Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a pleasure for me to be with you today.
I am pleased that this Commission has set up the News Media Forum as a platform of exchange with the media sector.
It is very important, as we have seen today, to have discussions about the challenges that we face and how to address them in an innovative way.
This reflection goes even beyond the European Union.
The recent Nobel Peace Prize awarded to brave journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov shows that.
It is clear that journalists play a crucial role in democracy. There is a reason why media are called the fourth estate.
I participated two weeks ago at the Paris Peace Forum. We discussed the viability of the media sector. And we will also discuss this at the US Democracy Summit in two weeks.
So the event today is very timely and I would like to thank you, who are participating here and behind the screen. I also would like to thank the team who has prepared this event.
[Safety of journalists]
I opened the first session of the European News Media Forum in March. The discussions were on the safety of journalists and they led to our first-ever recommendations to Member States on this issue.
The message is clear: no journalist should die or be harmed for doing their job.
We ask Member States to take a series of measures, with a specific focus on the safety of female journalists and those belonging to minorities.
An important practical idea is that Member States should ensure the creation of independent national support services, including helplines, legal advice, psychological support and shelters for journalists and media professionals facing threats.
I am following this up with Member States and I am sure that I can rely on your support in doing so.
In parallel, we are preparing a proposal to help fight abusive litigation against journalists and rights defenders – the so-called SLAPP.
We aim to adopt this initiative early next year.
[Media Freedom Act]
Our next step is the Media Freedom Act.
We have seen many attempts by governments to interfere in the media, undermine their independence, and therefore distort the market. We need a series of rules based on common principles, such as the editorial independence of the media and the transparency of ownership.
With the Media Freedom Act, we want to address problems, and support what is working. Because we see, also from the annual rule of law report, that there are good examples in the Member States to protect media freedom and pluralism.
All Europeans should be able to benefit from such safeguards and trust they can rely on independent media to get informed.
We are at the beginning of our work on the Act. Let me be honest with you – it will not be a walk in the park. This is why I want to consult very broadly and I will very much welcome your contribution and support of this new pioneering initiative.
[Media and Audiovisual Action Plan]
This brings me to our work that you have discussed today, on the digital transformation of the media sector.
We need a strong and diverse media sector. This is the best way for media to resist political pressure.
We want to support this objective with our Media and Audiovisual Action Plan that we adopted last year.
We have already committed, for the first time, to allocate at least EUR 75 million from our Creative Europe programme to media freedom and pluralism projects by 2027.
And today I would like to update you on two actions of this agenda to support transformation of the industry.
Let me start with our ongoing work to create more financing opportunities for news media. Many of you say that existing investment instruments do not really respond to your needs, or to the needs of stakeholders interested in news media.
To address these concerns we are creating a new equity pilot project. We are collaborating closely with philanthropic foundations, many of which are present today, and will hopefully have the project up and running next year. It would come as a boost to the financial independence of media outlets.
The second initiative I want to mention is our support to journalism partnerships. Europe’s linguistic diversity means that media companies have long followed their own development paths in their national context, with their own models. Therefore, the potential of this diversity of models has long been untapped. It is time that Europe’s diversity, one of our greatest assets, pays off.
This is why we launched a call for proposals to help news media professionals from across borders share their innovations, test collaborations and transform their businesses. And we will very soon announce the results of this call, and the allocation of almost 8 million euros earmarked for this action.
In the same spirit of cooperation, the Commission also announced today the European Newsroom project. It pools 16 news agencies across Europe, including from the Balkans. Agencies will set up a joint news production hub here in Brussels to cover EU affairs and produce content in 15 languages.
I strongly believe that by working together across borders, media are stronger. We have seen the incredible results of cross-border investigations, such as the recent Pandora papers. I also believe that such networks and solidarity make it more difficult for States to interfere.
This spirit of collaboration is very much the backdrop of today’s forum.
You have showcased important innovations and I want to thank you all for sharing your views, and your pieces of advice. You are driving the transformation of the industry, from fighting disinformation to getting news as close to people as possible.
I am also happy to see that you have discussed gender inclusion and inclusiveness in general – these are important features of the changing face of media. I was very happy to launch the so-called “CharactHer” campaign earlier in the summer, featuring great women in the media and audiovisual sectors, I invite to have a look at the campaign and share the word.
Altogether, I will take with me two lessons from today’s Forum as regards the future of the industry.
First: European cooperation can open the way to innovation, and to successful and resilient business models. Our common values are the basis of this work.
The second lesson is that a sound financial model is the best guarantee for independent reporting and media pluralism.
I would like to finish by recalling a warning issued last year by someone present among us today.
Last year, Veronika Munk, the editor of the Hungarian independent media Telex, who is a very brave woman that I admire, replied to questions from a German media. When asked about the situation of press freedom in Hungary, she replied, I quote, “history can go backwards – even in the EU”.
I want to change, with all of you here, the course of history. I want to say we will go forward.
We will do our best to help the media play their essential role for democracy.