The Future of Journalism

Fondation EurActiv organised the #Media4EU event in the European Parliament on 29 January, gathering policy-makers, stakeholders and media representatives to discuss the EU’s strategy for independent and sustainable media in Europe. These are our notes of the evening’s discussion:

Summary and conclusions of debate at EP on 29 January 2015

  • Wide support from cross-section of 100+ stakeholders represented to develop an “EU Strategy for Independent and Sustainable Media” throughout the 2014-2019 mandate.
  • There was also vocal support for more specific INNOVATION R&D actions relevant to SMEs in the media sector.
  • Reinforced support for greater decentralisation and subsidiarity.
  • Support for improved Quality of journalism and greater scrutiny/fact-checking, but clear opposition to one action to subsidise national correspondents to come to Brussels.
  • EU Press Corps while generally respected, could be more challenging of those in power.
  • As public opinion becomes more volatile media need to do more to explain gaps.

Keynote speakers’ comments

Brando Benifel, MEP, opened and closed the debate. He started by stating that the media were a major and necessary instrument of democracy. The media has a role as an integrator, assisting to address the challenges of multilingual constituencies across Europe. Innovation is a major challenge and deserves a serious and deep debate.

Martin Schultz, President of the EP, via video link said that every day the EU needs to protect the rights of the freedom of the press to comment, challenge and even mock those in power… “Keep scrutinising us” video.

Siim Kallas, Commissioner 2004 -14, expressed scepticism as to whether the EU press corps could address many EU citizens directly as national governments and national media would be the dominant interlocutors. But EU press corps has a major role in explaining differences in public opinion at local, national and European levels and of trying to identify a consensus.

Connie Hedegaard, Commissioner 2009-14, agreed that the EU press corps needs to be sustainable and independent. She expressed concern that the number of accredited journalists from Denmark, as with other member states, had fallen by half in less than a decade. She also made the point that the Commission is too slow and inefficient both in policy-making as well as in communication. Communication needs to have a higher priority and to be decentralised more. Public sector broadcasters could help integrate Europe more by hosting more cross-border debates on topics of common interest: migration, climate, jobs etc.

How can the media be more helpful?

Other suggestions from stakeholders:

  • EU media could contextualise issues more and better.
  • better dissemination to specialised media, that often enjoy more trust by public
  • regulatory framework requires updating in areas such as data protection, copyright and VAT treatment of different distribution channels

More critical remarks included:

  • Since media follows power and major economic governance is at national level in Europe, the EU media sector will always be subsidiary to national media;
  • We live in an era of information overload which puts onus on ethics and honesty of journalists and editors responsible for synthesising and interpreting trends and opinions;
  • Innovation is key but need to be aware of the increasing dominance of foreign funding especially of social media.
  • Beware of calling for more EU strategies as these can end up unread in EU archives.
  • It is easier to obtain funds for training of journalists from foundations, including US foundations, than from the EU.

NEXT STEPS

  1. Fondation EurActiv calls on First Vice President Timmermans and Vice President Ansip plus Commissioner Oettinger to respond to the Yellow Overview.
  2. Meanwhile, the debate on the future of the media sector in Europe is open and further constructive comments and feedback are welcome via #MEDIA4EU and to this Future of Journalism blog post.

 

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