European Media Freedom Act

The current health and economic crisis poses a multitude of challenges for the cultural, media and audiovisual ecosystem.

I would like to express my support to the women and men working in the culture and media industry for whom the situation seems endless. And to tell them one thing: we see the light at the end of the road. 

Of course, the pandemic has accentuated the vulnerabilities and structural challenges of this sector which is facing increased competition with large platforms in a fragmented market.

But I also see a multitude of opportunities, particularly with digital transformation. 

My ambition is based on three dimensions:  

 

Supporting the sector in a fragmented market

First of all, we must support the entire ecosystem to get through this crisis and adapt to the transformations.

Last December, I presented an Action plan for the media, our strategic roadmap for the recovery and transformation of the sector, with 10 concrete actions that are currently being implemented.  

On financial support, we now have a set of means that must be mobilised.

In addition to Creative Europe, whose first work programme will soon be adopted, we have Horizon Europe, the Digital Europe Programme and InvestEU.

Moreover, the national recovery plans are an unprecedented opportunity to invest in the transformation and resilience of the ecosystem, in particular by benefiting from the 20% target - i.e. up to 134 billion euros - in digital. This is an opportunity for Member States to seize.

With regard to audiovisual productions, we are working - capitalising on the success of our financial guarantee instrument - with the European Investment Fund on Media Invest, a European investment platform dedicated to the sector, which will make it possible to mobilise 400 million euros of investment in European production and distribution. 

On 26 April, we will launch a first version of an interactive tool to guide media companies in their search for financing. 

We have also started specific work for the cultural, media and audiovisual ecosystem on the establishment of a data space and on the issue of skills. Last week, together with Nicolas Schmit and Maryia Gabriel, I led a round table on the "Pact for skills" with the creative and cultural ecosystem on their needs in terms of skills. 

 

Digital Services Act / Digital Markets Act

My second point concerns the reorganisation of our information space, particularly with regard to the responsibility of platforms.

These are our twin proposals, the Digital Services Act (on hate content, transparency of algorithms and content moderation) and the Digital Markets Act (on the role in the market of large structuring platforms - gatekeepers). 

These horizontal instruments complement our sectoral legislation. This is all the more important because in recent years we have adopted legislations that are very structuring for the media sector: the Copyright Directive and the Audiovisual Directive.

Our priority is to implement them quickly and without deviation in all Member States. Moreover, infringement proceedings for late implementation of the Audiovisual Directive are under way. 

As far as copyright is concerned, I would like to mention Article 17 of the directive, which is at the heart of our mechanism for strengthening the position of our creators and guaranteeing them fair remuneration.

We will be presenting our guidance on the application of Article 17 in the coming weeks to assist in its implementation, which I am convinced will bring considerable benefits to the European creative sector.

 

Media freedom and independence

My speech today would not be complete without addressing the central issue of media freedom and pluralism in Europe, and the worrying developments in some countries, for example Poland, Hungary, Slovenia or the Czech Republic. 

The preservation of media freedom and pluralism is absolutely necessary and is the foundation of our democratic systems. Any attack on these principles is an attack on the pact that unites the European Union. 

The President of the European Commission recently recalled, on the occasion of the tragic murder of the Greek journalist George Karaivaz, that freedom of the press is certainly the most sacred freedom. We must defend it, together, with strength.

In this area, the European Commission has embarked on an ambitious and proactive programme.

For the first time ever, thanks to the strong support of the European Parliament, we have presented a holistic approach with the "Democracy" and "Media" action plans adopted last December.

The Commission is co-financing a growing portfolio of projects that defend the freedom of journalists, monitor violations of pluralism and provide legal and practical support to journalists under threat. 

We are preparing a recommendation on the safety of journalists, to ensure that those who disseminate information enjoy the highest standards of protection, both online and offline.

Because we must not forget that the safety of journalists is a fundamental precondition for press freedom, but one that remains fragile.

I remain very vigilant about respecting EU rules on the independence of media regulators. This is why I will be intransigent in implementing the AVMS Directive, which considerably strengthens this independence requirement, thanks to the work of your Commission.

However, the reality is that the toolbox available to the Commission to intervene in the area of media freedom is limited, especially as we see in some countries a growing and worrying politicisation of the media. For the media, and perhaps even more so the public service media, must be at the service of all citizens and not a partisan fraction of them. 

As Vice-President Jourova has already mentioned in this Parliament, we undoubtedly need a complementary tool. And I am ready to do my part to achieve this goal. 

Because I also believe that we need to do more, even if our competence is limited in this area. 

 

We should prepare a European Media Freedom Act

I personally believe that we should prepare a European Media Freedom Act to complement our legislative arsenal in order to ensure that media freedom and pluralism are the pillars of our democracies. 

Let us be clear that the starting point for any action will be the AVMS Directive, including the independence of regulators. This is not to reopen the debates we have had on this subject. 

However, in the face of significant changes in the media sector whose potential consequences on media independence and pluralism should be looked at more closely, I consider that we need a mechanism to increase transparency, independence and accountability around actions affecting control and freedom of the press.

This would also be an opportunity to look at the resilience of small actors, and their innovative funding models.  

Furthermore, we could also reflect on how best to strengthen the governance of public media, around a common framework to better prevent the risks of politicisation and to better ensure diversity and pluralism. 

And finally, we should also reflect on the funding supporting pluralism and media freedom, and on the structures that carry this funding.   

I am working closely with the European Parliament on these major issues to develop better instruments to defend the Union's fundamental values.  

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Speech delivered to the European Parliament's Committee on Culture and Education

https://multimedia.europarl.europa.eu/en/committee-on-committee-on-culture-and-education_20210419-1345-COMMITTEE-CULT_vd