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European Media Freedom Act

The EU has adopted a number of legal instruments that protect media freedom and pluralism, including the Audiovisual Media Services Directive and the General Data Protection Regulation. The EU also has a number of bodies that oversee media freedom, such as the European Broadcasting Union, the European Federation of Journalists, and the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom.

The EU has been actively working to strengthen media freedom, particularly in light of recent challenges such as disinformation and fake news. In 2018, the EU adopted a new framework to counter disinformation, and in 2020, it launched a new Media Freedom Act aimed at protecting media freedom and pluralism in the EU. This includes measures to protect journalists, promote media literacy, and support independent media.

The European Media Freedom Act will ensure that media – public and private – can operate more easily across borders in the EU internal market, without undue pressure and taking into account the digital transformation of the media space.

  • Protection of editorial independence – the Regulation will require Member States to respect the effective editorial freedom of media service providers and improve the protection of journalistic sources. In addition, media service providers will have to ensure transparency of ownership by publicly disclosing such information and take measures with a view to guaranteeing the independence of individual editorial decisions.
  • No use of spyware against media – the Media Freedom Act includes strong safeguards against the use of spyware against media, journalists and their families.
  • Independent public service media –where public service media exist, their funding provided should be adequate and stable, in order to ensure editorial independence. The head and the governing board of public service media will have to be appointed in a transparent, open and non-discriminatory manner. Public service media providers shall provide a plurality of information and opinions, in an impartial manner, in accordance with their public service mission.
  • Media pluralism tests – the Media Freedom Act requires Member States to assess the impact of media market concentrations on media pluralism and editorial independence. It also requires that any legislative, regulatory or administrative measure taken by a Member State that could affect the media is duly justified and proportionate.
  • Transparent state advertising – the Media Freedom Act will establish new requirements for the allocation of state advertising to media, so that it is transparent and non-discriminatory. The Act will also enhance the transparency and objectivity of audience measurement systems, which have an impact on media advertising revenues, in particular online.
  • Protection of media content online – building on the Digital Services Act, the Media Freedom Act includes safeguards against the unjustified removal of media content produced according to professional standards. In cases not involving systemic risks such as disinformation, very large online platforms that intend to take down certain legal media content considered to be contrary to the platform’s policies will have to inform the media service providers about the reasons, before such take down takes effect. Any complaints lodged by media service providers will have to be processed with priority by those platforms.
  • New user right to customise your media offer – the Media Freedom Act will introduce a right of customisation of the media offer on devices and interfaces, such as connected TVs, enabling users to change the default settings to reflect their own preferences.

The proposal is accompanied by a Recommendation setting out a number of voluntary best practices collected from the sector and geared at promoting editorial independence and greater ownership transparency. The Recommendation provides a toolbox of voluntary measures for media companies to consider, such as the conditions for independent creation of editorial content, through empowering journalists to participate in crucial decisions for the functioning of media outlets, to strategies for ensuring long-term stability of news content production.