EFJ Welcomes European Parliament Bid to Counter Media Concentration and to Defend Pluralism

The European Federation of Journalists today welcomed the positive signal for the defence of media pluralism and press freedom given by a report adopted by the Citizens' Rights Committee of the European Parliament on Tuesday 30 March.

“This report is good news for all journalists and media workers in Europe,” said Gustl Glattfelder, Chairman of the EFJ. “It strikes a blow for media pluralism and, coming as it does on the eve of the accession of 10 new Member States and the possible adoption of a European constitution, provides an opportunity to make a fresh start on rules that will limit media concentration and enhance quality in journalism.”

The EFJ says that the Parliament’s report is a challenge to both the European Commission and national governments who they accuse of “willful neglect” of issues related to protection of media independence. They report goes before the Parliament in plenary session. “It is vital this report is given full backing,” said Glattfelder.

The report, produced by Liberal MEP Johanna Boogerd-Quaak for the Citizens' Rights Committee, says free and pluralist media are essential to freedom of expression and information and warns that where Member States fail to take adequate measures, the EU has “a political, moral and legal obligation” to ensure within its competence respect for media pluralism.

“The question of competence is fundamental,” said Glattfelder. “If the rules are not strong enough it is vital that they are changed. The future of pluralist and quality media depend upon it.”

The report notes several cases of threats on pluralism and press freedom, including pressure on public service broadcasters, excessive media concentration and infringement of the protection of sources. In the case of Italy, the report says the country “presents an anomaly” due to the highest degree of concentration of the audiovisual market in Europe and “a unique combination of economic, political and media power in the hands of the Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi”.

Among its recommendations, the Committee asks the European Commission to prepare a directive to safeguard media pluralism in Europe with regard to the existence of dominant position of a media company, which can be considered as an obstacle to media pluralism. It also calls for the adoption of rules on conflict of interests between politics and media activities and to “find a solution” to the case of Mr. Berlusconi. The report also presses for the promotion of works councils in the media sectors in particular in new member states, as well as efficient structures for internal pluralism, such as editorial statutes.

The European Federation of Journalist, which represents 250.000 journalists in Europe, has prepared surveys on media concentration in Europe and published a report on the media situation in Italy, Crisis in Italian Media: How Poor Politics and Flawed Legislation Put Journalism Under Pressure, in November 2003 which included a set of recommendations for Italy and the European Union. The EFJ also gave evidence to a European Parliament hearing on these issues.

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