EU-Wide Study Finds High Risks for Media Pluralism and Freedom in Bulgaria
July 27 (BTA) - A study by the European Commission (EC) among all EU member states, Albania, Great Britain and Turkey, show a general stagnation or deterioration of media pluralism and media freedom. The Media Pluralism Monitor (MPM 2020) was conducted by the Centre for Media Pluralism and Freedom (CMPF) with the European University in Florence, and was financed by the EC.
The assessed risk scores for various indicators and sub-indicators are grouped as Low (0-33%), Medium (34-66%) and High (67-100%). The data was gathered through questionnaires, devised by national teams of experts in media pluralism and freedom. The findings show a general stagnation or deterioration of media pluralism and media freedom in the four major areas encompassed by the MPM: Basic protection, Market plurality, Political independence and Social inclusiveness.
In Bulgaria the CMPF partnered with Orlin Spassov (Foundation Media Democracy/Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski), Nelly Ognyanova (Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski) and Nikoleta Daskalova (Foundation Media Democracy), who conducted the data collection, scored and commented the variables in the questionnaire and interviewed relevant experts. The report was reviewed by CMPF staff. Moreover, to ensure accurate and reliable findings, a group of national experts in each country reviewed the answers to particularly evaluative questions.
In Bulgaria, especially high risks for media pluralism were detected primarily in the areas of Market Plurality (78%) and Social Inclusiveness (74%). Three of the Market Plurality indicators point toward a particularly high risk: Online platforms concentration and competition enforcement (97%), Commercial and owner influence over editorial content (90%) and News media concentration (90%). Three indicators in the Social Inclusiveness domain point to high risk: Access to media for local/regional communities and for community media (88%), Access to media for women (79%) and Access to media for minorities (75%).
There are also significant risks to media pluralism in Bulgaria identified within the Political Independence area (average risk 67%). Two indicators within this domain face a particularly high risk: Independence of PSM governance and funding (97%) and Editorial autonomy (79%).
The area of Basic Protection scores low to medium risk (average risk 45%). The main problems here are identified within the indicators Universal reach of traditional media and access to the Internet (58%) and Journalistic profession, standards and protection (55%).
The four observed indicators with the highest individual risk are: independence of PSM governance and funding; online platforms concentration and competition enforcement; commercial and owners' influence over editorial content; and news media concentration. It is obvious that the problems do not cover only one or two spheres but are much more diverse and deep. They affect both traditional news companies and online platforms as well as both public and private sector media.
The high risk in the field of social inclusiveness deserves special attention. Local and regional media face serious problems in terms of independence and sustainability and at the same time the state does not support them through subsidies or other policy measures. In parallel, access to media for minorities and people with disabilities remains
There is only one indicator scoring low risk: Independence and effectiveness of the media authority (27%). Positive results here are mostly due to available legal provisions. As a whole, as in previous years, the mixed performance of Bulgaria mainly refers to the fact that while in most cases the legal framework introduces necessary standards, they are frequently not effectively implemented in practice. Even within indicators with lower risk there are often discrepancies between legal provisions and implementation (for example regarding the media authorities, transparency of media ownership and protection of freedom of expression).