Media4EU

Europe’s media sector does not need cash per se, it needs to adapt, to ever-changing technologies, a moving political environment, and new reader habits. In this context, a smart alliance of private and public funders is needed to act nimbly. It is with this in mind that the European Journalism Centre and Fondation EURACTIV brought together on October 23 some 40 representatives of philanthropic foundations, EU institutions and the media sector.

This note summarises the key points that emerged in this discussion.

Regulatory and legal environment

  • The regulatory and legal environment needs to evolve to allow new forms of journalism to emerge, such as classifying journalism as a charitable activity in some cases, or allowing non-profit newsrooms to benefit from donations more easily
  • We also need a “single market for philanthropy”: while it’s easy to move goods and services across markets, it’s not possible for donations. Therefore philanthropy should be recognized in the EU Treaties; we should lower barriers for cross-border philanthropies; protect philanthropic funding, and encourage co-granting and co-investing between public institutions and private philanthropic organisations.
  • The 61 million planned in the 2021-27 should be increased (‘indicative allocation’ indicated by the Commission in its proposal for the relevant ‘structural changes in the media sector’ part of the larger ‘Creative Europe’ programme). It will be organised around three priorities: promotion of cross-cutting activities covering several sectors, including enhancing a free, diverse, and pluralistic media environment, quality journalism and media literacy

New ways of encouraging innovation

  • Could we imagine a clearing house to pool funding for the media, for instance for fact-checking, that provides a firewall between those giving and those receiving money? This should be studied.
  • DG ECFIN has recently started cooperating actively with the foundation sector to design and implement financial instruments for the media sector. It has thus created a “creative sector facility” and the InvestEU proposal in the MFF pools together different guarantee mechanisms.
  • The innovation needed is currently unfolding in four directions: new revenue models; engagement, inviting readers into newsrooms; formats (video, social media…); and culture, from “being first” to “being right”, clear, working with rivals, fostering diversity and inclusion.

Strategies against misinformation

  • The three key strategies centre around avoiding censorship; debunking misinformation; diluting misinformation by promoting quality information.
  • That requires a strong media sector, over and beyond much-needed fact-checking or media literacy efforts: a level playing field with platforms; open borders and cross-border media groups; greater EU funding; faster assimilation of new skills in newsrooms and among media management; and a more informed debate.

 

Stephen Boucher

 

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