BY KEVIN CASEY
Media is this layer that exists everywhere in our lives’, said Dr Tanya Lokot as she explained the term ‘mediatized’ to Horizon Magazine. It gives her the title of the seven-country research project she leads from the School of Communications, Dublin City University (DCU).
‘It’s not just something we do for an hour or two.’ We are drenched in media. In our personal, work, social and family lives, media has a meaningful role to play.
MEDIATIZED EU is examining the role of media in society and how it influences people’s perceptions of the EU and the European project. It does so by analysing media discourses in the EU Member States of Ireland, Belgium, Portugal, Estonia, Hungary, Spain, and non-member Georgia.
The researchers are monitoring and assessing the media coverage and conversations which mention European democracy and the European Union in the target countries of the study. ‘We wanted to investigate how people think and form beliefs about the EU. How do people become Europeanised? What does it mean to be more European or less European?’ said Dr Lokot.
‘Putting all of these countries together and looking at how different but also how similar the concerns are among policymakers, among media professionals, among the public has been really enlightening for us,’ she said.
When 90% of the EU’s population have access to the internet, media is ubiquitous. TV provides 75% of Europeans with their news. Altogether, taken collectively, all the media devices in the world create something intangible, a public conversation, which enables opinions to be formed and exchanged.
‘In a way, media are co-creating the space where people come to interpret what it’s like to be living in Europe, what it means to be European, to share European values and to be part of the European Union,’ said Dr Lokot.
The first step in learning to live with our media-saturated environment is to ‘acknowledge that media, not just social media but any kind of media, play an extremely important role in societies,’ said Dr Lokot.
From the research so far, the sense is that the idea of Europe is “a constant work in progress”, and perceptions of Europeanisation are shaped by media, as well as by political elites and public opinion, Lokot revealed. There is also widespread concern about the spread of disinformation. Alongside constructive discourse, the media has plenty of room for promoting extremism and polarising views.
People in every EU country have sophisticated concerns about the risks of media manipulation. ‘They understand the connection between disinformation that is being spread by malicious actors in the media and the threat to democracy,’ said Dr Lokot.
Spiral of cynicism
Populism and media manipulation can lead to a ‘spiral of cynicism’ in any media debate. As a result, even in countries with high levels of trust in media such as Ireland, Spain and Portugal, people often don’t know where to place their trust.
‘It’s because the way disinformation works has also changed,’ said Lokot. The new type of information warfare doesn’t try to persuade or convince people, but sets out to destroy public trust. It works to convince you that ‘there is nobody here who will tell you the truth,’ according to Dr Lokot.
Generating mistrust originates with outside actors but also from within the EU at times. In this climate, people ‘stop believing that a ‘European idea’ that unites people exists, and then they become lost,’ said Dr Lokot.
‘Once you stop believing in some sort of shared values, you don’t really know what else you have in common with these people who are living on the same continent with you.’
While each country has specific topics of concern, one major new trend unites them all. ‘Until Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Georgia and Estonia were much more concerned with Russian disinformation than the other countries in our project,’ said Dr Lokot.
‘Since February, concern has gone through the roof everywhere.’
The disinformation campaigns targeting Estonians and Georgians, along with their Ukrainian neighbours, insinuate that they were better off under the Soviet regime, that the EU is weak, they belong to Russia’s sphere of influence and not the European community. The conclusion of that thought process is stark.
‘Now we get to the point where not only is Ukraine, for instance, being told, you’re not a European country, they’re being told you’re not a real country at all,’ she said. ‘You’re actually part of Russia and nobody cares about you if you stop existing,’ said Dr Lokot.
‘We’re seeing such escalation of disinformation narratives across the region.’
But should people exercise personal responsibility for their media activity? Consuming the news of terrible events over endless hours of ‘doomscrolling’ has been identified as unhealthy behaviour.
The constant barrage of news and disinformation hits home for Dr Lokot who is a Ukrainian native working in DCU in Ireland for the past seven years. ‘I’m Ukrainian and I’m living in the EU. So, you know, I’ve been doing nothing but doomscrolling not just since February, but actually since 2014 because my country has actually been at war much longer than just for the past six months,’ said Dr Lokot.
