The European Commission (EC) has adopted a European Media Freedom Act, a novel set of rules to protect media pluralism and independence in the EU.
According to the EC, the proposed Regulation includes, among others, safeguards against political interference in editorial decisions and against surveillance. It puts a focus on the independence and stable funding of public service media as well as on the transparency of media ownership and of the allocation of state advertising.
Furthermore, it sets out measures to protect independence of editors and disclose conflicts of interest. Finally, it will address the issue of media concentrations and create a new independent European Board for Media Services, comprised of national media authorities.
The EC says it has also adopted a complementary Recommendation to encourage internal safeguards for editorial independence.
Commenting on the development, VP for values and transparency, V?ra Jourová, said: “We have seen over the past years various forms of pressure on the media. It is high time to act. We need to establish clear principles: no journalist should be spied on because of their job; no public media should be turned into propaganda channel. This is what we are proposing today for the first time ever: common safeguards to protect media freedom and pluralism in the EU”.
Thierry Breton, commissioner for the internal market, added: “The EU is the world’s largest democratic single market. Media companies play a vital role but are confronted with falling revenues, threats to media freedom and pluralism, the emergence of very large online platforms, and a patchwork of different national rules. The European Media Freedom Act provides common safeguards at EU level to guarantee a plurality of voices and that our media are able to operate without any interference, be it private or public. A new European watchdog will promote the effective application of these new media freedom rules and screen media concentrations so they do not hamper plurality”.
The EC notes that the European Media Freedom Act will ensure that media – public and private – can operate more easily across borders in the EU internal market, without undue pressure and taking into account the digital transformation of the media space.
Key points include protection of editorial independence; no use of spyware against media; independent public service media; media pluralism tests; transparent state advertising; protection of media content online; and new user right to customise your media offer.
Others include the setting up of a new independent European Board for Media Services comprised of national media authorities.
It is now for the European Parliament and the Member States to discuss the Commission’s proposal for a Regulation under the ordinary legislative procedure. Once adopted, it will be directly applicable across the European Union.