Williams, Granville (2003) European Media Ownership: Threats on the landscape. Working Paper. The European Federation of Journalists, Brussels, Belgium.

Every year the process of media concentration gathers
pace and with it comes increasing concern for the impact
on media quality, pluralism and diversity.

Public concern about corporate and political dominance
over media and information services is greater than ever.
Confidence among readers, viewers, listeners and users
of information is low and there is an increasing perception
that journalism is failing to carry out its watchdog role
in society because of the vested interests that drive the
media business. Not surprisingly, politicians are worried,

A group of European Parliament members expressed
their exasperation to the European Commission in an oral
question on 29 August 2002 noting that: ‘In 1997, 5
years after the Green Paper on pluralism and media concentration
in the Internal Market, the Commission decided
to postpone indefinitely any proposal for a directive to
harmonise national laws on media ownership. This,
despite a series of European Parliament resolutions calling
for such a directive.’

The Parliament has noted significant developments in the
media field since the Commission, bowing to ferocious
lobbying by European media organisations, decided to
drop plans to regulate ownership. Not least have been
developments in Italy where Prime Minister and media
magnate Silvio Berlusconi has a stranglehold on both the
private and public broadcasting media, creating a conflict
of interest and a level of undue influence on media
unheard of in any modern democracy.

The enclosed survey on European Media Ownership,
which has been supported by the European Commission
as part of the EFJ project on ‘Globalisation and the Media:
The European Agenda’, is an overdue but timely study
that underlines the urgent need to respond to public concern
about media concentration.

The media concentration crisis has paralysed policy makers
but as this paper indicates, it is time to stimulate
fresh debate and prepare concrete actions to confront
the challenge of corporate power in mass media.
We hope this report will help to motivate people to work
through their media unions, political parties and campaign
groups to build support for policies to make the
media more democratic and accountable. Above all,
there is a pressing need to challenge the present political
complacency over commercial and corporate exploitation
of journalism that is eroding standards and undermining
the importance of free media press to democratic society.
All around Europe governments seem to be in retreat
from long-held commitments to ensure that strong regulation
plays its role in protecting and developing media.
For years both the European Commission and the Council
of Europe argued strongly that media products are not
like other economic products - they have a social, cultural
and democratic value that makes them special within
market conditions. The market itself cannot protect pluralism
and diversity. The public need to be properly
informed which means that information services must be
regulated outside the market imperatives of ratings, profits
and commercial objectives.

However, the political will to protect quality and pluralism
in media services through effective regulation is weaker
than ever. This study provides compelling evidence that
this must change.

If Europe’s media is to have a future even remotely connected
to its traditional role as a watchdog over the exercise
of political and corporate power and as a provider of
quality information in the public interest, then consumers,
citizens and people who work in the industry will
have to work and campaign together. The EFJ will be a
willing partner in the creation of a new and effective coalition
for change.

In publishing this report we thank, in particular, Granville
Williams,, the author, from the Campaign for Press and
Broadcasting Freedom in the United Kingdom for his diligent
research and excellent analysis.

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