Archive for April 2004

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[eccr] European Parliament votes on report regarding freedom of expression and media pluralism

Fri Apr 23 09:06:46 GMT 2004

>The European Parliament voted yesterday on a report regarding freedom of 
>expression and media
>pluralism which will request that the European Commission address this 
>issue at the European level,
>most likely to establish some directive which obliges member states to 
>protect media diversity, to
>have media pluralism specifications within competition law, and to prevent 
>the recurrence of the
>situation in Italy where the Prime Minister owns the main commercial 
>broadcaster, and as head of
>Government can influence the activities of the PSB (RAI). Between them, 
>these two channels have a 90.8%
>audience share (February 2004). Some of the problems in Italy have 
>included the management of RAI
>taking certain programmes off the air, i.e. Il Fatto and Sciuscià 
>or  temporarily suspending the
>satirical programme Raiot on RAI3, as well as decisions like the refusal 
>to provide live coverage
>of the peace demonstration in Rome on 15 February 2003. The proposed new 
>media bill (Gasparri Bill)
>intends to abolish antitrust rules between the press and the television 
>sector, which in practice,
>due to the advertising revenues and the financial resources, it is more 
>likely that television companies
>will be investing in the press sector, rather than the other way around. 
>The Gasparri bill also proposes the
>gradual privatisation of the PSB.
>The EP report is partly based on a study carried out at the EIM, and also 
>on recommendations of the
>Council of Europe, European Parliament, European Federation of Journalists.
>The EIM expertise is now being developed as an Interim report and will be 
>available from the beginning
>of May looking at: France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, 
>Malta, the Netherlands, Poland
>Spain, Sweden and the UK.
>There is a limit to what can be achieved at the European level, given that 
>media ownership rules and
>media markets are so varied in the member states of the EU. Also, 
>politically, there has always been
>opposition to the EU acting in this area which is considered a national 
>competence. Not least because
>strong media actors at the national level play an important role in the 
>lives of political actors.
>Additionally, the European Commission (the driver of legislation) must 
>respond to the European
>Parliament request to act, but are under no obligation to prepare a 
>directive in this area.
>There will be European Parliament elections this year, and also a new 
>Commission will be named.
>It is likely that the issue will be picked up again in the new session of 
>the parliament.
>Press Release from European Parliament:
>Citizens' Rights
>  Risks of violation, in the EU and especially in Italy, of freedom of 
> expression and information
>           Johanna BOOGERD-QUAAK (ELDR, NL)
>           Report on the risks of violation, in the EU and especially in 
> Italy, of freedom of expression and information (Article 11(2) of the 
> Charter of Fundamental Rights)
>           (2003/2237(INI))
>           Doc.: A5-0230/2004
>           Procedure : Own-initiative
>           Debate : 20.04.2004
>           Vote: 22.04.2004
>           Vote
>Parliament adopted today a highly controversial report on freedom of 
>expression and information by 237 votes in favour to 24 against with 14 
>abstentions. Before the vote two  political groups, EPP-ED and UEN, 
>declared that they would not participate in protest against the voting 
>procedure to be followed.
>  Before this vote MEPs rejected a request to refer the report back to the 
> committee by 214 to 259 against with 1 abstention.
>   One of the controversial points of the own-initiative report by Johanna 
> BOOGERD-QUAAK (ELDR, NL) was the reference made to named persons. 
> President Pat COX ruled that references to named persons should be 
> deleted from the report in accordance with standard parliamentary practice.
>  In this report Parliament stressed that a free and pluralist media is 
> essential to freedom of expression and information. It goes on to 
> consider that where Member States fail to take adequate measures the EU 
> has a political, moral and legal obligation to ensure within its 
> competence that media pluralism is respected.
>  MEPs took the view that there are sufficient concerns to warrant a 
> detailed examination of the situation by the Commission, which should be 
> followed by appropriate legislative proposals. A preliminary study 
> carried out by the European Institute for the Media (EIM) showed that in 
> each of the eight countries examined (France, Germany, Ireland, Italy,
>  Netherlands, Poland, Sweden and UK) there were issues which required 
> further investigation. The complete study by the EIM is due in June and 
> will contain final comparative conclusions based on the situation in all 
> 25 Member States.
>As regards the situation in Member States Parliament noted inter alia that:
>    in France, there were several violations of press freedom (e.g. the 
> destruction of the print-run of a new free daily by the Unions, and of 
> journalists being under pressure from the police);
>     in Ireland, there was absence of level playing field due to the 
> payment of VAT on Irish newspapers but no VAT on the UK newspapers, which 
> have approximately 25 per cent of the Irish market;
>    in Germany, the Federal Constitutional Court found that surveillance 
> of telecommunications (i.e. tracing of journalists' phone calls) did not 
> constitute a breach of  constitutional liberties as provided for in 
> articles of the Basic Law, which guarantee confidentiality of information.
>   in Poland, there are currently no provisions (and no apparent plans to 
> introduce provisions) in Polish media law regarding media concentration 
> and the protection of pluralism;
>   in the Netherlands, there is a high level of concentration in both 
