The European Commission has announced plans for a new regulation aimed at protecting media diversity and independence across the EU.
The measure is being put forward at a time when the EU body sees “increasingly worrying trends” across the EU – including concerns about the safety of journalists, and the use of abusive lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs).
The proposed European Media Freedom Act includes safeguards against political interference in editorial decisions, and against surveillance.
The commission says that it puts a focus on the independence and stable funding of public-service media, as well as on the transparency of media ownership.
The act will also create a new independent European Board for Media Services, comprising national media authorities, which the commission says will address the issue of media concentration.
The new board will also be able to issue opinions on decisions taken at national level.
The EU body has also adopted a recommendation to accompany the act. This will encourage internal safeguards for editorial independence.
Věra Jourová (Vice-President for Values and Transparency, pictured) said that it was “high time” for the commission to act, having seen the various forms of pressure on the media in recent years.
“We need to establish clear principles: no journalist should be spied on because of their job; no public media should be turned into propaganda channel,” she added.
On 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.
Media organisations will also have to publicly disclose information about ownership, and take measures to guarantee the independence of individual editorial decisions.
The act includes what the commission describes as “strong safeguards” against the use of spyware against media, journalists, and their families.
The regulation also covers public-service media, requiring that their funding should be “adequate and stable”, and that key appointments to such organisations are made in a transparent manner.
EU members will be required to assess the impact of market concentrations on media pluralism and editorial independence.
The act will also set out new requirements for the “transparent and non-discriminatory” allocation of state advertising to media.
The proposals will now be discussed by the EU Council and the European Parliament.