Political Pluralism In The Media


The Political risk domain includes all the risks which are related to political interference in the media market and its functioning. The types of indicators included here are legal and socio-political ones. There are nine indicators (three legal and six socio-political ones), which are the measures of five different risks. This risk domain examines the interaction between political actors and the media, and it is reflected in the functioning of political communications as a guarantee for the existence of free, open and pluralistic political debate, discourses and representation.

The first risk in this domain is the risk Political bias in the media (P1). It includes one legal indicator – 15 Regulatory safeguards for fair, balanced and impartial political reporting in television, and one socio-political one – 29 Representation of political views in the media. These indicators cover the regulations and their application, both during and beyond elections. In the pilot test implementation, only television was monitored, as it is still the medium with the largest audience, and also audiences consider it to be their most important source for news and current affairs information (see the Standard Eurobarometer for data that has consistently confirmed this over time). However, future applications of the MPM could consider including variables that are also related to the other media platforms. This is especially relevant with the shifting focus of audiences onto the internet based media outlets, but also to the convergence of the media. Indicator 15 assesses the existence and implementation of regulatory safeguards that are essential for guaranteeing political information in a fair, balanced and impartial way. Indicator 29 assesses the actual representation of different political groups, organisations and personalities in the media. Both indicators demonstrate high risk in a number of countries – high risk in three countries regarding indicator 15 (Bulgaria, Greece[1], Hungary); four regarding indicator 29 (Denmark, Greece, Hungary and Italy); medium risk in two countries in relation to indicator 15, and three countries in relation to indicator 29; low risk in four countries relating to indicator 15, and two countries in relation to indicator 29. It is important to emphasise that indicator 29 had been applied on a sample that is far from representative and therefore, its results can be only indicative and not conclusive. Due to the high level of resources that are necessary for the application of indicator 29, especially when implemented with an appropriate sample, there should be a debate on its transformation into a second level explanatory indicator (see details in section 5.4.) or to rely on a secondary analysis of data already collected by others. However, it should not be ignored, due to its crucial role in measuring media pluralism and the relevant risks.

The second risk is the Excessive politicisation of media ownership/control (P2). It includes three risks: one legal – 16 Regulatory safeguards against the excessive ownership and/or control of mainstream media by politicians, and two socio-political – 30 Political Control over media and distribution network ownership, and 31 Political control over media funding by advertising. This risk is devoted to the assessment of the political pressure on the media system as a whole. It is a key risk covering a number of important variables. The legal indicator, 16, examines the effective legislative regulatory measures that are needed to avoid the politicisation of media. Somewhat alarmingly, we see that there are six countries with high risk here (Bulgaria, Estonia, Greece[2], France, Italy, and the UK), two countries with medium risk, and one country with low risk. Interestingly enough, this risk level is not reflected by the socio-political indicators in this risk, where only one country is identified as high risk (Hungary), two countries with medium risk, and six countries with low risk for indicators 30 and 31. A closer examination of the feedback provided by the country teams, however, uncovers that there are also considerable suspicions of excessive politicisation in regard to these indicators, but there is insufficient official data to support or reject this. The scores of these indicators should therefore be considered carefully but, even more importantly, in the future, MPM should provide special scoring options for cases in which there is a lack of ownership transparency, and a lack of transparency in regard to the major advertisers and funders of media outlets. Excessive politicisation is an important risk, but the lack of transparency in regard to such potential politicisation is a risk to media pluralism with a potentially even bigger impact.

The third risk here is insufficient editorial independence (P3). It is covered by a social-political indicator, namely, indicator 32 Presence of professional associations providing advocacy for editorial independence and respect for professional standards. The application of this indicator faced certain challenges in addressing the multitude and variety of traditions, institutions and channels for interaction between professional associations and editorial boards. The rich information provided by the country teams will be used for further fine-tuning and to enrich this indicator. Currently, two countries demonstrate high risk (Hungary and Italy), three countries medium risk, and four countries are at low risk.

The fourth risk is the insufficient independence of PSM (P4). This includes one legal indicator – 17 Fair, objective and transparent appointment procedures for professional, management and board functions within PSM, ensuring independence from government / a single political group, and one social-political indicator – 33 Level of independence of PSM (mechanisms for its financing). Indicator 17 focuses on the procedure for appointing the board of managers of PSM and it is therefore highly relevant to assess the structural independence of the PSM from the government. Indicator 33 focuses on the mechanisms and procedures for financing the PSM. The combination of the two indicators provides a good illustration of the risk of political pressure (or lack of it) over the PSM. The results show that there are certain risks in this regard in a number of countries. High risk regarding indicator 17 is identified in two countries (Hungary and Italy), and three countries relating to indicator 33 (Estonia, Greece and Hungary); medium risk – three countries in relation to indicator 17 and in regard to indicator 33; low risk – four countries in regard to indicator 17, and three countries in relation to indicator 33. Both indicators will also benefit from further fine-tuning in the future, especially indicator 33, which should reflect the latest PSM budgetary developments in Italy and include an option to measure such cases in these indicators. It should also better reflect the countries where PSM is not funded by fees.

The fifth, and last, risk in this risk domain is the Insufficient pluralism of news agencies (P5). It includes one socio-political indicator – 34 Independence and ownership of news agencies. This aspect of media pluralism is often ignored, however, it is rather important as it creates the foundation for political information content, especially regarding non-domestic issues. The results also demonstrate that there is indeed a risk to media pluralism that is related to this indicator in some countries – two countries scoring high risk (Hungary and Greece), four countries scoring medium risk, and three countries scoring low risk. Considering the rather high level of concentration that is related to medium risk, these results should not be ignored. However, it also needs to be acknowledged that until not so long ago, news agencies were entirely centralised on a national level almost everywhere. There is therefore a need to monitor the developments in this area in the future.

The political pluralism risk domain presents a rather complex picture and outlines certain risks that are related to media pluralism. Many of the indicators included here need further fine-tuning and therefore the results presented are not absolute values, but are tentative, and they present the orientation of the trends. However, they are a clear indication that media pluralism needs increased attention in a number of countries.

[1] On the interpretation of this score, please, see the Greek country report in attachment.

[2] On the interpretation of this score, please, see the Greek country report in attachment.