Forum sees pluralism threatened, says EU needs to regulate
By Irina Smirnova-Godoy | Thursday 28 June 2012
A pan-European forum, held in the European Parliament’s plenary chamber in Brussels on June 27, provided a platform for numerous stakeholders to share their views on the current state of affairs in the new digital media, with a special focus on media pluralism. Celebrities like actor Hugh Grant or Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason were also on hand.
The discussions revolved around three themes: quality of digital media content; international regulation of digital media; and best practices on how to achieve greater diversity in media content. In the context of the rapid growth in online news content and the emergence of online citizen journalism, the participants exchanged views on the related challenges, such as threats to privacy, risks of hate speech and exposure to cyber crime.
The speakers stressed that media pluralism suffers when media outlets do not generate their own content due to financial constraints, but rather draw information from external sources, such as Google or the
BBC. As a result, the audience is deprived of its right to choose content, said Nils Muiznieks, the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights, in a video conference appearance. Pluralism also means free access to content that is often taken for granted in Europe, yet according to
BBC News Director Helen Boaden, nearly eight million people in UK alone do not have access to the internet.
The urgent need for international standards regulating the relations between the digital media and state authorities was brought to the fore by the panel where actor Hugh Grant vehemently argued in favour of an EU directive to establish thresholds for media ownership concentration. “In the UK, the state is afraid of the media and their power of intrusion in private lives for financial gain must be curbed,” he said. The situation is also problematic in Italy and Russia, where state officials (Berlusconi in Italy) or state-owned companies (Gazprom in Russia) own major national media outlets. The apparent spread of this practice in Europe – described as a “worrying anomaly” by a participant - necessitates immediate EU regulatory engagement. Another concern is the private unregulated ownership of internet service providers, digital devices and internet content providers, where EU legislative frameworks have a catch-up job to do, said the participants.
The forum is expected to set out a road map for developing a coherent EU regulatory strategy and provide follow-up with focused workshops organised with the support of the Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy.
The forum is expected to set out a road map for developing a coherent EU regulatory strategy