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European Media Policies Revisited: Valuing and Reclaiming Free and Independent Media in Contemporary Democratic Systems

Final Report Summary - MEDIADEM (European Media Policies Revisited: Valuing and Reclaiming Free and Independent Media in Contemporary Democratic Systems)

Executive Summary:

MEDIADEM ( has been a European research project on media policies and regulation in 12 European Union (EU) member states and 2 candidate countries. It has been a joint, interdisciplinary effort of 14 partner institutions, and it has been funded by the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme. The project started on 1 April 2010 and ended on 31 March 2013.
The purpose of MEDIADEM has been to examine the configuration of state media policies in the selected set of countries (Belgium, Bulgaria Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey and the UK) and to explore their effects for media freedom and independence. The project examined the formulation and implementation of domestic rules and instruments governing the media, taking due consideration of domestic socio-political, economic, cultural and institutional factors that influence their shaping and application. In addition, it has sought to understand the role the EU and the Council of Europe play in media policy and regulation. The ultimate aim of MEDIADEM has been to identify the policy processes and regulatory tools that can best support the development of free and independent media in Europe and to formulate policy suggestions addressing policy stakeholders at the national and European levels.
MEDIADEM’s work plan has been structured in the following phases:
• The first phase of the project served to define the concepts and the issue areas around which the research would be organised and to provide background information on the 14 media landscapes and systems under review.
• The second phase involved empirical research on the media policy processes, institutional dynamics and regulatory approaches in the 14 countries under study, examining whether domestic media policy strategies, as framed and implemented, help realise media freedom and independence.
• The country case findings fed the third phase of the project, which analysed in a cross-country and cross-theme comparative fashion the contribution (or not) of different media policy patterns and forms of regulation to the promotion of free and independent media across the countries reviewed.
• The fourth phase involved the formulation of policy guidelines for the promotion of media freedom and independence, targeting state and non state-actors involved in media policy-making, the EU and the Council of Europe.
Throughout the project, researchers have sought to disseminate research and policy-useful results as broadly as possible and establish regular channels for the exchange of views and opinions with the media community and key actors involved in the design and implementation of media policies, both at the national and the European levels.

Project Context and Objectives:
Lately there has been much discussion about media policy and regulation. Technological convergence, the changes it has brought to the media ecosystem and the challenges it has raised for media policy and regulation have received significant attention in scholarly analysis. One of the main issues discussed in the existing literature is the fundamental restructuring of media policies in the face of rapid technological developments and the goals and rationales that underpin regulation in such a changing landscape. Changes in regulatory practices and architecture, particularly the diversification of regulatory processes within the state, and the intensification of regulatory processes beyond the state, have also formed the object of considerable analysis. Less consideration has been given, however, to whether or not evolving media policies contribute to the development of free and independent media, and the extent to which contemporary and largely changing media are free and independent.
Research carried out in the framework of the MEDIADEM project investigated the configuration of state media policies in 12 European Union (EU) countries (Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and the UK) and two EU candidate countries (Croatia and Turkey). The project examined the complex array of policy approaches and the regulatory instruments that govern the media in the set of selected countries and explored external regulatory pressures deriving from the action of the European Union and the Council of Europe. The aim was to identify those policy processes and tools that best promote media freedom and independence.
The project was structured in four distinct phases, each one with its own objectives and tasks.

Phase 1: Democracy and free and independent media: Concepts and media landscapes (1 April 2010 – 31 October 2010)
The first phase of the project sought to a) clarify the theoretical framework of the project; b) and provide a succinct overview of the media landscapes of the countries reviewed as well as their established media policy structures, institutions, strategies and regulatory instruments.
The objectives of WP1 were:
• to frame and consolidate the conceptual framework of the project with a view to reaching a clear understanding of:
a) what constitutes ‘the media’ in today’s complex media environment;
b) the essence of media freedom and media independence and their importance for democracy;
c) the inter-linkages between media freedom, media independence and free speech;
d) what constitutes ‘media policy’; and
e) how contemporary media policies are formulated and implemented;
• to identify diverging models of regulatory activity (public or private) at the national, regional and transnational levels in the pursuit of media freedom and independence;
• to comprehend the state of the 14 media systems under review on the basis of an examination of established policy structures and institutions, the main media actors present on the market, domestic media policy strategies and regulation and domestic media policy traditions.
• to provide an overview of the interventions of the EU and the Council of Europe in the field of media freedom and independence;

