Making the Digital Single Market Fair 

Ensuring Independence of Media Regulators

 

The European Media Initiative (EMI) was set up, following an ECI that gathered over 200,000 signatures, to work towards the establishment of a pan-European coalition of citizens and civil society organisations able to advocate for media pluralism at a directly European level.

As the Audiovisual Services Directive comes under review in 2016, and in a context where media pluralism is under attack in several member states, we are waiting to push for the amendment of the Directive to guarantee the independence of national media supervisory bodies from political power across the EU.

Media freedom and pluralism are fundamental values enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. They are an essential pillar of democracy as the media play an important role in ensuring transparency and accountability and have an impact on public opinion and on the participation of citizens in decision-making processes.

A high level of media independence and pluralism is essential not only to democracy, but also to contribute to the strengthening of economic growth and to its sustainability.

National Regulatory Authorities play a key role in ensuring media independence. Article 30 of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive assumes the independence of audiovisual media regulators. However, current legal instruments only focus on pre-existing legal safeguards of independence, since at this time there are no clear and enforceable safeguards available in the European legal and regulatory context to ensure that regulators operate independently within member States.

The objective of independence is to ensure that all players operate on equal ground: different opinions have equal chances of reaching the audience if each market player can expect and attain equal treatment in terms of market access and potential sanctions. To measure whether equal treatment prevails, conclusions can be derived from an evidence-based review of the authority’s performance.

EMI highlights the necessity to amend the current Audiovisual Media Services Directive to introduce new criteria that assess the real performance of National Regulatory Authorities and ensure their independence across member states.