Responding to continuing concerns from the European Parliament and non-governmental organisations about media concentration, and its possible effects on pluralism and freedom of expression, Commissioner Viviane Reding and Vice-President Margot Wallström - presented to fellow Commissioners three-steps on media pluralism in the European Union.
"While the media face radical changes and restructuring due to new technology and global competition, maintaining media pluralism is crucial for the democratic process in the Member States and in the European Union as a whole," said Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding. "This requires a sound understanding of the economic and legal reality of today's European media landscape, which our three-step approach seeks to achieve."
Vice-President Margot Wallström added: "Communication - understood as a lively and civilised debate among citizens - is the lifeblood of democracy. The media are its veins and arteries. Information they provide should be comprehensive, diverse, critical, reliable, fair and trustworthy."
The three steps set out by Commissioner Reding and Vice-President Wallström, responsible for Institutional Relations and Communication Strategy, follows suggestions made at the Liverpool Audiovisual Conference in 2005, and indicates how this politically-sensitive issue should proceed.
In the 'Reding-Wallström' approach, the notion of media pluralism is much broader than media ownership; it covers access to varied information so citizens can form opinions without being influenced by one dominant source. Citizens also need transparent mechanisms that guarantee that the media are seen as genuinely independent.
Already the new Directive "Audiovisual Media Services Without Frontiers", as proposed by the Commission in December 2005 contributes to media pluralism in this respect. In particular, it would oblige Member States to guarantee that their national regulatory authorities are independent from their national governments and audiovisual media service providers. The Commission proposal on this will be debated again during the Directive's second reading in the first semester of 2007.
The 'Reding-Wallström' approach, as presented today to the Commission, has three steps:
1. A Commission Staff Working Paper on Media Pluralism (presented already today). It outlines efforts to promote pluralism by third parties and organisations, notably the essential work undertaken by the Council of Europe, and has a concise first survey of Member States' audiovisual and print media markets. This baseline analysis also includes information on national media ownership regulations and the very diverse regulatory models of the 27 Member States.
2. An independent study on media pluralism in EU Member States to define and test concrete and objective indicators for assessing media pluralism in the EU Member States (in 2007).
3. A Commission Communication on the indicators for media pluralism in the EU Member States (in 2008), on which a broad public consultation will take place. This could lead to an evaluation of the opportunity for applying the media pluralism indicators, for example through a further study.
Throughout the whole process, the Commissioners' Group on Fundamental Rights, as well as the European Parliament and Council will be kept informed about the progress made.
For more on the 'Reding-Wallström' approach and the ongoing Commission work on media pluralism, see: http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/media_taskforce/pluralism/