> television and press sectors where the three main suppliers control at 
> least 85 per cent of the market and that, although the Netherlands has 
> the highest penetration of cable TV services in Europe, this market is 
> also dominated by three major cable operators;
>    in Sweden, the media is characterised by a fairly high degree of 
> cross-media ownership, interlocking ownership structures between major 
> players in the audiovisual field and cooperating agreements between the 
> press and broadcasting industry where companies in both sectors are 
> controlled by the same group;  in the United Kingdom, there is intense 
> debate following the Hutton Report into the circumstances surrounding the 
> death of David Kelly, the criticism by the  public-service broadcaster of 
> the reasons put forward by the government for the war in Iraq, the 
> resignation of the Director-General and the Chairman of the Board of 
> Governors and the potential ramifications for the practice of 
> investigative journalism and, separately, there is much debate concerning 
> the review of the BBC's Charter and Agreement, which is considered a 
> model for other systems;
>    In Spain, government pressure on the public service broadcaster TVE 
> meant that it ignored the facts regarding responsibility for the 
> terrorist attacks of 11 March.
>   As regards Italy, Parliament said "there could be a risk of breaches of 
> the right to freedom of expression and information". Parliament noted 
> that "the level of concentration of  the television market is currently 
> the highest within Europe...One of the sectors in which the conflict of 
> interest is most obvious is advertising". It noted "therefore,that the 
> Italian system presents an anomaly owing to a unique combination of 
> economic, political and media power in the hands of one man - the current 
> President of the Italian Council of Ministers".
>  MEPs invite the Italian Parliament to "accelerate its work on the reform 
> of the audiovisual sector in accordance with the recommendations of the 
> Italian constitutional court and the President of the Republic, taking 
> account of the provisions in the Gasparri bill which are incompatible 
> with Community law, as noted by those authorities".
>MEPs voiced concern that the situation in Italy could arise in other 
>Member States if a media magnate chose to enter politics.
>  MEPs made a number of recommendations. They called on the Commission to 
> draw up a directive to safeguard media pluralism in Europe. MEPs believe 
> protection of media diversity should become the priority of EU 
> competition law and the dominant position of a media company should be 
> considered as an obstacle to media pluralism in the EU.
>Legislation should be adopted at EU level to prohibit political figures 
>from having major economic interests in the media.
>In addition, an annual report on pluralism should be drawn up. The EU 
>Constitution should contain a provision on the need to ensure pluralism in 
>the media. Member States should incorporate in their constitutions an 
>active duty to promote respect for freedom and diversity of the media.
>           Press enquiries:
>           Pia Siitonen
>           (Strasbourg) tel.(33-3) 881 73612
>           (Brussels)  tel.(32-2) 28 41498
>           e-mail :   (libe-press /at/
>Press release from EU observer
>MEPs criticise Berlusconi's hold over Italian media
>   EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - The European Parliament today adopted
>   a report on media freedom, which castigates Italy's Premier Silvio
>Berlusconi's hold over the country's media.
>  Approval of the report came despite manoeuvres by centre-right MEPs to 
> block the report.
>  The report, which calls on the Commission to bring forward legislation 
> to tackle media concentration in Europe, was adopted by 237 votes to 24 
> with 14 abstentions.
>But members from the centre-right parties did not participate in the vote.
>  "The European Peoples Party's unprecedented decision not to participate 
> in the final vote on the report shows that this grand
>  party has lost the European soul of its founders and put itself at the 
> service of national delegations. Silvio Berlusconi has
>  apparently taken the EPP hostage", the co-chair of the Green party 
> Monica Frassoni said.
>Italian Forza Italia members - which form part of the EPP - and the Union 
>for Europe of the Nations Group, in which there
>are members from Alleanza Nazionale tabled most of the 338 amendments to 
>the report, which risked delaying the report's
>  adoption.
>Although the report does not focus entirely on Italy, it places particular 
>emphasis on the media situation of this country.
>MEPs raised concerns over Silvio Berlusconi's increase in controlling 
>shares in the largest private television group in Italy,
>  Mediaset.
>    "The situation is particularly serious in Italy, but the British 
> people also know only too well the unhealthy control which a
>  media mogul can exert over a country's politics and media", Liberal 
> leader in the European Parliament Graham Watson said.
>  "The European Union often preaches to candidate countries and developing 
> countries about the importance of free media - it's
>   time we practised what we preach at home".
>  Press Articles  Financial Times  Politiken  RaiNews24  Die Presse  Ansa
>Deirdre Kevin
>Project Manager
>European Institute for the Media
>Zollhof 2a, D-40221 Duesseldorf
>Germany / Tel:  +49 211 90104 75/ Fax: +49 211 90104 56

Carpentier Nico (Phd)
Katholieke Universiteit Brussel - Catholic University of Brussels
Vrijheidslaan 17 - B-1081 Brussel - Belgium
T: ++ 32 (0)2-412.42.78
F: ++ 32 (0)2/412.42.00
Office: 4/0/18
Vrije Universiteit Brussel - Free University of Brussels
Centre for Media Sociology (CeMeSO)
Pleinlaan 2 - B-1050 Brussels - Belgium
T: ++ 32 (0)2-629.18.30
F: ++ 32 (0)2-629.28.61
Office: C0.05
European Consortium for Communication Research
E-mail: (Nico.Carpentier /at/

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