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While policymakers in the world reiterate the importance of protecting voice diversity, traditional media conglomerates and new social media giants make their task increasingly challenging. This book assesses the current state of policy-making on media plurality and explores novel policy ideas for funding, regulatory and structural interventions.





So wrote Miklos Haraszti, Hungarian writer and academic, in advance of a one-day event on media pluralism staged in the debating chamber of the European Parliament on 27 June 2012. Although not an official parliamentary occasion, the event featured a keynote speech by Neelie Kroes, then vice-president of the European Commission with responsibility for Europe’s media and digital agenda, and was attended by speakers and delegates from throughout the European Union and accession nations. It took place amidst rising concerns — mirrored in countries well beyond Europe — that even as social, mobile and online media technologies were proliferating and apparently presenting new opportunities for promoting diversity and enhancing democracy, a number of counterbalancing factors were conspiring to create uncertainty and anxiety. For a number of reasons, the pressure for political intervention — and for new, imaginative and creative policy ideas to protect and enhance plurality — had intensified.
Steven Barnett, Judith Townend

Part I


1. What Is ‘Sufficient’ Plurality?

Recent discussion of media pluralism, whether in the UK, Europe, Australia, or the US, demonstrates how sophisticated the policy and regulatory choices have become. Instead of the blunt measures which characterised early structural regulation of media ownership, contemporary proposals aim to measure more accurately the influence that different kinds of media have on democratic opinion forming, and offer schemes which combine structural elements with more complex analyses of firms’ behaviour in media markets.
Thomas Gibbons

2. Diversity, Distribution, and Definitions of ‘Media’

Typically discussion around media pluralism has focused on the variety of content available to consume, using the tools of internal and external diversity: external diversity has been linked specifically to media ownership, and internal diversity to regulation. In reality, the boundaries are not so clear-cut. The focus of this chapter is on structural controls, whether seen as regulatory or competition-based: either by providing for specific limitations on media ownership, or by including pluralism or public interest considerations in the general merger regime. Although competition regimes themselves have changed — reflecting a greater emphasis on economic analysis alone — over the years there has been a preference towards general regimes and market-led approaches. Thus, Harastzi (2011, p. 9) argued that, ‘[i]n the digital and Internet era, with the number of accessible channels and audiovisual platforms multiplying by the year, urgency for detailed regulation — the bulk of which is aimed at avoiding political domination — will fade.’
Lorna Woods

3. Plurality and Public Service Broadcasting: Why and How PSBs Deserve Protection

One of the more neglected areas in discussions (and literature) on plurality is the potential and actual contribution of public service broadcasting (PSB). While supporters of PSB argue that it represents an essential intervention and wholly positive contribution to a more pluralistic media ecology, critics (mostly from private sector competitors) counter with two interlinked objections: first, that by their very nature public service broadcasters offer only a homogeneous and centrally dictated news agenda; and second, that this public intervention either potentially or actually distorts the media market and thus in fact serves to suppress diversity. Moreover, it is argued that in some countries with less developed democratic cultures, public funding is more likely to render such broadcasters more susceptible to state or elite pressure, thereby narrowing the potential for greater pluralism still further.
Steven Barnett

Part II


4. Plurality and Local Media

This chapter examines the plurality of news and information at a local level, focusing on the UK. It shows how radically the provision and distribution of local news and information is changing as we transition from print and analogue to digital. It points to the gradual emergence of new news services, but suggests many of these — as well as many existing — local news services may not survive into the digital era. Their bid to become sustainable may also be hampered, the chapter suggests, by the colonisation of local space by new media technology corporations like Google and Facebook. Public policy, the chapter concludes, has yet to acknowledge the growing problem of news provision at a local level.
Martin Moore

5. Hyperlocal Media and the News Marketplace

When the BBC began life in the 1920s, the ‘7 o’clock rule’ applied: it could only broadcast news between 7pm and 1am. Why? Press interests in Britain and elsewhere ‘saw broadcasting as a directly competitive medium’ to newspapers (Schlesinger, 1978, p. 15). The restrictions to reduce the impact of broadcasting competition were relaxed a little by 1927, when the corporation was allowed both to broadcast news earlier and to produce its own bulletins rather than rely on the newspapers’ ‘approved’ agencies (Briggs, cited in Schlesinger, 1978, p. 16; Barnett, 2011, p. 22). Jump forward 86 years: the new Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport declared that ‘as news moves online, local newspapers with five or even four figure circulations have found themselves going head to head with one of the world’s biggest broadcasters’. Is it, he asked a room full of newspaper journalists at the 2014 Society of Editors conference, ‘healthy for a publicly funded broadcaster to compete with commercial newspapers?’ (Javid, 2014).
Judith Townend

Part III


6. Media Ownership and the Political Economy of Research in US Media Policymaking

In United States media policy, issues of media pluralism and diversity have been tightly intertwined with the issue of media ownership. In the US, the media ownership issue involves not only concerns about ownership concentration and its anti-competitive effects in the economic marketplace and in the marketplace of ideas; but also concerns about the levels of media ownership amongst historically disadvantaged groups such as women and minorities. In this regard, then, the media ownership issue in the US becomes interconnected with pluralism and diversity-related concerns about a robust marketplace of ideas and minority and gender representation in both the structure and content of the media system. And, of course, these social and political dimensions coexist with economic concerns about the relationship between the ownership structure of media markets and the economic functioning of these markets. From a policy standpoint, all of these concerns need to be addressed within a media environment that has, over the past two decades, been in a period of tremendous volatility and ongoing technological change.
Philip M. Napoli

