Digital decade: MEPs support permanent news media fund to safeguard journalism

What is the future of the media in the EU? An MEP’s report calls for a fund that can help media with a strong ‘public good’ component

MEPs in Strasbourg yesterday voted to approve and send a report on the future of media in Europe to the Council and Commission.

The report was approved with 577 votes to 47 against and 76 abstentions it covers the action plan to support recovery after COVID-19 and transformation of the European media sector in the coming “digital decade”.

The report ranges from cinema, journalism, to modern content creation on social networks and apps.

The need for tailor made funding and support programmes for small to medium enterprises (SMEs) and independent creators across film, tv, and other media is the principal element of the report pursuant to recovery and transformation in those sectors.

A permanent EU news media fund to safeguard the freedom of European journalism, combatting ownership concentration and “state capture” to preserve media diversity and the urgent requirement to address the paradigm shift caused by global online platforms.

“Despite being largely driven by private market players, the media sector has a strong ‘public good’ component and is critical for healthy functioning of our democracies,” the report by Latvian MEP Dace Melbārde (ECR).

The report calls for the Commission to conduct multiple different studies on funding support for news media, the impact of video on demand (VOD) services on the European film and audiovisual market and CO2 emissions across the value chain of the film industry.

Digitization, employment of artificial intelligence and moving to more eco-friendly business practices are heavily emphasized along with more support and representation for women and minorities in front and behind the cameras in the interest of diversity.

Alongside that come calls for more support, founding of organizations and promotion of media information literacy (MIL) locally in Europe by urging member states to adopt film literacy as part of school curricula as well as abroad by integrating the promotion of MIL as “an integral part of EU foreign policy”.

“After sending strong message last week with the Daphne Caruana Galizia journalism prize, this week we are once again sending another strong message,” EPP MEP David Casa said.

“Journalists are not only falling victim to threats and attacks and murders, but are also victims of financial pressures, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to save democracy, we must save journalism, we can only do so if journalists have the finances and tools necessary to do their work.

“According to recent figures, after the pandemic newsrooms saw a decrease of up to 80% in advertising, which translates to a decisive impact. Maltese newsrooms were no exception.

“My colleagues and I, even in the media working group at the European Parliament, will continue exerting our influence so that we will have strong laws that protect all the journalists in Europe. That is the only way to ensure that journalism remains independent.”

One of the other facets of this report centres around the promotion, restoration and preservation of European film and media heritage to preserve distinct European cultural elements. This coupled with MIL is viewed as having “huge potential” for supporting and fostering a common yet diverse European cultural identity among youths.

Several funding initiatives such as te Creative Europe, Horizon Europe, Invest EU and Digital Europe were praised and recommended for further funding allocation and refinement.

The report states that this is a “landmark moment” for the development of EU media policy.

The report explains that the cooperation between several policy fields as well as different measures and programs are needed to hit the targets set out.

During the ongoing development of the Digital Services Act, Digital Markets Act and all future legislation on the digital ecosystem, special attention will be paid to the specific challenges of the media sector.

The  report recommends a “balanced approach” that addresses all stakeholders to maintain and defend European values, promote pluralism and diversity as well as create a stronger, more competitive and resilient media sector.

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This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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