The founder and CEO of EIMP’s Hungarian member Telex, Marton Karpati, participated as one of the panelists at an event in the European Parliament on the European Media Freedom Act (EMFA) on 31 May, titled “European Media Freedom Act. A novel set of rules to protect media pluralism and independence in the EU”. The event was hosted by Greens/EFA shadow rapporteur on the EMFA, MEP Diana Riba i Giner, and focused on key aspects of the regulation such as transparency provisions and media concentration, editorial independence, protection of journalists, and the public mission of media.
Next to Telex’ Marton Karpati, panelists were Audrius Perkauskas, Deputy Head of Unit Audiovisual and Media Services Policy, DG CONNECT, European Commission – the unit in charge of the EMFA; Joan Barata, Future of Free Speech Project and Stanford University; Elda Brogi, Center for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom; Mark Dempsey, Article 19; Enric Borràs, Deputy editor of Ara Newspaper and President of the Ramon Barnils Group of Journalists; and Renate Schroeder, European Federation of Journalists.
Mr Karpati brought the perspective from Hungary and gave first hand accounts on the media situation Telex operates in.
Even though we have laws, even though we have a media authority that is supposed to be independent, what happens in the media market very often favors the government. The public service media have become a propaganda machine of the government, the advertising market is completely distorted and the public sphere and free press are constantly being curtailed.Marton Karpati, founder and CEO of Telex and member of EIMP – European Independent Media Publishers association
Mr Karpati further discussed four key areas of EMFA that are key for Telex and EIMP:
- Article 17 and the definition of ‘media service provider’ (MSP): the final text of the EMFA must include a clear and balanced definition of ‘media service provider’ (MSP), which ensures that content produced by independent, digital publishers and distributed online receives the same treatment as content produced by incumbent, legacy media publishers active online. In practice, we see a clear risk that the definition of MSP will make it de facto possible only for legacy media publishers to be captured, and therefore enjoy special treatment online. This would create two categories of media in Europe, reducing media pluralism and competition in media in Europe.
- Concentrations in media markets: Concentrations in media markets are often symptoms of deeper interference and lack of independence. Media being owned by a few conglomerates raises the question to what extent there is actual media pluralism, and editorial independence. We support the provision calling on Member States to take into account possible negative consequences on media pluralism and editorial independence when reviewing a concentration in the media market. In general, we welcome any measure that facilitates market entry for new players.
- Allocation of economic resources based on latest market developments: In Hungary, the state is the biggest advertiser, the state spends the most money on advertising, but it does not do this on the basis of efficiency, but on the basis of political interests. In the friendly press there are state advertisements, elsewhere there are essentially none. We welcome the initiative of EMFA to update audience measurement systems and methodologies for allocating state advertising, and we call on the co-legislators to fully take into consideration the most recent developments in the news media landscape, understanding what the current (and future) models for producing, distributing, and consuming media are. The EMFA (and other legislation) must not regulate past models, but foster new and innovative ones.
- State interference and editorial independence: Telex is a case in point of why and how state interference must be limited and editorial independence guaranteed. Telex was born out of signs of political influence at our previous workplace, and at one point our editor-in-chief was fired, and we all quit our jobs and decided to make ourselves an influential, free, critical but fair newspaper. Unlike most European countries, in Hungary there are signs of government interference in the media market every day. It is unacceptable that situations arise in an EU country that are similar to those of autocracies.