7. From Media Policy to ‘Big’ Media Policy: The Battle for Pluralism in Australia

The year 2012 was a crucial turning point for media and journalism in many regions of the Western world. Sociologists frequently employ the term ‘critical junctures’ to explain the windows of opportunities for social change presented at specific times in history. The UK Leveson Inquiry into Culture, Practices, and Ethics of the Press was certainly one of the best examples of these ‘critical junctures’ that offered an unprecedented occasion to achieve structural reforms concerning media structures, journalism ethics and news standards. Certainly, the closure of the News of the World had a tangible effect in Australia, a country with direct links to UK media conglomerates, notably part of the Murdoch’s empire. In fact, the debate in the UK triggered the establishment in September 2011 of the Independent Media Inquiry into the Media and Media Regulation in Australia, frequently referred to as the Finkelstein Review. When the News of the World scandal spread, Australia’s Labor Government had already initiated an official appraisal of the country’s media systems with the aim to review ‘the operation of media and communications legislation in Australia and to assess its effectiveness in achieving appropriate policy objectives for the convergent era’ (Convergence Review, 2012, p. 110).
Benedetta Brevini

8. Media Plurality: What Can the European Union Do?

This chapter provides insight into the approach of the European Union institutions to media plurality. These institutions have long been pressured by interest groups and the European Parliament (EP) to take action on threats to media pluralism and freedom at national levels (Harcourt, 1998; 2005; Harcourt and Picard 2009).1 However, the European Commission (EC) has been constrained by the lack of a Treaty basis for initiatives in this field. This chapter analyses recent EU action on media plurality, in particular the 2011 European Parliament’s Resolution on media law in Hungary (European Parliament, 2011a), the subsequent 2013 report of the High Level Group on Media Freedom and Pluralism, and the European Commission’s response through its 2013 proposals and 2014 actions (European Commission, 2013a, 2103b; 2014). The conclusion is that the EC is reliant on soft governance measures because of a weak Treaty basis for a Directive and continued Member State opposition to EU level action on media plurality.
Alison Harcourt

Part IV


9. Transferable Media Pluralism Policies from Europe

The chapter will first look briefly at press and broadcasting subsidies comparatively across Europe, identifying general patterns and trends, before considering the significance of digital convergence for the question of subsidies for press, broadcasting, and new online content providers. It then turns to some transferable lessons from Europe, the aim being to relate to the future development of UK policy in the era of converged digital media. Specific case studies of transferable policies will include, from France, mechanisms for supporting national content production, notably the levy on all distributors of broadcasting content (including new mobile and online media operators). It is argued that this could provide the mechanism for funding a revived Public Service Publisher, in the shape of a ‘Channel Four for the Digital Era’, commissioning digital content from independent producers, whether from broadcasting, press, or online sectors. In the digital and internet era, with its converged media markets, and less scope for traditional structural and behavioural regulation, public intervention should focus on supporting diverse, quality media content production and distribution in order to maintain media pluralism. Yet, this innovation should not come at the expense of existing support for established public service broadcasters (PSBs) whose adaptation into public service media (PSM) institutions will be crucially important.
Peter Humphreys

10. Media Plurality in France

Since the end of the Second World War the concept of plurality has been an important objective of media policymaking in France. In 1944 the Liberation government introduced legislation with the aim of ensuring pluralism in the ownership and control of newspapers as part of a comprehensive package of structural reforms of the press, while in broadcasting a succession of statutory regulatory authorities has since the early 1980s sought to guarantee pluralism in the political coverage of radio and television (Kuhn, 1995). Some of the state’s policy instruments are designed to secure ‘external pluralism’, defined in terms of the plurality of supply — the range and distinctiveness of outlets operating both within and across specific media sectors. In this context selected appropriate measures have included legislation on ownership concentration, a system of state financial aid to the press, and government support for a designated public service component in a broadcasting system which since the late 1980s has to a significant extent been dominated by privately owned commercial radio stations and television channels. The enforcement of ‘internal pluralism’, defined in terms of equity and diversity of voice — the range and balance of different political views disseminated within any single media outlet — has been restricted to the broadcasting sector. Here the main policy instrument has been the regulation of political expression across all domestic radio and television services. Compliance is monitored by the relevant regulatory authority, which since 1989 has been the Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel (CSA).
Raymond Kuhn

11. Media Subsidies: Editorial Independence Compromised?

In September 2014 the recently established Swiss Federal Media Commission trailed its first report reflecting on policy measures supporting Swiss media.1 But it was not welcomed. The report innocently suggested financially supporting national news agencies, innovation in the media sector and outstanding journalistic projects. While some journalist organisations agreed with the general claim that the media needed support, the representatives of the large publishing companies indignantly rejected any supportive action by the Swiss government as undue intervention into the press and media freedom. Media policy, it turned out once again, is a thorny policy field, even if the purpose is — as in the Swiss case — to provide support for the media.
Josef Trappel

12. Putting Ends and Means in the Right Place: Media Pluralism Policies in Central and Eastern Europe

The role of the media has long been seen as profoundly important in fostering diversity in the public sphere and in the creation of a collective imagination. Diversity enables us to question taken-for-granted beliefs, and helps us to inspire, to invent, and to attune ongoing social action to political and cultural representations, as well as to technological change. In normative terms, pluralistic media structures are expected to create an environment that provides multiple ‘frames of reference’ and offers an open space where various groups in society can articulate their opinions and interests (Schulz, 2004). At the same time, this diversity is connected to sameness — the common place — that derives its significance from each person being able to see and hear from a different perspective (Arendt, 1958, p. 57). In other words, media diversity is a means not an end to a well-functioning society, with a vibrant public sphere, well-informed and knowledgeable citizens, and sustainable cultural and economic development.
Beata Klimkiewicz


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