Phase 2: Case-studies - Media regulation: A panacea for free and independent media? (November 2010 – 31 December 2011)
During the second phase of the project, the project partners engaged into empirical research in the 14 countries covered by the project. The aim was to:
• understand and explain the processes through which state media policies are formulated and implemented, and to identify their effects on free speech and independent media operation;
• examine the institutional dynamics of media policy-making, media regulation and other policy tools and practices governing the media and their impact on media performance, covering both traditional and new media services;
• identify the factors which facilitate or conversely thwart the development of policies promoting media freedom and independence.
In more detail, the project sought to:
• reach a better understanding of the contribution of governmental and non-governmental actors to the design, application and monitoring of media policy and to overall media policy debate;
• investigate the level of protection afforded to free speech, the freedom of information and journalistic freedoms;
• study the formulation and implementation of domestic rules concerning the establishment and running of media outlets;
• study the formulation and implementation of domestic rules pertaining to the diversification of media content and other content gathering and production activities;
• inquire into journalists’ professional autonomy and respect for journalistic ethics;
• explore media literacy and education initiatives, in conjunction with transparency obligations imposed on the media.

Phase 3: Comparative analysis – Similarities and differences in addressing free and independent media across 14 countries (1 January 2012 – 31 June 2012)
The third phase of the project sought to analyse and evaluate different patterns of media policy-making and regulation in the countries covered by the project, examining their effects on media freedom and independence in a comparative fashion.
The main objective of this phase of the project was to explore:
• similarities and differences across EU Member States and candidate countries regarding the development of policies promoting free and independent media;
• the media policy challenges faced by post-communist EU Member States in Central and Eastern Europe in relation to media freedom and independence;
• the impact of new media services on traditional media, their contribution to democratic discourse and the guarantees in place or in need to ensure media freedom and independence in the digital environment;
• similarities and differences in the methods and means employed to safeguard journalists’ professional autonomy and guarantee respect for the ethical principles and standards underpinning their work, taking into account the challenges posed by new technologies for journalism;
• European judicial approaches to cases raising issues of media freedom and independence;
• the conditions under which different forms of media regulation at the national, regional and transnational levels help realise (or fail to promote) media freedom and independence.

Phase 4: Media policy development: Policy suggestions for free and independent media (1 March 2012 – 31 October 2012)
The fourth phase of the project served to formulate on the basis of the research carried out clear policy recommendations regarding the promotion of media freedom and independence in Europe. The aim was to:
• identify concrete policy guidelines for both national and European policy-makers;
• single-out best practices;
• develop a matrix for private/public/mixed regulation in the pursuit of media freedom and independence, with due account taken of the multiplicity of socio-economic, political and cultural factors shaping regulatory activity in the media field.

Throughout the project (1 April 2010-31 March 2013), the MEDIADEM consortium sought to disseminate the project’s findings as broadly as possible and exchange views and opinions on the project’s output with national and European policy makers, media actors and civil society. Key objectives in this respect included:
• placing the policy usefulness of the project to the forefront;
• making widely available original, high quality research concerning the forces that shape the media policies in the selected set of countries reviewed, together with the limitations and advantages of those policies for media freedom and independence;
• diffusing policy-related findings, disseminating best practices and strengthening links between the research and the media policy community;
• providing a forum for the exchange of ideas among interested parties for the promotion of media freedom and independence;
• facilitating the development of enduring networks of interested individuals and organisations both at the national, European and international levels for the promotion of media freedom and independence.

