December 12, 2017
The following points were drafted for a recent brainstorming, building upon and complementing the Digital Single Market (DSM). They are tentative, and not fully formulated, therefore a mere blog post rather than a full OpEd article. One year and a half before the next EU political cycle, and half a year before parties start preparing their election platforms: now is the time for some early wins, and mainly for media policies 2019-2024.
Note: I also have views about ways to handle fake news, and reduce their impact. These hypothesis are compatible with the above, but not dependent on it.
A European strategy for the media sector?
1) Digital Single Market: necessary, but not sufficient
– DSM necessary to erase EU internal barriers
– Main beneficiaries are few giant US ‘platforms’ (avoiding social media terminology)
– Let’s not focus chiefly on DSM, AVMSD, (c): much lobbying, but for most media, not key to recovery
– Anyway, these are mostly horizontal measures: need to add vertical initiatives (beyond broadcasting)
2) Media sector fragmented & shrinking: needs a European strategy
– The media sector had few EU communication-triggered subsidies (phasing out, Euronews is the last one)
– Unlike coal and steel, car, chemistry, IT, little economic approach. Media sector deserves one
– Is press not essential for the preservation of democracy in Europe?
– The media sector is fragmented – ‘left behind’ from ‘1992 single market’, worse than other services
– Deep crisis, shrinking within borders. Few global players: dependency upon Anglo-Saxon press
– Media management – often old journalists: they miss an international vision, technology, revenue models
– This does not facilitate reacting/negotiating with cross-border platforms, unavoidable ‘coo-petitors’
3) Opportunities now: new Commissioner, fake news catalyst, Brexit
– Mariya Gabriel, ‘inheriting’ DSM, and may wish to leave her mark. Mission letter: fake news, media education
– Possibly limited impact until 2019, also preparing the mandate 2019-2024?
– #TackleFakeNews (public consultation & high-level expert group) to highlight media fact checkers, revenue models?
– EU long worried about media initiatives due to UK euro-sceptic press: Brexit now likely
4) What else could a ‘strategy’ encompass? ‘carrots + soft sticks’
A sector strategy / industrial policy, chiefly coordinates existing policy tools, rather than spends more.
Could include the following: strategy & awareness, education, innovation, soft regulation:
– Training media professionals (not just journalists). Pioneer next MFF: sector-oriented education lines
– Under Horizon 2020, make some calls media-specific (currently: hardly any, attractive for few insiders, much less than Google DNI and Facebook News Initiative…). Notably on:
. fake news, big data, algorithms, bundling fact-checkers input etc
. AI & language tech: Europe ‘was the king’. Media are the best demonstrators: ‘cut language borders’
. data journalism (started already), translated syndication, video translation etc
– Competition policy:
. guidelines to foster competing cross-border media champions (not local oligopolies)
. co-regulation of platforms, setting standards: otherwise caught by ex-post restraints…
– Public procurement (most public comms budgets go to consultancies and social media…)
5) Possible next steps? tentative, not exclusive & exhaustive
This below focused on Brussels EU institutions. Media sector initiatives could be handled in a separate document.
To be fast, and have initial 2018 impact:
a) Wide & differentiated brainstormings?
b) Small study group ‘strategy’? (e.g. experts for EP STOA media observatory or DG CONNECT. Draft mandate: complete, assess, rank attractiveness/feasibility of several hypotheses, including the above?)
c) Hearings? + EP report?? (issue: each has its own angle, eg CULT: education, ITRE: R&D, etc.
Alternative: media inter-group existing under previous EP mandates, not just CULT sub-group)
d) DG CONNECT could order a quantified study? then draft policies for the next Commissioner
And to avoid ‘re-inventing the wheel’: leverage existing initiatives:
e) #TackeFakeNews group & consultation with policy ambition: not just technical or legal
f) Commission DOC summarizing media-relevant current initiatives + tabling possible policy paths
g) More EU politicians and top officials to attend and inspire the media profession’s key events (too few yet outside Brussels lobbying events)
h) Support e.g. a key event focusing on an EU media strategy? eg on May 3rd: Press Freedom Day? This would greatly expand upon last year’s event around VP Timmermans.
- Other initiatives? National? Corporate sector? Foundations & NGO? ‘PPP’ approaches
We do not list current legislative initiatives, and also press freedom actions, all essential.
Each EU mandate has at least one ‘general’ expert group on media. Typically on press freedom or media concentration, with limited impact. This mandate has two already, more focused: fake news (coming), and media literacy (in action).