September 26, 2022
The proposed Regulation includes safeguards against political interference in editorial decisions and against surveillance. It focuses on the independence and stable funding of public service media as well as on the transparency of media ownership and of the allocation of state advertising. It also sets out measures to protect the independence of editors and to disclose conflicts of interest. The Act will also address the issue of media concentration and create a new independent European Board for Media Services, comprised of national media authorities. The Commission has also adopted a complementary Recommendation to encourage internal safeguards for editorial independence.
The proposed Regulation will contain the following:
- protection of editorial independence: the proposed Regulation will require Member States to respect the editorial freedom of media service providers and improve the protection of journalistic sources; media service providers will have to ensure transparency of ownership through public disclosure and take measures to guarantee the independence of individual editorial decisions;
- no use of spyware against media: the proposed Regulation includes strong safeguards against the use of spyware against media, journalists and their families;
- independent public service media: where public service media exist, their funding should be adequate and stable to ensure editorial independence; the head and the governing board of public service media must be appointed in a transparent, open and non-discriminatory manner; public service media providers must provide a plurality of information and opinions, in an impartial manner, in accordance with their public service mission;
- media pluralism tests: the proposed Regulation requires Member States to assess the impact of media market concentrations on media pluralism and editorial independence; it also requires that any legislative, regulatory or administrative measure taken by a Member State that could affect the media is duly justified and proportionate;
- transparent state advertising: the proposed Regulation will establish new requirements for the allocation of state advertising to media so that it is transparent and non-discriminatory; it will also enhance the transparency and objectivity of audience measurement systems, which have an impact on media advertising revenues, in particular online;
- protection of media content online: building on the Digital Services Act, the Media Freedom Act includes safeguards against the unjustified removal of professional media content; in cases not involving systemic risks such as disinformation, very large online platforms that intend to take down legal media content considered to be contrary to the platform’s policies will first have to inform media service providers of the reasons; any complaints lodged by media service providers will have to be processed swiftly by those platforms; and
- new user right to customise user’s media offer: the Media Freedom Act will introduce a right for users to customise the media offer on devices and interfaces, such as connected TVs, enabling them to change the default settings to reflect their own preferences.
The proposal is accompanied by a Recommendation setting out voluntary best practices from the sector, aimed at promoting editorial independence and greater ownership transparency. The Recommendation provides a toolbox of voluntary measures for media companies to consider, such as the conditions for the independent creation of editorial content, from empowering journalists to participate in important decisions on the functioning of media outlets, to strategies to ensure the stability of news content production.
The Commission also proposes to set up a new independent European Board for Media Services comprised of national media authorities. The Board will promote the effective and consistent application of the EU media law framework by assisting the Commission in preparing guidelines on media regulatory matters. It will also be able to issue opinions on national measures and decisions affecting media markets and media market concentrations.
The Board will also coordinate national regulatory measures regarding non-EU media that present a risk to public security to ensure that those media do not circumvent the applicable rules in the EU. The Board will also organise a structured dialogue between very large online platforms and the media sector to promote access to diverse media offers and to monitor platforms’ compliance with self-regulatory initiatives, such as the EU Code of Practice on Disinformation.
It is now for the European Parliament and the Member States to discuss the Commission’s proposal. Once the Regulation is adopted, it will be directly applicable across the EU. The Commission will encourage discussions, notably as part of the European News Media Forum, on voluntary practices by media companies linked to the accompanying Recommendation. To read the Commission’s press release in full and for links to further information, click here.