The European Commission is set to present the European Media Freedom Act (EMFA) later this year, for which a public consultation is currently open. The EMFA will aim to safeguard pluralism and independence of media in the EU, as we have also had the pleasure to discuss with the European Commission at our most recent roundtable discussion on the future of media in Europe. Please read below (and here) EIMP’s contribution to the public consultation on the European Media Freedom Act:
Media pluralism is one of the cornerstones of European democracy and as such must be safeguarded. The European Innovative Media Publishers (EIMP) association welcomes the European Commission’s intention to propose a European Media Freedom Act (EMFA), and its objectives as laid out in the call for evidence, especially on fostering undistorted competition between media companies.
EIMP brings together national associations of media publishers and companies that are active in the sector of (news) media publishing in the European Union and Europe. EIMP represents innovative, independent, local and regional outlets that rely on online channels to grow and reach audiences. Our members have extensive experience operating in the media sector, in different member states, and face various obstacles in their day to day activities. The goal of EIMP is promoting media pluralism and an ecosystem that fosters growth for small, independent and innovative (digital-native) media publishers in Europe.
Safeguarding and encouraging media pluralism has various facets to it, ranging from ownership transparency, to economic barriers to entry and sustainability, state interference, and journalists’ safety. EIMP’s focus has historically been on the economic aspects that hamper media pluralism, the most prominent example being the recent Copyright Directive reform and the debates that has triggered in relation to Articles 15 and 17.
In this regard, attempts at national level to go further than the Copyright Directive prescribes – for example by imposing mandatory collective licensing mechanisms, as was the case most recently in Austria – are a clear example of interpretations of EU rules that will limit media pluralism. Media publishers must be able to opt-out of neighbouring rights, and be free to pursue business models they deem most suitable. On Article 17, we continue to stress the technical issues associated to the use of automated filters, which are unable to contextualise content and therefore risk limiting media pluralism by wrongly blocking content.
Media pluralism can therefore only be achieved and maintained if we have a market that allows and encourages the entry of new players, which can then develop innovative and new business models and offer diverse, quality media to citizens. It must hence be ensured that the rules put in place at EU level, and then transposed and implemented at Member State level, do not further the disparity between large, established, incumbent media, and new, independent, innovative media. We also urge the European Commission to closely take in to account other ongoing policy proposals that will have an economic impact on the media sector, such as the Digital Services Act, and attempts by stakeholders to categorise ‘media’ in ways that would penalise smaller and less-established media publishers.
The media sector is fundamentally different from other economic areas such as raw materials or energy. The media, particularly news media, is deeply rooted in cultural and linguistic characteristics of the different EU Member States. The policy instruments available to further the internal market in this area are therefore limited compared to others. Nonetheless, we believe the EMFA is an opportunity to introduce a framework that will contribute to promoting a level-playing-field in media sectors across the EU and encourage media players to pursue more innovative and sustainable business models, thereby increasing media pluralism and quality journalism.