Brussels, 7 November 2011. The European Commission is establishing a Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom in Florence with a €600 000 grant to the European University Institute’s (EUI) Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies.
Starting in December 2011, and headed by Professor Pier Luigi Parcu, the Centre will develop new ideas on how to ensure a highly diverse and free media, and work to enhance the quality of the reflection on media pluralism in Europe.Announcing the new centre, Neelie Kroes, European CommissionVice President for the Digital Agenda said: “Freedom of expression depends in part on a diverse and free media. The new centre has an important job to do developing and testing ideas on media pluralism and freedom that can enrich public debate and policy.”
The Centre will carry out four specific activities: theoretical and applied research (working paper series, policy studies, observatory on media pluralism), debates, education and training activities (academic seminars, summer school) and dissemination of results and outcomes.
The EUI has been chosen to host the centre because of the Institute’s long experience in the area of European governance.
This initiative is a further step in the Commission’s ongoing commitment to improve the protection of media pluralism and media freedomin Europe and establish whether further action needs to be taken at European or national and regional level. It recently established a high-level group on this subject, chaired by Dr. Vaira Vike-Freiberga (see (IP/11/1173). The Commission is also in the process of establishing a multi-stakeholder group on the future of the media which will become operational in the near future.
The right to freedom of expression and information is enshrined in Article 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, which establishes that the freedom and pluralism of the media shall be respected. They constitute the foundation stone for every free and democratic society and are essential to the EU’s underlying democratic and societal values. The effective exercise of these rights may be detrimentally affected by both governmental and private actors and remain a source of concern.
It is also important to note that developments in information and communications technologies have permitted significant reductions in distribution costs and the lowering of barriers to entry for new media sources, they have also given rise to concern among policymakers about media diversity, for instance by challenging the established business model of the written press.
Both the European Commission and European Parliament have taken an active concern in maintain media freedom and media pluralism. The Commission has undertaken several actions in 2011 to ensure compatibility of national law with EU law. In particular, in January 2011, Vice-President Kroes addressed some of the most pertinent issues regarding the Hungarian Media Law and its compatibility with EU law in general and with the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) in particular. The Hungarian government committed to change the Hungarian Media law on four points: i) obligation of balanced coverage, ii) country of origin principle, iii) registration requirements and iv) offensive content. The agreed amendments were adopted by the Hungarian Government on 7 March 2011.
The funding for the Centre is is drawn from funds originally earmarked for an “Erasmus for Journalists” programme proposed by Mr Paul Rübig MEP.