A constant stream of bad news is exhausting ‘and so it’s also about how we structure media diets,’ said Dr Lokot.
Might there be a need for social media companies to make their algorithms more transparent?
Businesses like Meta who own Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp need to create a space where people can access information and exchange opinions in a healthy, constructive way, argues Dr Lokot. ‘They need to realise the impact that the media ecosystem has on people and on people’s lives,’ she said.
Good online citizenship where you verify sources and reserve some amount of scepticism over content is important in a democratic environment. Regulation also has a role to play with, for example, laws about transparency in political advertising.
It’s not about control or unrestricted access either. ‘We want people to understand that as citizens, they have rights, they have responsibilities, but they also have agency,’ she says.
The next step is to conduct in-depth research into the other elements of the triangle MEDIATIZED EU has identified as composed of a relationship between citizens, media, and the elites. Speaking to media editors and policy makers, as well as conducting public opinion surveys, the researchers will seek to understand the media’s role in shaping perceptions and opinions of the EU from their points of view and how everything is connected.
The research could help to inform policy makers at every level. Thinking ahead, the imaginary ideally informed EU citizen of 2035 could be living in a media environment with a more democratic flow of information – one which leaves little fertile ground for disinformation. Hopefully, ‘we will also be living in a Europe that is much less polarized than it is today,’ Dr Lokot concludes.
This article was originally published in Horizon, the EU Research and Innovation Magazine.
Smile Diplomacy: From Putin to Macron
In the world of politics, what should be done when things don’t go according to plan? The answer of Talleyrand, the French politician of the 18th and 19th centuries, was simple: organize a conference!
Perhaps it is due to this lesson from the French politician and diplomat that Vladimir Putin held his conference under the title of “Economic Boom of the East” in the port of Vladivostok, and French President Emmanuel Macron is going to start his conference under the title of “Political Council”, Europe” next month in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic.
Let’s talk about Putin first. No matter how we look at it, the course of things is not as intended. The war in Ukraine is practically frozen in a north-south line. The pitched battles, the use of heavy artillery, the high casualties, and the ever-increasing logistical problems are more reminiscent of the First World War, or even the Crimean War than modern 21st-century war.
Last week, the first sign of Putin’s desperation to fully win this war appeared. In a short televised address, the Russian president claimed that his goal was to preserve the “Russians” of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. In other words, it has moved away from its initial portent of removing Ukraine from the map as an independent country. Is he now calling for a limited deal that would put parts of eastern Ukraine under Russian control forever, if ever? No one knows the answer to this question, except maybe Putin himself. But, surprisingly, neither Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, nor his American and European supporters have shown any attention to this possible retreat of Putin.
Failure in the war is not Putin’s only concern. Contrary to his claim that Western sanctions have not affected the Russian economy, it can be seen that things are not going as planned on that front either. Of course, Russia has been able to find new customers for its oil—customers like India, China, and Turkey, which have reduced their purchases from Iran and Iraq by receiving significant discounts to take advantage of the Russian auction.
However, double-digit inflation, the closure of hundreds of factories, widespread shortages of many goods, a 25 percent drop in viewership of Putin’s state television, and the flight of tens of thousands of middle-class citizens show that the sanctions are having little effect.
The Vladivostok conference was formed with the slogan “The future is from Asia”. Putin’s message was: “Asia builds the future, while the West falls.”
Of course, we heard this slogan in the 1950s, during the last years of Stalin’s rule over the Soviet Union. Stalin spoke of “Young Asia and the West of Fertut”. Today, Putin plays the same music with notes from the Tsarist Imperial Symphony added.
According to Khmiakov, the Pan-Slavist guru, Russia is a “two-headed eagle”: one head looks to the East and the other to the West.
In the beginning, the double-headed eagle was the symbol of the kings of Hayatele in Asia Minor; But after a few centuries, the Byzantine emperors usurped it. In 1471, Ivan III, Tsar of Russia, married Princess Sophia, the daughter of the Byzantine Emperor, and the symbol of the double-headed eagle was assigned to Russia. Today, Putin is bringing this symbol, which was abandoned during the Soviet Union, back to the scene.
