the UK).

Indicator 8 Regulatory safeguards for minority & community media looks at the possibility for minorities to access the media system as a whole, i.e., external pluralism, and measures the risk of an insufficient system of minority and community media (C2). This indicator faces the same challenge related to the definition of minorities that has already been acknowledged and used on the national level. Similarly, the results of the indicator are also somewhat unsettling and run parallel with indicator 7Two countries report low risk, two medium, and five high risk (Belgium, Bulgaria, Estonia, France, Greece).

Since these two indicators examine the same risk, but from different perspectives (i.e., internal and external pluralism), the future application of the MPM will consider a secondary analysis of these two indicators in relation to each other. The reason for that is that different media systems can emphasise only internal or only external pluralism. Since none of the two is considered superior than the other, it is possible that the guarantees against minority underrepresentation are achieved even only by emphasis on internal or only by emphasis on external pluralism. Similar approach will be taken in other occasions related to internal and external pluralism.

Indicator 25 addresses the economic aspects of the Minority and community media and it also measures risk from an insufficient system of minority and community media (C2)In this case, one of the nine countries has highlighted a low risk, four medium, and four high risk (Belgium, Bulgaria, Estonia and Hungary). Following the deficiencies in the legal framework in this area, this result also demonstrates that in many countries there are no sufficient non-legal mechanisms that guarantee an adequate level of pluralism in terms of minority and community media. The difficulty of measuring the availability of minority and community media in relevance to the actual minority composition of the country and the demand for such channels is related to the lack of commonly politically accepted definition of minority and therefore data about the actual statistics in each country. However, an attempt to move in that direction will be considered for the MPM2015. Otherwise, the indicator cannot measure the level of sufficiency of provision, which is related to the level of demand, i.e. sufficient provision will be different in countries with vastly different presence of minorities.

Indicator 27 measures the risk of Limited accessibility by special needs people (C3) and it addresses a different aspect of the universality of the media system – the Guarantees for universal access to media by special needs people. This indicator demonstrates rather encouraging results, with no country indicating a high risk, four countries indicating medium risk (Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary and Italy), and five countries a low risk. The relative deficiencies in those countries can be explained by the lack of financial resources or by the policy tradition in the field, which could be expected to improve without any vested resistance. However, we need to acknowledge that it is very likely that this indicator will include more variables in the future, reflecting the trend towards raising the standards for media access for special needs people.

The challenges in the implementation of the indicators in this risk domain reflect the difficulty of tackling the minority issue in a consistent manner throughout the Union. A further fine-tuning of the tool will be implemented, and a certain level of centralisation of the data collection and analysis may be necessary in order to guarantee the full harmonisation of the application of the indicators in this risk domain.