Workshop on ‘European policy for free and independent media systems: Current issues for regulation’

The constantly growing importance of the Internet has induced so-called ‘traditional’ media to diversify the forms of their production in order to develop rich and attractive websites. Audiovisual broadcasters had to resort to text to complete their offer on the web while the written press editors included videos and sounds on their websites. As a logical consequence, and Bart Van Besien, Research team of the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB).

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Credit: largerprime/ Creative Commons

The constantly growing importance of the Internet has induced so-called ‘traditional’ media to diversify the forms of their production in order to develop rich and attractive websites. Audiovisual broadcasters had to resort to text to complete their offer on the web while the written press editors included videos and sounds on their websites. As a logical consequence, and Bart Van Besien, Research team of the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB).

You may leave a comment with the authors.

Credit: largerprime/ Creative Commons

The constantly growing importance of the Internet has induced so-called ‘traditional’ media to diversify the forms of their production in order to develop rich and attractive websites. Audiovisual broadcasters had to resort to text to complete their offer on the web while the written press editors included videos and sounds on their websites. As a logical consequence, as well as in other countries of the European Union, and Bart Van Besien, Research team of the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB).

You may leave a comment with the authors.

Credit: largerprime/ Creative Commons

The constantly growing importance of the Internet has induced so-called ‘traditional’ media to diversify the forms of their production in order to develop rich and attractive websites. Audiovisual broadcasters had to resort to text to complete their offer on the web while the written press editors included videos and sounds on their websites. As a logical consequence, and Bart Van Besien, Research team of the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB).

You may leave a comment with the authors.

Credit: Creative Commons

The constantly growing importance of the Internet has induced so-called ‘traditional’ media to diversify the forms of their production in order to develop rich and attractive websites. Audiovisual broadcasters had to resort to text to complete their offer on the web while the written press editors included videos and sounds on their websites. As a logical consequence, the newspapers publishing industry has vividly protested against the development of the public broadcasters’ activities on the Internet, claiming that a state-supported competitor was plundering their resources. In the French Community of Belgium, the press took their case to court, seeking an injunction that the public service broadcasters (PSB) cease all “written press activity” over the Internet, including electronic newsletters and presence on the social networks.

Similar sounds of dissatisfaction were heard from newspaper publishers in the Flemish Community. The Minister responsible for media policy in the Flemish government recently exposed her ideas on the future of the Flemish PSB and insisted, between others, on the need to clearly demarcate what tasks should be performed by PSB and what tasks should remain with private broadcasters. According to the Minister, prohibiting a PSB to develop into new media outlets would constitute, in the present societal environment, a condemnation to evolve towards mere ‘hospice care’.

In that briefly sketched context, the European Parliament has adopted a resolution on “public service broadcasting in the digital era: the future of the dual system” in November 2010. The resolution is based on a report prepared by MEP Ivo Bellet (BE). It opens with a reaffirmation of the necessity to preserve the “dual system” of the European broadcasting landscape and of the conviction that a “genuinely balanced” coexistence of public service and private media operators plays a fundamental role in a democratic society. The resolution insists on the specific contribution of public service broadcasting, whose mission is to cultivate – regardless of commercial considerations or political influence – a high quality public sphere that is freely and universally accessible on all platforms. The resolution also notes that transparency of ownership of private broadcasters should be guaranteed and encourages the implementation of the Media Pluralism Monitor. Relying on the Commission’s broadcasting communication of July 2009 and on recommendations of the Council of Europe, the European Parliament plainly confirms the legitimacy of the online presence of PSB for the provision of their traditional services as well as new services on the Internet.

How should Member States define the remit, organisation and funding of the PSB in order to ensure a fair competition on the digital media market? The European Parliament acknowledges that finding the appropriate balance remains an open question but advances some suggestions to mark out a path towards a win-win situation for all. In a few words: now is a time for discussion and innovation. Experience and good practices need to be shared, for instance through the cooperation of national media regulators within the European Platform of Regulatory Authorities. Public and private broadcasters are invited to cooperate with publishers in order to launch innovative projects in relation to content-sharing and cross-referencing. The most decisive negotiations, however, will involve more than the traditional media sector: as the resolution urges in conclusion, Europe needs to devise “ways in which search engines and internet service providers could contribute to the financing of content creation”.

