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Media Accountability and Transparency in Europe

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Keeping the media accountable

How can European societies balance media freedom with accountability? An EU study investigated and proposed policy recommendations.

Industrial Technologies

The media can perform a great social service; however, it also has tremendous power that may not always be used responsibly. Investigating this issue, the EU-funded 'Media accountability and transparency in Europe' (MEDIAACT) project involved 11 European partners and 1 from Jordan. It received EU funding of approximately EUR 1.5 million and ran for 3.5 years from February 2010. The project aimed to provide evidence-based analysis of media accountability, to enhance press freedom and uphold standards, and to provide policy suggestions. The project's objectives were threefold. The researchers aimed to assess media accountability instruments as prerequisites for debate. MEDIAACT also planned to compare the impact of media accountability instruments in various European cultures and abroad. Policy objectives for the EU are to be developed, plus incentives for media practitioners to actively participate. Phase one of the research involved studies into the present state of media self-regulation and media accountability structures, in each of the participating countries. Phase two involved qualitative interviews with approximately 90 American, Arab and European experts in online media accountability. These interviews aimed to determine the impact of the Internet and social networks on self-regulation and accountability. The third stage involved surveying 1 762 journalists about their attitudes towards media self-regulation. This was the first-ever such survey. The project presented its findings and recommendations across 20 research areas. Essentially, European journalists oppose state regulation, believing it open to abuse. Yet they also believe current instruments of accountability are inadequate. MEDIAACT proposes a system incorporating incentives for media agencies to invest in accountability, combined with sanctions for breaches. MEDIAACT results have been disseminated to a range of stakeholders to encourage debate. The methods included conferences, journal articles and books. Project members also developed a set of tools to involve media practitioners, policymakers, journalism educators and the public. These are available via the project's website. MEDIAACT has succeeded in its goals of studying media accountability practices and mechanisms in Europe. The results will contribute to further debate about the subject, leading to improved media performance.

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