The European Citizens’ Initiative for Media Pluralism and Press Freedom will be presented at the House of Lords of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The event is being held on Thursday, March 21st, 2013 at House of Lords, Committee Room 4a  from 11h00  to 12h30

(we recommend that people arrive at St Stephens Gate at 10h15 to have the time to clear security)

‘European Citizens’ Initiative’ calling for EU rules against concentration of media power

A European Citizens’ Initiative is a new official petition, a bit like a Downing Street petition. If it succeeds in gathering a million signatures dispersed across the EU, then the Commission is obliged to respond.

This petition calls for the EU to act to protect media pluralism and press freedom containing:

a) legislation to avoid concentration of ownership in the media and advertising sectors;

b) guaranteed independence of supervisory bodies from political power and influence;

c) a definition of conflict of interests with media ownership to prevent abuse of media power for special interests ;

d) rules enforcing transparency to identify the ultimate beneficial owners of media outlets, and monitoring systems to regularly gauge the independence of the media in member states.

 

Why does this need to be done at the European level?

• Because it is not being done at any other level.

• Because to have any faith in the EU, we need to trust each member state to do their part in governing it, and also to implement the rules that have been commonly agreed. We need confidence that they are properly governed, and democratically accountable. If we fear that governments of other member states have been captured by special interests and no longer faithfully serve their citizens, then we begin to lose faith in the governance of the whole union.

• Some of the eastern states, which made such astonishing democratic progress during the process of gaining EU membership, have begun to slip back. Once a country has its membership, there is much less pressure to maintain those standards. The situation in Hungary is the clearest example of an unhealthy influence of the State over the media.

• Meanwhile in Italy a mogul gained a position of such dominance in the media that after the fall of the government he had helped to corrupt, the best way he could protect his business and personal interests was to get himself elected prime minister.

• Others including Bulgaria, France, Portugal, Romania and the UK have their own issues with media concentration.

• Many people see media concentration as the underlying factor in all the events that led up to the Leveson Inquiry, however it is not addressed in any of the current Leveson proposals.

• In a normal industry, when a firm becomes dominant and can influence prices, it is reasonably straightforward for the competition authority to dismantle the monopoly. In the media industry however, with market dominance comes political influence, which the firm can use to protect itself. It is as though when Microsoft gained a dominant position in the Browser market, it was automatically awarded a seat on the competition authority. It is therefore imperative that market thresholds in the media industry are set well below those in others.

• All countries have national limits on media ownership, but as media companies grow towards them, the thresholds often seem to mysteriously retreat. This is another reason why there should be firm rules set at the European level.

• Furthermore, as the Leveson report says, “it seems reasonable to conclude that concerns about plurality would arise at lower levels of concentration than concerns about competition…. I therefore recommend that the levels of influence that would give rise to concerns in relation to plurality must be lower, and probably considerably lower, than the levels of concentration that would give rise to competition concerns.”

 

Does it regulate media content and journalism?

• No. Editorial content will remain independent from legislation. The campaign only asks the European Commission to take legislative action concerning media ownership.

 

What can you do to support the campaign?

• Sign the petition online! We need your support to collect the 1 million signatures needed for actions to be taken by the European Commission. The collection of online signature started on 7 February! Go to www.mediainitiative.eu to sign the petition and for further information.

• Mobilise support to collect signatures through your own network of contacts.

• Spread the word – put the logo on your website and promote it on your social media sites.

 

Why support this campaign?

• The campaign is recognised by the European Commission as a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI).

• This means that our voice will be heard by European legislators. European citizens can take collective actions to demand the Commission propose legislation to promote media pluralism.

• A citizens’ initiative has to be backed by at least 1 million EU citizens, coming from at least 7 out of the 27 member states. A minimum number of signatures are required in each of those 7 member states.

 

What will happen at the event?

• The meeting will bring together members of the House of Lords and the House of Commons with a diverse group of people who are concerned about the concentrations of power in media.

• After short opening remarks from various people there will be an open discussion on how the campaign can be most effective.

• The meeting will be chaired by either Lord Fowler, Lord Puttnam or Lord Desai.

• As well as MPs and Peers, participants include:

o Hugh Grant (depending on his filming schedule)

o Claire Enders (Chief executive of Enders Analysis and expert on media economics)

o Steven Barnett (Professor of Communications)

o Giovanni Melogli (Alliance Internationale de Journalistes)

o Damian Tambini (LSE)

o Bill Emmott (campaigning film maker, Former editor The Economist)

o Istvan Hegedus (Media Campaigner and former Hungarian MP)

o David McKnight (Author, Rupert Murdoch: An Investigation of Political Power)

o Daniel Cohn-Bendit MEP (German Greens and veteran activist) TBC

 

If you would like more information, please contact:

Granville Williams, UK Coordinator European Initiative for Media Pluralism: at freepress@cpbf.org.uk

Video by Santino Pani