Pierre-François Docquir and Bart Van Besien, Research team of the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB).

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Credit: Creative Commons

The constantly growing importance of the Internet has induced so-called ‘traditional’ media to diversify the forms of their production in order to develop rich and attractive websites. Audiovisual broadcasters had to resort to text to complete their offer on the web while the written press editors included videos and sounds on their websites. As a logical consequence, and Bart Van Besien, Research team of the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB).

You may leave a comment with the authors.

The European Commission’s 2010 Progress Report on Turkey and Enlargement Strategy and Main Challenges 2010-2011, were positively received by the Turkish government. While the government opted for a more optimistic interpretation of Turkey’s progress, the majority of the Progress Report’s findings signal a pressing need to record faster and more ambitious progress in accession reforms. Two areas where little or no progress has been recorded are freedom of expression and the media.

The Commission acknowledged the expansion of a public space where discussions on issues, previously considered contentious or divisive, take place, yet identified legal obstacles to advancing freedom of expression in Turkey: “Turkish law does not sufficiently guarantee freedom of expression in line with the ECHR and the ECtHR case law.” Citizens and journalists in particular, have faced trials and charges for allegedly violating clauses of the Turkish Criminal Code, Anti-Terror Law and Press Law. Particularly contentious were the prosecutions based on Article 301 of the Turkish Criminal Code. The overwhelming number of investigations and rulings (4,091 investigations were carried out against persons who were accused of influencing the process of fair trial) shows that freedom of expression has been curtailed on a wide range of issues across the board. To illustrate, in June 2010, ?rfan Aktan was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment for authoring an interview with a PKK militant on the perceptions among Kurdish PKK militia of the Turkish government’s ‘Kurdish opening’. Earlier this November, the first court hearing of the journalists Ahmet ??k and Ertu?rul Mavio?lu, who are likely to be sentenced to 4.5 years in prison for authoring a book on the Ergenekon trial and thereby making public information that would influence the proceedings of the case in court, commenced. Finally, journalist and author Nedim ?ener was tried from June to November 2010 for violating confidentiality and for publishing top-secret material that allegedly violated Anti-Terror Law in his book on the Dink assassination. ?ener faced charges so dire that his sentence of up to 28 years in prison, if delivered, would have exceeded the 21 year imprisonment that Ogun Samast, the perpetrator of the Dink assassination, is serving. While Aktan is planning his appeal to the Court of Appeals, ??k and Mavio?lu continue to endure their trial. ?ener was recently acquitted. Evidently, the Commission is justified in expressing concern with the high number of cases initiated against journalists.

Furthermore, the report notes that hate speech is still prolific and most perpetrators enjoy impunity. Another issue underlined by the report is the frequent website bans and the incessant banning of websites such as YouTube and MySpace.

The argument that the curtailment of media freedom and democracy in Turkey has mainly to do with problems of legal process falls short in explaining the causes of and the potential solutions for other shortcomings of media freedom and independence in Turkey. Violations of freedom of expression and restrictions on media freedom occur in a democratising state which is in dire need of further structural and institutional reforms as well as a mentality shift. For instance, in its Progress Report, the Commission also expressed concern about the military’s practice of accrediting certain media and this is one issue which deserved more attention than what was paid. The military, as an institution that has for long been resistant to democratic reforms, nurtured a contentious practice of selecting media personnel and organisations that are given access to security news and information. Even though there has been significant progress on security reporting, mainstream media remain very much attached to the tradition of accreditation. An extension of this tradition is detected in the language and references employed particularly by mainstream media when reporting on security issues, especially on the Kurdish Question. Hence, the potential for editorial independence and ethical news making and reporting remains unexhausted.