However, an eagle facing east is nearsighted. Out of 49 Asian countries, only 17 countries appeared seriously in this game. None of the heads of Asian countries were present at Putin’s show. The highest-ranking foreign personalities were the Prime Ministers of Armenia and Mongolia. General Ming Aung Heliang, the leader of the Myanmar (Burma) coup plotters, was also present. But China was represented by Li Zhangsu, the third leader of the Communist Party. Even the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, did not accept the suffering of a trip to Vladivostok. Major Asian economic powers such as Japan and South Korea, or even Taiwan, were not present.
Putin’s hope is to develop the “Eurasian” bloc, which was formed years ago to compete with the European Union, but it never got anywhere. However, even if the participants in the Vladivostok conference were to join the bloc, they would collectively account for nearly 20 percent of global GDP. Currently, almost all of them are closer to the European Union and the United States than to Russia in terms of foreign trade. Russia’s own share of trade with bloc countries does not exceed 12%.
From any angle, the Vladivostok gathering is one of those shows that are referred to as “posturing” in the diplomatic dictionary. In this show, the host appears as the leader of a large group, but in reality, there is no group. The choice of Vladivostok, which means “ruler or emir of the east”, maybe a coincidental sign of Putin’s illusions to lead Asia.
It is interesting that in Vladivostok there was no mention of the war in Ukraine. None of Putin’s entourage was wearing a T-shirt with the letter Z, and his bulletproof car did not have a Z mark.
The participants of this show undoubtedly know that Moscow is closer to Berlin than Vladivostok and whatever the underbelly of history, Russia’s national and cultural orientation is to the West, not to the East. Alexander Herzen, a 19th-century Russian writer, wrote: “Russia looks to the East to remember what dangers threaten its existence, and looks to the West to find out how to neutralize those dangers.”
Currently, Putin is not the only leader who is trying to polish his political image by playing the conference game. French President Emmanuel Macron is also busy organizing Smile Diplomacy. The Prague conference for the formation of the “Political Council of Europe” is a platform for introducing Macron as a strong European leader. With Britain mired in crisis, Germany governed by a floundering coalition government, and Italy on the brink of an election with uncertain results, Macron hopes to present France as the anchor of Europe’s stormy ship.
Macron’s failure to win an overwhelming majority in the parliamentary elections has limited his possibilities to exert power in the domestic political scene. Therefore, like many politicians in a similar situation, he turns to show his power in the foreign policy scene.
But Macron’s show, many analysts believe, will not have a better result than what Putin achieved in Vladivostok. In a sense, Macron’s show may even be harmful. Trying to prevent Turkey’s participation, under the pretext that a large part of Turkey is located in Asia, can deepen the gap between Western powers and Turkey.
Turkey’s exclusion from the Prague show could help re-elect Recep Tayyip Erdogan as president. Using an anti-Western discourse and being closer to Russia along with claiming to be the leader of the Islamic world, Erdogan is trying to distract Turkey’s public opinion from its failure in economic and social fields. In the last two decades, this is the first time that Erdogan is on the verge of an electoral defeat. Macron’s anti-Turkish stance could be a bitter irony that guarantees Erdogan’s victory.
Macron’s proposal has other disadvantages as well. First, one should ask what is the need for another “conference” in Europe. Aren’t the “European Security and Cooperation Organization” and “Council of Europe” which include all countries of the continent enough? After all, didn’t Britain leave the European Union under the pretext that it does not want Europe to participate in the regulation of London’s policies? Is the “Brexit” government willing to participate in a new grouping, with unknown goals and criteria, after leaving an established union with clear goals?
Currently, a growing trend across Europe, from Poland to France, is to move away from continental groupings. Even the European Union has lost some of its legitimacy and popularity at this time. The growing trend in most European countries is towards limited nationalism within the borders of each country, emphasis on national sovereignty, and striving for self-sufficiency. In other words, the globalism of the past two or three decades is receding and bilateral relations are becoming more acceptable.
You might say that Smile Diplomacy in Vladivostok or Prague wouldn’t hurt anyway. Unfortunately, this assessment of yours is not correct. Smile Diplomacy masks the fact that Russia and Western Europe do not currently have the ability or will to emerge from the crisis caused by war, economic stagnation, inflation, and environmental threats. Smile Diplomacy offers sideshows instead of serious policies.
