Visions of a coherent EU Information and Media Order: Key Findings of EU Presidency webinar

posted on 23 September, 2020   (public)

Session highlights great complexity of European regulatory framework impacting the media, calls for more coherence and for systematically taking media freedom into account 

The first focus session of the German EU Presidency, titled "Visions of a coherent EU Information and Media Order" took place on 8 September 2020. The session was organised in cooperation with the Leibniz Institute for Media Research | Hans-Bredow-Institut (HBI), a well-known multi-disciplinary media research institute based in Hamburg.

On that occasion, Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schulz, Director of the Leibniz Institute for Media Research | Hans-Bredow-Institut (HBI), presented the results of a mapping exercise about existing European regulation influencing the media sector. This covers media-specific regulation (such as the AVMS Directive), sector-specific regulation (such as the e-Commerce Directive, the European Electronic Communications Code and the DSM Directive) and cross-cutting regulation (such as the General Data Protection Regulation -GDPR). The report analyses the coherence of the overall framework, by looking at substantial and procedural dimensions.

Key findings on the EU legal framework impacting the media sector:

  • A lack of coherence with regard to material and territorial scope: on the one hand, the EU legal framework provides various and general definitions, which are a source of incertainties and are unsuitable for hybrid and complex organisations such as platforms. On the other hand, some legislation relies on inconsistent principles (e.g. country of origin vs. country of destination). 
  • A lack of evaluation mechanims and impact assessment of EU legislation, especially with regard to the impact on freedom of speech.
  • Identification of conflict of objectives and "broken concepts": the study identifies a number of conflicts of objectives (e.g. privacy vs. freedom of expression) and highlights conventional regulatory approaches that are challenged or overtaken by new technical, economic or social developments (e.g. unclear responsibilities for platforms).

Key recommendations discussed during the event

  • Freedom of expression should prevail: it is suggested to introduce systematic external (independent) mandatory tests to assess the impact of legislation on media freedom and plurality. 
  • No one-size-fits-all solution: legislation should take into consideration that all actors are not equal. We are dealing with hybrid organisations which might require more than one unique solution/regime. 
  • Need for knowledge transfer: policy makers need better knowledge of the digital market to clearly understand how it can interfere or not with the guarantees that an efficient public sphere should offer. Evidence and better understanding are required to identify the impact on the public sphere of private algorithm systems run by private-owned companies. The EU can play a key role in this regard by supporting research and fostering an exchange of experience between member States and regulators. 
  • Media and digital literacy are key: they are an essential component of the overall framework.

Wolfgang Schulz also emphasised that plurality was not an end in itself but rather should be understood as a means to securing democratic discourse. It is therefore crucial to support a functioning public sphere given the structural changes of the media ecosystem.

Follow the full debate: 


The EPRA Secretariat's take: A read-worthy working paper to better grasp the complexity of the current European regulatory framework impacting the media and its interactions and a content-rich webinar.
More information: The digital conference series, Pluralism and Responsibility. Media in the Digital Society, which is running from July to 29 October, is intended to foster a European debate on ensuring media pluralism. Comprised of a kick-off eventfive focus sessions and a final event, the series is held in cooperation with various partners: the Leibniz Institute for Media Research | Hans-Bredow-Institut (focus session #1), the German federal states/ the Institute of European Media Law (EMR) (focus session #2), ERGA (focus session #3), the European Audiovisual Observatory (focus session #4) and Deutsche Welle (focus session #5). EPRA Vice-Chair Maria Donde will speak on the occasion of the closing event.

Source: German Presidency of the EU/Leibniz Institute for Media Research