Moreover, the Turkish state’s mechanisms of auditing and supervising the media sector have not followed the principles of independence and objectivity that the Commission espouses. In fall 2009, the long running tax dispute between the Ministry of Finance and the Do?an Media Group, which controlled more than half of the media market in Turkey, was concluded with a fine of 2,5 billion USD for unpaid taxes. Earlier in 2009, Do?an Group companies were fined 500 million USD for tax irregularities in relation to the sale of a quarter of their shares to the Springer group. The total tax fine thus came up to the unprecedented amount of 3 billion USD. The news of the colossal tax fine was not received well by the private media companies and the public, as it was perceived as a political move of the government to crush the Do?an monopoly over Turkey’s private media. The Commission expressed criticism of the infamous tax fine in the Progress Report and implied that media independence was curtailed by the fine issued selectively against the Do?an Group.

The report, in line with its general commentary that Turkey struggles to align national legislation with the acquis, conveys that the media in Turkey needs to take longer strides towards securing media freedom and independence and towards meeting the accession targets. While some items on Turkey’s homework may sound ‘technical’, i.e. adapting to the Audiovisual Media Services Directive, they relate inevitably to issues of democracy, equality, human and minority rights. After all, an institutional change in Turkey’s media regulatory body, RTUK, may induce the cessation of broadcasting bans imposed by RTUK on minority broadcasters. Indeed, the existence, structure and functioning of RTUK remain contested. Recently, as part of a government campaign to initiate a democratic opening in the context of Turkey’s Kurdish Question, restrictions on broadcasting in languages other than Turkish were lifted; the bans on children’s programs and Kurdish language education were removed; and the requirement to offer simultaneous or consecutive translation into Turkish when broadcasting in languages other than Turkish was cancelled. These positive developments were well received by local and regional broadcasters, who broadcast in Kurdish. However, RTUK continued to exercise rather inflated regulatory powers by recruiting personnel fluent in Zaza and Kurmanci, two Kurdish languages, in order to check Kurdish broadcasts. Furthermore, RTUK and the police kept monitoring local television and radio. Since media regulation in Turkey persistently oversteps the set of objectives and functions that European democracies are expected to serve, basic rights and freedoms and media freedom continue to be significantly challenged.

Ebru ?lhan, Research team of the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation

You may leave a comment at: akandyla@eliamep.gr

The new government in Slovakia, application no. 16023/07) – available only in French – was issued on 1 June 2010 by a Court’s chamber and includes a dissenting declaration of Slovene judge Boštjan M. Zupan?i?.

A Spanish newspaper, Diario 16,

A Greek national economic newspaper, Imerisia, reported on the first findings of the MEDIADEM project on media policy and regulation in Greece. The article offers a brief overview of the media market in the country, focusing especially on newspapers and state policies towards them, as well as the pressures stemming from the development of the online media on the traditional press.

View the article “?????????” ??? ???? ?? ?????? ?????????? [The large number of newspapers “kills” the Press] by Sonia Chaimanta, published in Imerisia (in Greek) on November 13th, 2010.

On 4 November 2010, the European University Institute (EUI) organised a workshop entitled ‘European policy for free and independent media systems: Current issues for regulation’. The workshop was devoted to the definition of the research questions that will guide the analysis of a comparative report on media regulation that the EUI will prepare at a later stage of the Mediadem project. Four main axes have been identified for discussion: a) constitutional principles and the allocation of regulatory space that they entail at the domestic and European levels; b) differences in regulatory strategies regarding the media, focusing on content and access aspects; c) private regulation and its evolution due to technological innovation; and d) the relationship between the supply chain structure and the regulatory regime.

Throughout the workshop emphasis was placed on the importance of the mix of private and public involvement in media regulation, that is, the different regulatory techniques that are used for media regulation, with a special focus on self-regulation and co-regulation. ‘New media’ were also addressed. Participants discussed definitional matters, as well as the effects of new media on the current regulatory framework. The existing coordination/conflict between competition law and policy and media regulation also received attention.

The agenda of the workshop is available here.

For more information on the workshop, you may contact Federica Casarosa.