Dramatic games allow Putin to mask his failure on the battlefield. On the other hand, Macron and other European leaders hide their inability to stop the war in Ukraine with the Prague show. Both sides are still dreaming of “victory”. Unaware that war never has a winner, because in every war both the victor and the vanquished will be losers in the end. Zelensky seems to think that defeat is better than surrender because it at least offers the badge of hero and martyr. On the other hand, Liz Truss, the new British Prime Minister, speaks of “victory”. The demonstrations in Vladivostok and Prague prevent these irresponsible positions from being seriously discussed.
In a Crisis-Laden World, Serbia Should Think Green
Countries around the globe are facing persistent economic headwinds. Trade and supply chain disruptions resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine and extreme weather, have led to surging food and energy prices. Inflation is increasing at an alarming rate in many countries and economic growth is slowing. Policy makers around the world face difficult challenges and complex trade-offs. They need to maintain fiscal sustainability and rebuild economic buffers depleted during the pandemic; but also cater for the needs of the most vulnerable, who feel the impact of higher food and energy prices. As winter is approaching, countries in Europe are scrambling to secure sufficient energy supplies to keep homes warm and factories running. In this challenging context, the urgency of actively expanding renewable sources of energy, pursuing greater resource efficiency, and transitioning away from energy and emission-intensive industries is greater than ever.
The World Bank expects global economic growth to slow in 2022 to 2.9 percent, from 5.7 percent in 2021. A small and open economy like Serbia will feel the impact of the global slowdown. For Serbia, in 2022, we project an economic growth rate of 3.2 percent, following a 7.4 percent expansion in 2021. Serbia is equally feeling the impact of rising inflation: the NBS expects an inflation of nearly 14 percent in the third quarter of this year.
Higher energy prices have put pressure on current account balances for energy importers around the world. Serbia has also been affected. Its utilities have incurred exceptionally high costs of importing electricity and natural gas on the wholesale markets. While the government has financially supported these companies, it has so far only partially passed these additional costs on to consumers.
Mitigating the impacts of the energy crisis remains the biggest challenge for the new government. Serbia entered the current crisis in a strong macro-fiscal position, but fiscal space is limited. Short-term measures to support households and small and medium enterprises will need to be targeted, time-bound, fully budgeted, and transparent.
Despite the pressures, it is essential that policymakers do not lose sight of structural reforms that would boost Serbia’s potential rate of economic growth over the medium-term, including steps to increase market competition, reform state owned enterprises, raise human capital and productivity, and improve the efficiency of public spending.
Sustaining long-term growth and resilience also requires putting the ‘green agenda’ at the center of policymaking. The country can do more to increase energy efficiency and lessen the impact of pollution on the health of people and the environment. Staying ‘brown’ runs the risk of slowing down Serbia’s accession to the EU, compromising access to finance, creating trade barriers, limiting the take up of modern technology, and failing to boost productivity. Going ‘green’ would be beneficial on all these fronts. It would also facilitate the structural transformation of the economy through the adoption of new technologies and knowledge. All this will require measures to facilitate a ‘just transition’ for workers and communities who depend on polluting industries for their livelihoods.
Serbia is a signatory to the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, aiming for a climate neutral world by mid-century. The Government recently published its updated Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement, pledging to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 by 33.3 percent compared to 1990. Accompanying plans and strategies are under preparation, but the direction of travel is clear: Serbia urgently needs to boost domestic renewable energy production, increase energy efficiency, and gradually lower dependency on fossil fuels, especially coal and oil, for power generation, heating, and transport.
The World Bank is supporting Serbia’s progress on all these fronts both through financial and technical assistance.
Op-ed originally published in Kurir daily via World Bank
Explainer: European Media Freedom Act
The aim of the European Media Freedom Act is to protect media pluralism and independence in the EU single market, where media can operate more easily across borders without undue interference.
The Act will complement existing measures on the audiovisual market, setting clear rules and safeguards to ensure greater independence, transparency and cooperation between media market operators and thereby promote their economic development across borders.
- What are the benefits of the European Media Freedom Act for media companies in general?
