Italy under fire in Parliament report on media pluralism

An EP report calling for EU-wide legislation to safeguard
media pluralism has been approved by a crushing majority
despite apparent attempts by centre-right MEPs to block the
vote.

In a tense atmosphere in plenary, MEPs have adopted a
non-binding report by Johanna Boogerd-Quaak (ELDR,
Netherlands) on the risks of violation, in the EU and
especially in Italy, of freedom of expression and
information. The report calls on the Commission to submit
a proposal for a directive to safeguard media pluralism
in Europe and singles out Italy, where the media are
concentrated in the fewest hands, for particular
criticism. However, in a speech at the Westminster media
forum in London on 22 April, Education and Culture
Commissioner Viviane Reding said that she did not think
media pluralism could be achieved by a
"one-size-fits-all" directive at European
level. 

One of the more controversial aspects of the report
was that it referred to named persons but President Cox
ruled that such references be deleted. Two groups, the
EPP-ED and UEN, boycotted the vote. Earlier, centre-right
MEPs were said to have used various delaying tactics,
such as well over 300 amendments and appeals for the
report to go back to committee level, to sink the
report.

The report draws on a preliminary
study by the European Institute for the Media entitled
'The information of the citizen in the EU:
obligations for the media and the Institutions concerning
the citizen's right to be fully and objectively
informed'. The study, which covers eight countries
(France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Poland,
Sweden and the UK) will be followed by a final study -
due in June - which will contain comparative conclusions
on all 25 current and new Member States.

It notes the debates in the UK
surrounding the Hutton report and the review of the
BBC's Charter and Agreements and criticises the
"[Spanish] government pressure on the public-service
broadcaster TVE resulted in blatant distortion and
ignoring of the facts regarding responsibility for the
appalling terrorist attacks of 11 March 2004".

In the context of the imminent
enlargement on 1 May, it also expresses concern that
"some accession countries, having little or no
tradition of an independent media, face particular
challenges in relation to ensuring pluralism in the
media". The newly elected Chair of the European
Federation of Journalists, Arne König, welcomed the
report, commenting that "It sends a powerful message
to the new and enlarged European Union – governments
and media corporations must respect editorial
independence, limit media concentration and increase
media pluralism".

Subscribe to our newsletters

Subscribe