No political meddling: Brussels unveils blueprint for national broadcasters

The Regulation includes protections against political meddling and use of spyware against journalists

The European Commission has adopted a European Media Freedom Act, providing a set of rules to designed to safeguard media pluralism and independence in the EU.

The Regulation includes protections against political meddling in editorial judgements and against spying, among other things.

It emphasises the autonomy and consistent support of public service media, aas well as transparency in media ownership and distribution of government advertising.

Additionally, the Act outlines steps to safeguard editors’ independence and report conflicts of interest.

The Act will also create a new independent European Board for Media Services, which will be made up of national media authorities to address the problem of media concentrations.

A further recommendation to promote internal protections for editorial independence was also adopted by the Commission.

“No journalist should be spied on because of their job; no public media should be turned into propaganda channel,” said Věra Jourová, the Vice-President for Values and Transparency after the Act was adopted.

Thierry Breton, Commissioner for the Internal Market, added that media companies play a vital role in the EU’s single market, but are now confronted with falling revenues, threats to media freedom and pluralism, the emergence of very large online platforms, and a patchwork of different national rules.

“The European Media Freedom Act provides common safeguards at EU level to guarantee a plurality of voices and that our media are able to operate without any interference, be it private or public,” he said.

The European Parliament and Member States will now discuss the Commission’s proposal for a regulation under the ordinary legislative procedure. Once adopted, it will be directly applicable across the European Union.

Key points in the European Media Freedom Act

  • Members States must respect the effective editorial freedom of media service providers and improve the protection of journalistic sources
  • Media service providers will have to ensure transparency of ownership while guaranteeing independence of individual editorial decisions
  • New safeguards will be introduced against the use of spyware against media, journalists and their families
  • Funding of public service media should be adequate and stable to ensure editorial independence
  • The head and governing board of public service media has to be appointed in a transparent, open and non-discriminatory manner
  • New standards must be adopted on the allocation of state advertising to media companies

Maltese MEP David Casa, who is co-chair of the EPP's Media Working Group, welcomed the proposal and noted that it was launched on the 59-month anniversary of Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder. 

"The pandemic pushed the print media close to the brink," he said. "In Malta and in many other EU states, governments financed relief packages for media companies but did not always do so transparently."

He remarked on Malta's decline in press freedom indexes, noting that the Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom ranked Malta at medium risk overall, and at high risk in the areas of editorial autonomy and political independence of the media. 

“On the 59-month anniversary of the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, we are also reminded of the work that still needs to be done. Not only to strengthen our democracies, but to make it safer for journalists to do their job in the public interest.”