The European Media Freedom Act will strengthen the editorial freedom of media companies and protect them from unjustified, disproportionate and discriminatory national measures, protecting the pluralism of European media landscape. Media companies will also benefit from fairer and more transparent allocation of state advertising expenditure.
This common set of rules for all EU media players will allow for greater legal certainty and more predictability in media market concentrations, making it easier for media market players to expand their operations across the European internal market. Media companies will be able to benefit from fair competition and better return on investment in the digital environment through, for example, new audience measurement transparency rules and new safeguards concerning content removals on very large online platforms.
- What are the benefits of the European Media Freedom Act for public service media providers?
Public service media play a special role in ensuring that citizens have access to information. However, because of their source of funding, public service media are particularly exposed to the risk of political interference.
This is why the Media Freedom Act pays particular attention to public service media and the challenges they face. The Regulation proposes that funding provided to public service media should be adequate and stable, thus ensuring editorial independence. The Regulation also stipulates that public service media providers shall provide a plurality of information and opinions, in an impartial manner. Finally, to ensure greater independence from partisan political influence, the head and the governing board of public service media will have to be appointed in a transparent, open and non-discriminatory manner and can be dismissed only in very specific circumstances.
- What are the benefits of the Media Freedom Act for journalists and other media professionals?
Journalists and editors will be better protected from undue interference in editorial decision-making and, in the case of public service media, have assurances that their employer is equipped with adequate and stable funding for future operations, in accordance with their public service mission.
The Act also makes it clear that the use of spyware against media, journalists and their families is prohibited. In the same vein, the proposed rules clarify that journalists should not be prosecuted for protecting the confidentiality of their sources.
The accompanying recommendation sets out a catalogue of best practices to strengthen editorial independence and encourages the involvement of journalists in media companies’ decision-making as well as training opportunities.
The Regulation and Recommendation complement the measures to protect journalists issued by the Commission so far, such as the Recommendation on the safety of journalists and the proposed Directive to protect journalists and rights defenders from abusive litigation (anti-SLAPP).
- What are the requirement for the media themselves?
The Act includes a series of new rights to protect the media and it also comes with a very targeted set of responsibilities. The Act includes some specific requirements for media providing news and current affairs content, as these media play a particularly important role in informing citizens and shaping public opinion.
First, those media have to be transparent about their ownership. This requirement builds on existing EU legislation applying to companies in general (company law and anti-money laundering rules).
Second, those media shall also take the measures that they deem appropriate with a view to guaranteeing the independence of individual editorial decisions and to disclosing any actual or potential potential conflict of interest.
The media have full freedom in deciding which measures are the best fit according to their business model, size and other specificities. However in order to bring more transparency and trust, and in the public interest, the Act requires them to take those important principles – transparency related to owners, actual or potential conflict of interest and the independence of individual editorial decisions – into account.
This is not about regulating how media organise themselves. The overwhelming majority of media already have relevant measures in place.
It can be noted that the new Board has no role in monitoring those rules and is not a new oversight body for the press sector.
- How will the Act regulate the use of spyware against journalists?
The Act prohibits the use of spyware against media, journalists and their families. This is the rule. The Act narrows down any possible exceptions to this rule on the ground of national security, which is a competence of the Member States, or in case of investigations of a closed list of crimes, such as terrorism, child abuse or murder. In such cases, the Act makes it very clear that it should be duly justified, on a case-by-case basis, in compliance with the Charter of Fundamental Rights, in circumstances where no other investigative tool would be adequate. The Act therefore provides in this respect concrete new guarantees at EU level.
Any affected journalist would have the right to seek effective judicial protection from an independent court in the respective Member State. Additionally, every Member State will have to designate an independent authority to handle complaints of journalists concerning the use of spyware against them. These independent authorities will issue, within three months of the request, an opinion regarding compliance with the provisions of the Media Freedom Act.
- What is the role of the European media freedom watchdog? How will the Board operate in practice?
The Commission proposes to set up a new European Board for Media Services comprised of national media authorities. The Board will replace and succeed the European Regulators Group for Audiovisual Media Services (ERGA) established under the EU’s Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD). The Board shall act in full independence when performing its tasks.
