Media ownership in Europe: the bigger picture

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.COM Ltd.

A new report by the European Federation of Journalists highlights the problems of the growing concentration of the media in the EU and beyond – a call for action to protect media plurality. 

“The issue of media concentration is back on the political agenda,” says Aidan White, Secretary General of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), in the preface to this extensive research paper published by the EFJ, adding, “not least because of the rapid transformation of the global media landscape and the introduction of new information technologies that now give people the opportunity to get their journalism and information from a kaleidoscope of sources – the telephone, the computer, their iPod or Walkman, as well as their satellite television, digital radio and the traditional range of newspapers and broadcasting outlets.”

The authors of the 160-page paper have looked at media ownership in the 25 EU member states and in the south-eastern European countries not yet members of the EU – with the exception of Turkey, which would have been an interesting addition. The report is completed by short introductions to the continent’s top eight media-owning companies,  from Bertelsmann, which used to be a classic book printing house and is now reaching out to television, music distribution, magazine publishing and media services, to the cable provider Liberty Global, passing by the W.A.Z. and Ringier, Germany- and Switzerland-based publishing companies, which are extending their influence to Central and Eastern Europe. 

In the 33 country reports, media ownership is analysed sector-by-sector. Short portraits of the most important media companies are provided. In some cases, more figures on ownership structure would have added even more value to the report. However, it was the authors’ decision to take a concise approach, which favours readability over detailed information. Still, the report remains essential reading for anyone who deals with the media landscape, plurality issues and the concentration process in the EU and beyond – a publication that is well-scheduled at the time of the review of the ‘Television without frontiers‘ directive (which is likely to become the ‘Audiovisual without frontiers’ directive) and of Commissioner Reding’s initiative to boost EU publishing industries

Aidan White concludes: “This survey indicates what is happening and is also a wake-up call to the European Union that pluralism is not just an issue to be left to local politicians – it is a European issue that requires a European response. Without it there will be policy drift and the European model of democracy that we have taken for granted for generations will be compromised.”

 

Media Power in Europe: the Big Picture of Ownership [7.4 MB pdf download]

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