Publication Date: December 2012
Research and Editorial Team: Professor Vaira Vīķe‐Freiberga (Chair), Professor Herta Däubler‐Gmelin, Ben Hammersley, Professor Luís Miguel Poiares Pessoa Maduro

This report presents the final recommendations drawn in 2013 by the European Commission High Level Group on Media Freedom and Pluralism (HLG), established in October 2011 with the task to provide a set of proposals for the strengthening and the promotion of pluralism and freedom of the media in Europe. Upholding the principle that a free and pluralistic media environment is fundamental for the European democracy (Article 11.2 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU), the HLG warns that these conditions are far from consolidated in Europe. Among the challenges that most seriously endanger journalistic freedom and pluralism at present, the HLG identifies in particular political influence, commercial pressures, the changing media landscape and the rise of the new media.

The HLG recognizes that the main responsibility for maintaining media freedom and pluralism lies with the Member States, yet it also points out that the EU is competent to intervene on media freedom and pluralism in order to guarantee the rights of freedom of movement and to representative democracy. This shall be done both within Member States and outside EU borders, with media freedom and pluralism playing a prominent role in the assessment of accession countries.

One of the first aspects stressed in the HLG report is the need for an accurate knowledge basis for the EU to intervene and have a significant role in this field. It is compelling to this end to have access to comprehensive and up-to-date information, possibly through the establishment of an independent monitoring body.

Further on, the HLG points to the importance of harmonization of the existing national legislations, covering cross‐border media activities on areas such as libel laws or data protection. Regarding regulations, the HLG calls to adapting regulatory frameworks and codes of self-regulation to the fluid media environment. It is crucial in this regard to make sure that the principle of protection of journalistic sources is fully respected, along with the right of access to information. At the same time, there must be clear definition of professional responsibilities for journalists in order to reinforce trust in the category.

The HLG recommended the formalisation of cooperation between regulatory bodies in the field of audiovisual media services to share common good practice and setting quality standards, a step which was succesfully implemented in 2014, leading to the creation of the European Regulators Group for Audiovisual Media Services (ERGA).

Economic incentives and transparency are identified in the report as crucial elements to improve the quality of journalism and guarantee pluralism of the media. The funding for quality journalism, including through fellowship programs is hence encouraged. Public funding, the report stresses, shall be assigned transparently and conditional to the adoption and publicity of a code of conduct by media organizations. With this regard, the HLG also reiterates the importance of state funding for media which are essential for pluralism (including geographical, linguistic, cultural and political pluralism), but are not commercially viable.

Tags: EU Member States Media freedom Media pluralism European policies and legislation

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