The Board will:
- promote the effective and consistent application of the European Media Freedom Act and the broader EU media law framework;
- provide expert advice on regulatory, technical or practical aspects of media regulation;
- deliver opinions on national measures and media market concentrations which are likely to affect the functioning of the internal market for media services, including by having an impact on media freedom and pluralism;
- promote cooperation and the effective exchange of information, experience and best practices between national media regulators.
The Board will play a specific role in the fight against disinformation, including foreign interference and information manipulation. It will coordinate national measures related to media services provided by media service providers established outside of the Union that target audiences in the Union and present risks to public security and defence.
The Act also foresees a mechanism of mutual assistance in case one regulatory authority needs the help of another to address risks to the internal market or public security.
It should be noted that regarding the oversight of the rules related to public service media providers, it is up to each Member State to designate one or more independent authorities or bodies that may be different from media regulators. This approach aims to take into account national specificities related to the oversight of public service media.
The Board is not responsible either for the oversight of other provisions of the Act related to the rights and duties of media service providers, including press publications.
- How will the media market concentration assessment work?
The Media Freedom Act does not prevent or set specific thresholds for media market concentrations. It does however provide a framework regarding national rules and procedures for assessing media market concentrations that could have a significant impact on media pluralism and editorial independence.
The objective of the proposal is to ensure a well-functioning internal media market. Without prejudice to applicable competition rules, the Regulation will ensure that Member States will assess media market concentrations that could have a significant impact on media pluralism and editorial independence. This will be done on the basis of criteria set out in advance that take into account a number of elements, including effects on the formation of public opinion, safeguards for editorial independence and economic sustainability.
The Board will be able to issue opinions on draft assessments done by national regulatory authorities regarding media market concentrations that may affect the functioning of the internal market. It could also issue an opinion in cases where there is no such national assessment or consultation of the Board by a national authority or body.
- How will the European Media Freedom Act regulate national measures affecting the media?
The Media Freedom Act requires that any national measures (legislative, regulatory or administrative, e.g. granting a licence or authorisation) which can affect operations of media service providers in the internal market should be justified, proportionate, reasoned, transparent, objective and non-discriminatory.
The Board will be able to intervene, upon request of the Commission, by issuing opinions on national measures, including legislative proposals adopted at national level. The Commission would also have a possibility to issue its own opinions on such measures.
In case of breach of the law, the Commission will be able to intervene, using the powers granted by the Treaties, including by launching infringement procedures.
- How will the European Media Freedom Act address state advertising and why is this important?
State advertising is an important revenue source in the media sector, and market players should benefit from equal opportunities in accessing it.
With regard to advertising by public authorities (at national or regional level, or local authorities of cities with more than 1 million population) and state-owned enterprises, the European Media Freedom Act requires that the allocation of such state advertising to media is transparent, objective, proportionate and non-discriminatory. The objective is to minimise the risks of public funds and other state resources being leveraged to serve partisan interests and to promote fair competition in the internal media market. Public authorities and state-owned enterprises will have to publish yearly information about their advertising expenditure allocated to media service providers, including the names of the media service providers from which advertising services were purchased and the amounts spent (annual amount and amount per provider).
- What is the link between the Media Freedom Act and the Digital Services Act, when it comes to media content moderation?
The European Media Freedom Act builds on the Digital Services Act. The proposal offers additional protection against the unjustified removal by very large online platforms (above 45 million users in the EU) of media content produced according to professional standards. Such platforms will need to take all possible measures to communicate the reasons for suspending content to media service providers before the suspension takes effect. The procedure includes a series of safeguards to ensure that this early warning procedure is in line with other priorities of the Commission, such as the fight against disinformation. Any complaints lodged by media service providers must be processed with priority by those platforms. The proposal provides for a meaningful and effective dialogue between the parties to avoid unjustified content removals and for obligatory annual reporting by very large online platforms.
These provisions are accompanied by a structured dialogue organised by the European Board for Media Services between very large online platforms, the media sector and civil society to foster access to diverse offers of independent media on very large online platforms and to monitor adherence to self-regulatory initiatives aimed at protecting society from harmful content, including disinformation and foreign information manipulation and interference.
- What are the links between the Act and the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD)?
