A new Horizon for Europe’s Media, Cultural and Creative industries

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

Europe needs to nurture a media sphere that can discuss and debate its future, write Pieter Boeder, Christiane Lötsch, and Péter Techet. [oleschwander/Shutterstock]

Media and the Cultural and Creative Industries are underrepresented in policies and actions aimed at promoting research and innovation in the EU. Luciano Morganti and Heritiana Ranaivoson present their reflections and recommendations for the future of these sectors.

Prof. Luciano Morganti and Dr. Heritiana Ranaivoson are senior researchers at the research centre imec-SMIT-VUB. They lead the Policy Hub of the EU-funded MediaRoad Project.

Cultural and Creative Industries play a crucial role in our society. They are a key factor of the EU integration process as they are instrumental in promoting European values, in contributing to education and awareness of global challenges, and in assuring community cohesion and civic engagement. They are also an important source of economic growth and jobs, contributing 4.5% of EU GDP and employing, directly or indirectly, more than 7 million Europeans. Not to be forgotten, media are today a key factor in fighting the spread of disinformation and fake news.

Acknowledging the strategic importance of the media industries, the EU has developed a strong tradition of multifaceted investments in media research and innovation. However, in today’s European programmes, these investments are scattered and dispersed, and the technological aspects of innovation are predominant in comparison to those related to content creation.  

This unbalance is reflected in the mismatch between the two main investment programmes: Horizon 2020, addressing mainly technological innovation, and Creative Europe, addressing mainly content and innovation in content. With the new Multi-annual Financial Framework to arrive in 2021, it is now time to propose an integrated vision of European policies, investments and actions for a truly coherent, sustainable, innovative and successful European media ecosystem.

We need dedicated and specific investments in media innovation. It is important that the increase in funding dedicated to media research and innovation – discussed for the new Horizon Europe programme – does not happen at the cost of a decrease in the funding for the Creative Europe programme. At the time of writing, the Cultural and Creative Industries are still – regrettably – not present in the broader Horizon Europe scheme and synergies between the different funding schemes are yet to be envisaged to better support research and innovation in the media sector. Unless the EU is able to come up with a programme that bridges innovations in technology and in content creation, the European media sectors will not be able to face the important challenges on the horizon. These are: 1) Guaranteeing diversity of content and competition in a context in which investment in technological innovation in Europe is dwarfed by dominant global players acting – often – in an non-transparent market; 2) Rethinking business models for established and new media to be able to adapt them to the emergence of disruptive technologies, and 3) Ensuring media accessibility for impaired users and improving skills for the professionals in media.

How to foster innovation in the European Media and Cultural and Creative Industries?

To address these important challenges, we strongly encourage an EU-Specific integration of policies and actions for the Media sector and the Cultural and Creative Industries. This is possible through the combination of financial support and sector-specific policy and legal frameworks. This integrated approach should also promote high-quality media and journalism with ad-hoc policies to deal with information disorder and a clear framework that guarantees transparency and accountability for online platforms. It is also important that this approach should take place, depending on the specific challenges faced, at the appropriate level, be this local, national, European or even global.

The EU needs to work on mechanisms to enhance collaboration amongst stakeholders. To be more specific, cooperation amongst networks, media hubs and creative media clusters is key for the future of the sector. We also believe that Media should be explicitly referenced in clusters like Horizon Europe’s Open Innovation, the Digital Innovation Hubs or the Digital Europe Programme. The EU needs to ensure that specific support is to be provided to specific categories of actors depending on the specific policy objectives. Concretely, access to the markets could be enhanced for European SMEs and start-ups, and implementation of programmes and actions could be differentiated with more time to comply for small and new players and national and European players. Furthermore, a clear policy and legal framework is needed to ensure the transparency and accountability of dominant platforms. These are for us key ideas to fully create a level playing field for the media sector.

Accessibility, inclusion and media literacy are also paramount to the success of the European Media and Cultural and Creative sectors. If the European principles of solidarity and equality are to be respected, the EU must promote accessibility and inclusion of media services regardless of age and disability. Also, minorities should be included not only with access but also with participation and integration in the production of content.

To conclude, the EU must work on enhancing media literacy and strengthening skills. In this respect, not only users of media need to become more media literate but also the skills of professionals in the field need to be adapted to face current and future challenges.

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