Against the background of restructuring of the global and European media industry and technological changes which blur the distinctions between communications and media sectors, the EU is particularly concerned about media pluralism as a cornerstone of democracy.

Overview

Background With the liberalisation of the media, fierce competition for market share began in Europe in the 1980s. In December 1992, the Commission issued a Green Paper on pluralism and media concentration in the internal market which emphasised that it is primarily up to the Member States to maintain the diversity of the media. The Commission believed there were sufficient means of preventing concentration in the audiovisual sector. It therefore offered three options: no action at EU level, greater transparency of media ownership and harmonisation of national laws on media ownership.

The Commission has begun to apply the EU competition rules to broadcasting organisations and to the supranational multi-media groups. A Directive on media concentration has been requested several times by the European Parliament. In its resolution of 19 September 1996, the Parliament called for "both EU and national support to underpin the values of Public Service Broadcasting, in a time of increasing competition between private, multinational media groups and public broadcasters". The EU's Directive on a common regulatory framework for networks and services in the electronic communications market contains some elements to promote cultural and linguistic diversity as well as media pluralism.

Recent events, such as the collapse of the Kirch Group, are likely to trigger new discussions on media ownership. For an an alysis of the European media landscape, see McKinsey's

'The great European multimedia gamble' (McKinsey Quarterly, 1995 Number 3). Albeit not too recent, it is still relevant.

Issues

Issues Issues in the media pluralism discussion are:

  • independence of media;
  • competition and ownership;
  • digital technology and the new multichannels;
  • influence of media landscape on democracy;

Issues Issues in the media pluralism discussion are:

  • independence of media;
  • competition and ownership;
  • digital technology and the new multichannels;
  • influence of media landscape on democracy;

Positions

Positions The members of the European Publishers Council (EPC) believe that a specific Directive on media pluralism is against their long term interests and the interests of a flourishing European media industry and that they would be better served by the strength and simplicity of competition policy.

The Council of Europe states that countries should promote political and cultural pluralism by developing their media policy in line with Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees freedom of expression and information, and with due respect for the principle of independence of the media.

Mr Watson MEP (ELDR) stated on 15 November 2002 that "The last time that the European Commission examined the issue of media ownership rules in Europe was in 1994. Since then, we have seen a proliferation of mergers and takeovers in the media, with the emergence of vast conglomerates [..]. The development of digital television, the internet and mobile telephony has also transformed the media landscape. Given that a free and diverse media is essential to Europe's democracy, prosperity and cultural vitality, it is high time that politicians face up to their responsibilities and return to this issue."

Timeline

Next

  • On 20 November 2002 the EP plenary called on the Commission to draw up an updated Green Paper by the end of 2003 on media pluralism both in Member States and applicant countries.