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5th Dec 2021

More transparency on EU media owners planned for 2022

  • EU Commission vice-president Věra Jourová told MEPs journalists should have better protection than shoemakers in the EU - which they currently do not enjoy (Photo: European Parliament)
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The EU Commission will come forward with the media freedom act, an effort to better defend media pluralism and press freedom in Europe, starting from next July, commission vice-president Věra Jourová told MEPs on Tuesday (28 October).

The new rules will be based on the single market, meaning it will focus on the private sector and attempts to defend pluralism through increased transparency, and scrutinising ownership.

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However, the rules - planned for the third quarter of 2022 - are just now being formulated the commission, and the Czech commissioner said she cannot share details about the legislation, only its aim.

"I know very well the purpose, we have to protect the media sector against the attacks and against the efforts to capture them, to politicise them or use the for economic gains," she said.

This, Jourová added, will be "achieved by more transparency, more protection - in the sense of procedure, when possible - to start when we see a real risk in a member states".

She cited examples from Hungary, Poland and Slovenia, which have caused concern in Brussels.

In Hungary, the Central European Press and Media Foundation (KESMA) was created in 2018, whereby owners of a vast majority of pro-government media outlets donated their companies to the foundation, now controlling more than 500 of the country's media outlets. They sweep up the majority of state advertising-revenue.

In Poland, the government attempted to push through a controversial law banning non-European ownership of broadcasters.

In Slovenia, the commissioner highlighted attempts to undermine the sustainable funding and independence of the national press agency and public broadcasters.

Jourová said she was also concerned about media mergers in France.

"So this is what we try to do, safeguarding media independence, reacting to increasing risk, state interference, business mergers," she said.

"We want to increase [the] transparency of media ownership. People should know who is behind the media and what are the interests," the Czech politician added.

A database on media ownership should be done by September next year and will cover a first set of 15 member states, with 12 following later.

Jourová said she expected the member states will have concerns over the new proposals, and consultations with them have not started yet.

"We have only that strong protection [for journalists] as [for example] shoemakers have - we are in the single market - no extra protection," the commission vice-president said, adding this should be changed.

The commission vice-president in charge of EU values admitted the "state of the media in EU is not good".

She said there had been "more and more attacks, and threats, against media freedom and pluralism" and that the Covid-19 pandemic had made the situation worse.

EU to open up 'black box' of political ads

Paid political ads will have to show how much was spent on the ad, the sources of funds, the name of the sponsor. "Without providing this information, political advertisement will be illegal," commission vice-president Věra Jourová said.

EU Commission promises only minor update on transparency

Efforts to update and revise 20-year old EU transparency rules on document-access have been delayed for years - in part, because of the Council, representing member states. The European Commission has opted for internal guidelines, which are currently being drafted.

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