Project Results:
The first phase of the project
The first phase of the project began in April 2010 and was completed in October 2010. It served to establish the theoretical foundations of the project and provided background information on the 14 media landscapes and regulatory systems reviewed.
Theoretical foundations (
Analysis in the framework of the MEDIADEM project has been based on the premise that media policy formulation and implementation must be perceived as intrinsically political and intensely contested processes that are shaped by a multiplicity of actors and institutional structures at the sub-national, national and supranational levels that interconnect and interact among each other. During the past few decades, the number of actors that participate in the configuration and application of media policies, as well as the venues where media policies are formed and the processes through which these are shaped and conducted have increased impressively. Media policy actors include governmental bodies and state ministries, independent regulatory authorities, private corporations, civil society organisations (i.e. working in the field of human rights), media and journalists’ associations, trade unions and individuals with an interest in the areas and topics dealt with (i.e. scholars and researchers). Courts, both at the national and the European levels, are also important players in the process.
Concerning the factors that affect media policy, MEDIADEM has acknowledged the significance of economic, technological and market pressures that set the context against which state and non-state actors engage in policy-making and make decisions on how the media should be governed. The importance of the manifold connections between the political system and the media, and of the different features and aspects of the media systems under study have also been recognised. At the same time, however, MEDIADEM has advanced the hypothesis that the legal norms and the regulatory instruments that states adopt in order to determine the media’s conduct cannot be attributed to structural features of their political or economic systems alone. Media regulation should rather be considered as the product of specific policy processes taking place in distinct institutional settings. Political actors and interest groups - often with competing preferences - respond to and act within particular structural contexts defined by technological, economic, political and other societal parameters.
As part of the theoretical underpinnings of the project, due attention has also been given to exploring the concept of media freedom and independence. In Europe, free speech has been widely recognised in national constitutions and parliamentary acts, providing guarantees against state censorship and control. It has also been enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR) and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. Despite existing safeguards for free speech and the right to information, contemporary media face a variety of constraints that may undermine their ability to fulfil their democratic functions. Political influence, commercialisation, financial constraints and opaque connections between the media, business interests and political elites may affect media behaviour and output. Pressures can also stem from technology, the media’s adjustment to technological innovation and the effects of such adjustment on the journalistic profession and the business models of the media. Crucially, these constraints, if not properly addressed by media policies, can prevent the media from acting as agents of information and facilitators of public debate in a functioning democracy. Undue pressures emanating from the world of politics and business interests, however, can also influence the ways in which media policies as such are shaped and implemented. Failings in the policy-making process, coupled with inadequate compliance with fundamental rights, can thwart the ability of media policies to promote free and independent media. On this basis, five issue areas were identified for further research: a) the protection of freedom of speech in law and in practice; b) the formulation and implementation of legal rules targeting the structure of the media market; c) the formulation and implementation of legal norms and incentive measures concerning the composition and diversification of media content; d) professional standards and ethics for the journalist profession; and e) media literacy initiatives and transparency obligations.
Background information on the media systems of the 14 countries covered by the project (
A succinct account of the principal dimensions, actors, tools and instruments of media policy and regulation has been provided for all the countries studied. This has been complemented by an assessment of the media policies reviewed in relation to democratic politics. Findings a) testify to the diversity of the media landscapes under examination; b) depict the manifold regulatory instruments that are used (public and private regulation) in order to determine how the media should be structured and operate; and c) reveal that political, cultural and socio-economic factors, together with the institutional features of media policy-making, have an important impact on the evolution and configuration of contemporary media policies in Europe. Research has shown, in particular, that institutional arrangements for the conduct of media policy vary considerably. In most of the countries under study, there is a multiplicity of organs and bodies assigned with the task of implementing the policy decisions that are laid down in media laws and public or private regulations, though ‘converged’ regulators have also been established. Media policy design, on the other hand, is mainly in the hands of the national governments and parliaments, often under the influence of supranational institutions, and it is supplemented by private regulation. The role of the Council of Europe and the European Union (EU) in media regulation has also been significant.