The European Media Freedom Act builds on the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD), which coordinates certain aspects of Member State regulation on audiovisual media services. In particular, the proposal strengthens the cooperation of national media regulators, including with regard to the provisions of the AVMSD. Notably, the European Media Freedom Act establishes a framework for cooperation and mutual assistance among media regulators and introduces a new mechanism to facilitate the enforcement of the AVMSD obligations of video-sharing platforms. In addition, the European Regulators Group for Audiovisual Media Services (ERGA), which was established under the AVMSD, will be replaced and succeeded by the European Board for Media Services, which will take on the tasks of ERGA under the AVMSD and new tasks under the proposal. The proposal and the accompanying Recommendation also build on the provisions of the AVMSD on transparency of media ownership.
At the same time, the proposed European Media Freedom Act introduces a number of new provisions going beyond the AVMSD, for example, on audience measurement systems, state advertising and the protection of journalistic sources. It also has a broader scope and is not limited to audiovisual media.
- What is the new right of customisation of the audiovisual media offer?
The Regulation introduces a right of customisation of the media offer on devices and interfaces used to access audiovisual media services, such as connected TVs. This means that users will be able to change the default settings and adapt them to their own preferences. It will apply, for example, to hardware (e.g. remote controls) or software shortcuts, applications and search areas.
When placing such devices and user interfaces on the market, manufacturers and developers will need to ensure that they include a functionality enabling users to freely and easily exercise this right.
The rules will not affect the Member States’ ability to ensure the appropriate prominence of audiovisual media services of general interest (Article 7a of the revised Audiovisual and Media Services Directive).
- Why and how does the European Media Freedom Act address audience measurement?
Audience measurement is of key importance for the media and advertising ecosystems, as it helps the calculation of advertising prices, and thus further allocation of advertising revenues and the related planning, production or distribution of content by media service providers.
Building on the Digital Markets Act, the Regulation requires that the providers of audience measurement tools provide media service providers and advertisers with detailed information on the methodology used. The Media Freedom Act will also oblige regulatory authorities to encourage the drawing up of codes of conduct among providers of audience measurement tools to foster transparency, inclusiveness and non-discrimination.
With the new audience measurement rules, media companies will be able to benefit from fair competition and a better return on investment in the digital environment.
- Why is the Commission presenting both a Regulation and a Recommendation?
The European Media Freedom Act takes the form of a Regulation comprising common rules and safeguards that will be directly applicable across the European Union once adopted by the European Parliament and the Council. The Regulation is accompanied by a Recommendation that provides a catalogue of voluntary best practices collected from media companies and other media stakeholders and to be discussed with them in order to further support editorial independence. The aim is to help increase the resilience of the media against pressure. It also includes recommendations to media companies and Member States enhancing media ownership transparency. The Recommendation will apply immediately and is expected to lead to positive developments in the internal media market in the short term. In addition, a combination of a Regulation and a Recommendation allows taking into account specificities of media regulation and self-regulation at the EU level and in the Member States.
- When will the European Media Freedom Act enter into force?
As the next step, the European Parliament and the Member States will discuss the Commission’s proposal for a Regulation under the ordinary legislative procedure. Once adopted by the co-legislators, the Regulation will be binding in its entirety and directly applicable in all Member States. Most provisions will apply 6 months after the entry into force of the Regulation. Provisions concerning the European Board for Media Services will apply already 3 months after the entry into force to lay the ground for a successful implementation.
- How will the European Media Freedom Act be enforced in Member States?
The Media Freedom Act is a Regulation which means it is directly applicable in all Member States. This means that any alleged breaches can be brought before national Courts. The European Board for Media Services, together with the European Commission, will ensure the consistent application of the European Media Freedom Act and the wider EU media law framework. In the context of national measures affecting the operation of media service providers, the Board’s opinions will be an important element in any decision on whether a Member State has infringed the Act. In the most serious cases, the Commission would be able to intervene, using the powers granted by the Treaties, including launching infringement procedures.
The Recommendation accompanying the legislative proposal is non-binding. However, the Commission will monitor the implementation of the Recommendation by Member States and hold discussions regarding stakeholders’ actions to follow it up in relevant fora.
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