European Parliament votes to safeguard media pluralism

The European Parliament on Thursday 25/09/2008 called on the European Commission and EU member states to safeguard pluralism amongst newspapers, television, radio and on the internet. In an era of ever-concentrating media ownership, MEPs voted by 307 votes to 262 in favour of the motion proposed by Estonian centre-left MEP Marianne Mikko, which points out the negative influence of excessive media concentration.

The background to the vote is the proliferation of new commercial outlets in recent years – particularly within broadcasting and on the internet. Repeated mergers have reduced the number of companies in the media business to the point where the majority of outlets are owned by a few major conglomerates, such as Bertelsmann, Vivendi, News Corp, Viacom and Time Warner.

Many media commentators believe that such media concentration in the hands of a powerful few produces a media stance biased towards the right of the political spectrum, in the process undermining the pluralism of politics itself. In Italy for example, the fact that prime minister Silvio Berlusconi is also the owner of much of the country’s private media outlets is considered dangerously unhealthy.

The Parliament also moved in favour of disclosure of ownership of all media outlets. Within Europe, competition law and media law should be interlinked to avoid conflicts between media ownership concentration and political power. In the process, MEPs called for the creation of editorial charters to prevent owners, shareholders or governments from interfering with editorial content.

Finally, the resolution proposed more investigation into the status of weblogs and bloggers. MEPs are concerned that the legal situation of bloggers regarding source protection is unclear, as is where liability should be assigned in the event of legal action.

Report author Ms Mikko is concerned that while print and online journalists in various jurisdictions are restricted by slander and libel legislation, the status of bloggers as reporters is unclear.

Read original European Parliament Culture Committee release.

Source: euobserver.com, 25/09/08.