The European Commission has adopted the European Media Freedom Act, aimed at protecting media independence and pluralism within EU member states.
Věra Jourová, Vice-President for Values and Transparency, 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 [a] 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,” she continued.
The measure fulfils a part of promises made by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in last year’s State of the Union speech. One promise made was to curb the steady deterioration of media pluralism throughout Europe, as well as tackling a rise in violence and intimidation against journalists.
The media industry in Europe has been facing threats on two sides for more than a decade. On one side, illiberal governments such as those in Central and Southeast Europe are using increasingly sophisticated tactics to clamp down on independent media. On the other, the rise of the tech industry is gutting traditional media business models.
According to the Commission, the European Media Freedom Act has been designed to ensure both public and private media organisations can operate more easily across borders within the EU internal market, protected from “undue pressure.”
The new regulations will require EU member states to respect the editorial freedom of media service providers, and improve the protection of journalistic sources. At the same time, media organisations will have to publicly disclose ownership information and take measures to guarantee media independence of individual editorial decisions.
The Commission has also proposed to set up a new independent European Board for Media Services, made up of national media authorities. The Board’s mandate is to prepare guidelines on media regulatory matters, and issue opinions on national decisions affecting media independence, media markets and media market concentrations.
Concerns over media concentration trends in Europe are on the rise. In Hungary, para-government foundation KESMA now comprises more than 500 media outlets. In Poland, state energy group PKN Orlen took over a vast portfolio of media outlets.
The European Parliament and EU member states will now discuss the Commission’s proposal for regulation under the ordinary legislative procedure. Once adopted, the Act will apply directly across the European Union.
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