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DLI IRIS Special 2016 - Media ownership - Market realities and regulatory responses

IRIS Special 2016 - Media ownership - Market realities and regulatory responses

Author: Maja Cappello (Ed.), European Audiovisual Observatory

Published: 17/01/2017

One of the pillars of freedom of expression in the audiovisual sector is media pluralism. This concept covers, on the one hand, the availability of a variety of choice in the programming of the different media players. On the other hand, it concerns the effective presence of a multitude of operators so as to avoid an excessive concentration of the market.

Media pluralism, as such, has been widely explored by legislation and case-law both at the national and European levels. A related issue is the need for ensuring transparency of the financing of the various media providers, and an adequate knowledge of their ownership structure and control or influence.

For these purposes most countries have put in place tools and mechanisms to allow for the collection of the necessary information, which also allows the European Audiovisual Observatory (EAO) to compile a certain proportion of this data. Other sources of information are made available by regulatory bodies throughout Europe, and administrative case-law, which is also related to competition issues, completes the picture.

This IRIS Special provides an overview of the current market realities and a selection of regulatory responses that have been put in place across Europe since the Observatory’s report on “Converged markets – converged power? Regulation and case law” of 2012. It has been prepared by the Institute of European Media Law (EMR) in Saarbrücken and collects contributions from various authors. It focuses on a selection of European countries (Germany, United Kingdom, Italy, France, Spain, and Poland), which have been chosen with the intention of providing a set of different approaches.

The report begins with an introduction by Gilles Fontaine and Deirdre Kevin (EAO) on the state of the art of European markets. The data is elaborated from the Observatory’s MAVISE database, which contains information on the ownership of TV channels and on-demand services available in European countries with their country of establishment (either inside or outside of Europe) and of the line-ups of the main television distributors in Europe.

Mark D. Cole and Silke Hans (EMR) follow this, discussing the guarantees established at European level in order to protect media diversity. In doing so, they detail the different markets of the audiovisual sector – pay-tv, free-to-air, broadcasting rights, internet advertising – and the pertinent case-law of the European Commission. The European picture is completed by Konstantina Bania and Elda Brogi (European University Institute) with an outline of the main findings of the so-called Media Pluralism Monitor during the measurement of the level of pluralism carried out in 19 EU member states in 2015.

The report continues then with national case-studies on Germany by Michael Petri (Medienanstalten/KEK); the United Kingdom by Lorna Woods (University of Essex); Italy by Roberto
Mastroianni and Amedeo Arena (University of Naples); France by Pascal Kamina (Université de Franche-Comté); Spain by Carles Llorens (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona); and Poland by Krzysztof Wojciechowski (Telewizja Polska); before Mark D. Cole and Silke Hans (EMR) conclude.

As to the main findings, what appears is the clear importance of guaranteeing media pluralism through European provisions for the protection of media diversity. The national casestudies also show that convergence is creating challenges for regulatory and monitoring bodies, and that the opportunities offered by the Internet do not imply that media diversity can be protected solely by the new technical possibilities. Since traditional broadcasting remains an important source of information for many European citizens, this also means that rules on media ownership are still relevant.