site.btaMedia Freedom Discussed at Brussels Conference Co-organized by Bulgarian MEP Elena Yoncheva
Young people are no longer interested in the conventional news media, European Federation of Journalists Director Renate Schroeder told BTA on the sidelines of an international conference on media freedom in the EU, held in Brussels on April 27. According to Schroeder, young people use internet platforms such as YouTube to watch documentaries rather than turning to the press, where standards are getting lower in many respects.
The conference, organized by Euractiv.com and Bulgarian MEP Elena Yoncheva (Socialists and Democrats), discussed the European Media Freedom Act, which was proposed by the European Commission (EC) in September 2022. "We will soon see the effect of this Act, I hope the effect is positive," EC Vice President for Values and Transparency Vera Jourova said at the discussion.
Jourova said the Act makes it very clear that governments may not interfere in the editorial decisions of the media. The funding of public media should be transparent and predictable and may not be used to exert pressure, she added.
Schroeder told BTA that the text of the Act proposed by the EC needs improving as far as source protection is concerned. She further recommended a change about the transparency of media ownership. She called for the creation of an EU database which will be accessible to researchers and civil society members.
Schroeder spoke about a conflict of interest between publishers and journalists. Many publishers have come to rely too much on clickbaits, which undermines the trust of the audience, she pointed out.
Also approached by BTA, Zhivka Haskiya, an adviser at Bulgaria's Permanent Representation to the EC, said the Act should be even bolder than the version proposed by the EC. She pointed to a need for changes concerning state advertising. She insisted on lifting a restriction whereby state advertising information may be publicized only in cities with over one million population. "We want equal rights for all market players," Haskiya said. Some EU member states, she said, want to set thresholds which will lead to exceptions for some institutions. Consequently, these institutions will not have to give information about their advertising expenses. Other measures which should be upgraded concern the transparency of media ownership, Haskiya added.
Sonya Momchilova, who chairs Bulgaria's Council on Electronic Media (CEM), warned that the proposed Act can lead to excessive regulation, and so the media can fall victim to censorship. She said the Act proposes that the national regulators will make an assessment in case of ownership change for any media. "This is absolutely impossible" in Bulgaria at present, given the provisions of the Radio and Television Act and the budget limitations for the regulator CEM.
Elena Yoncheva discussed fake news. She is opposed to closing non-compliant websites and imposing bans. "The most effective way to fight all fake news and propaganda is to use the power of verified information, the power of real journalism," the MEP said.
Former BBC World Service director Peter Horrocks welcomed the push to set higher media standards for the entire EU. Horrocks has launched the Balkan Free Media Initiative. Despite some imperfections he sees in the Act, he commended the direction taken by the EC.