[FoME] Future or Funeral? A Guide to Public Service Media Regulation in Europe

Sofie Jannusch Sofie.Jannusch at CAMECO.ORG
Mi Okt 12 14:40:15 CEST 2011

Future or Funeral? A Guide to Public Service Media Regulation in Europe
Within the EU, public funds worth more than twenty billion Euros are
spent on public media each year. The European Commission calls it the
third largest sector of state aid, after agriculture and transport. The
underlying mechanisms, however, like rules of funding, governance and
distribution vary a lot from country to country and member states keep
defending their national responsibility for media regulation, which
results in a hotchpotch of respective laws, but also in growing
disparities between them. While some public broadcasters still enjoy
stable levels of reputation, independence, funding and reach, others
find themselves trapped in a downward spiral of lacking all of that,
leading to a creative brain drain, waning program quality, quantity and
variety. On top comes a concurrent landslide of digital technology and
more and more globalized marketplaces, pushing some public media outlets
to the brink of collapse.

While in a number of European countries, like Poland for example, new
media laws have been discussed at different levels of society for years
and without much result, elsewhere regulatory regimes are being
superimposed rather briskly. Especially the case of Hungary has recently
raised concerns in this respect, both domestically and abroad. However,
these two exemplary and rather extreme cases do have something in
common, as they were lacking a systemic approach of benchmarking.

Based on this outset, an international team of researchers took off for
a mapping exercise. Their idea was not to provide a one-fits-all model
media law in the end, but a systemic guide to writing and debating one.
They asked themselves, which elements and features must be considered as
indispensable to regulate public service media and thus, created a
comprehensive grid, which was then filled with respective examples and
existing solutions.

This included addressing questions like: How can editorial independence
be safeguarded? How should supervisory board members be selected? Which
means of funding could be considered? What kind of online activities
should public media be allowed to undertake?
As a result, three indispensable pillars have been identified by the
authors and thus, suggesting that the malfunctioning of just one of
those would result in the collapse of public media’s justification and
sustainable operation as such, sooner or later. Accordingly, legal
guidelines were presented for the governance, the funding and the access
to public media.
All-in-all, the resulting publication now offers an up-to-date
check-list for public service media regulation in Europe. It is supposed
to serve as a toolkit not only for legislators, but also enable all its
stakeholders – i. e. civic society as a whole – to help improving and
monitoring legal conditions for free, pluralistic media landscapes.

Future or Funeral? A Guide to Public Service Media Regulation in Europe

 (Olaf Steenfadt, mediapolicy.org)
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