The second phase of the project
The second phase of the project had a duration of 14 months. It started in November 2010 and was completed in December 2011. Research for this phase involved in-depth empirical research for each country case, comprehensive analysis of the data collected from a multiplicity of sources, including through the conduct of semi-structured interviews with policy-makers and other stakeholders, and the drafting of a case study report for each of the 14 countries studied.
Belgium (
Media policy in Belgium is focused on the audiovisual media. The written press has been largely left untouched while policy makers are uncertain as to whether or not they should regulate the Internet-based media. So far, policy responses to technological convergence have been formulated on a case-by-case basis. Findings suggest that policy makers have no clear ideas as to whether convergence should be treated as a threat or be supported as an opportunity to strengthen the freedom and independence of the media.
The analysis has shown that that there exists a general practice of cooperation between policy makers and media stakeholders when it comes to making media policy. Independent media regulators have been established to supervise compliance with media regulations. These regulators play their part in concerting with the public and other stakeholders affected by media policy, for instance, through the organisation of public consultations on proposed regulatory changes. It has been argued that the existence of independent media regulators helps to ensure a general legislative framework protective of the freedom and the independence of the media in Belgium. Self-regulation has gained a central place in the Belgian media policy and it is often deployed as a means to respond to the challenges that media convergence and new technological developments have posed for the media. The state stimulates self-regulation by providing financial support for self-regulatory institutions.
There is a variety of different state parties responsible for media policy in Belgium. This separation of responsibilities is sometimes problematic for the formulation of clear policy objectives, especially in the light of media convergence. This could potentially have a negative impact on the regulatory framework. In order to cope with this situation, the responsible state parties are increasingly cooperating with one another to formulate common policies. Media regulation is to a large degree influenced by the relevant EU directives, especially as concerns the audiovisual media. The ECHR and the case law of the ECtHR have also proven to be major sources of media law in Belgium.
Findings show that there is a strong concentration in the Belgian media market, with a strong tendency towards cross-media activities. However, so far, no single group has dominated the entire market and concentration levels have not (yet) led to serious attacks on media freedom and independence. Policy makers seem to accept this limited level of competition as a necessary evil, which goes together with the relative small size of the media market(s). Legislation ensuring a diversified offer of media and of opinions is scarce.
The Belgian regulatory framework has been relatively well suited to safeguard media freedom and independence. There have been discussions on the interpretation of some specific provisions in the Belgian Constitution, especially with regard to the application of the principle of media freedom to media other than the written press. These discussions centre on problems with the application of the principle of media freedom by judges, rather than by parliaments, governments or individual politicians. The latter generally seem to respect the freedom and independence of the media and to refrain from introducing legislation that could limit these. In the same sense, there have been no major incidents found of changes to media legislation that were mainly inspired by specific commercial interests.
Bulgaria (
Research for the Bulgarian country case suggests that two main factors may influence the role of the media in the democratic process: the fragmentation of the party system and the erosion of the programmatic/ideological character of the political parties. In the rapid changes brought about by the transition to liberal democracy in Bulgaria in the 1990s, media policy was not among the priorities of the main political and other players. Rather, developments in this sphere were a result of a general drive towards liberalisation and less regulation. Both were considered to help realise the values of freedom of expression and enhanced access to information in the public interest.
Throughout the 1990s, media regulation was part of the struggle for the domination of political actors (i.e. the ex-communists and the pro-reform democrats). In the post-2001 period, domestic political parties progressively lost their programmatic character. Also, they did not invest in their own structures and policy expertise. These processes have had implications for contemporary Bulgarian media policy. The Bulgarian media policy is a result of a complex interplay between a variety of actors which are losing their clearly defined identities and roles. It should therefore come as no surprise that the ensuing media policy is more a result of momentary happenstance of disparate interests than that of planned, balanced, widely discussed and broadly accepted measures. The Bulgarian media environment is currently in a state of normative confusion. There are different competing visions and interpretations of concepts such as media independence and free speech. European regulation does not provide the normative grounding that is necessary. It is also torn apart among various priorities and normative goals. In the absence of clear normative standards, the media in Bulgaria are increasingly seen as an extension of either partisan or corporate strategies.
Another interesting finding is that there has been a change in the types of actors involved in the shaping of media policy. While in the 1990s, the major players were the parties and parliamentary majorities, on the one hand, and the Bulgarian constitutional court, on the other, in the post-2000 period, the number of players has grown rapidly and their influence on media policy has become harder to track. There is a clear trend towards a growing influence on media policy formulation of the media industry at the expense of journalists’ associations and other civil society actors. There has also been a significant change in the legal instruments used. While in the 1990s, parliamentary majorities exercised direct, ad hoc control over the public electronic media, leaving the press unregulated, the 2000s saw intense legislative activity. This, however, has failed to bring coherence in media regulation.
A major problem with the commercial media in Bulgaria is their unsustainable business models. Media enterprises barely survive on purely market terms and often rely on state support in different forms. This has encouraged the growth of trading-in-influence and other dismal journalistic practices, which have become the modus operandi for whole media groups (rather than just individual journalists). As a result, media groups often use their media outlets as outposts for their corporate wars with business competitors, turning the media into vehicles for the promotion of non-media-related business and political interests. These trends progressively render the media less able to serve as an independent centre of power in society that is responsive to citizens’ needs
Croatia (
Findings show that the number of actors involved in the Croatian media policy has been growing as a result of the expanding media market. The key role of the state in the formulation of media policy has, however, remained unquestionable. The values that dominate the Croatian media policy are freedom, diversity and plurality. They are specified through the Constitution and about 20 laws and regulations. The freedom of speech and the right to information are interpreted as basic values that shape the public role of the media and constitute a framework for the mediatisation of the public interest.
The impact of market conditions and market players on media policy has been constantly increasing and exposed to the negotiation process for Croatian accession to the EU. The latter has had a marked influence, which is evident in the acceptance of democratic values but also in the liberalisation of markets. Liberalisation has created more dependencies on commercial interests. At the same time, technological innovations have played a considerable role in making the media system more complex. The web has created a new market for the news media in which online portals compete with portals from the print and the electronic media. The regulation of this new market, however, is lagging behind.
The wide-ranging dependency of the media on commercial interests is not addressed by media legislation, and the legislative framework is not coherent. Ownership and concentration regulations do not include safeguards for editorial freedom. Media competition law mostly targets prohibited agreements, joint price increases and the misuse of dominant market position. It has not been modified for the purpose of acknowledging the specificities of the media market. While commercial interests dominate the structure of the media market, there are cases where dependency on state funding also plays a significant role. The Fund for the Promotion of Pluralism and Diversity, for instance, gives voice to local and regional media, but also creates dependencies on state funding.
The Croatian media policy includes extensive statutory requirements regarding diversity and pluralism of media content for programmes of socio-cultural and political interest, and for standards of objectivity and impartiality for reporting. The provisions of the ECHR and the standards of the Council of Europe in the media field are observed. Under the relatively new Electronic Media Act specific regulations to ensure pluralism and diversity have been significantly relaxed in line with commercial media interests. Programme diversity obligations for broadcasters (although reduced) still exist. Support for minority media, programmes for minorities and programmes of public interest are subsidised through the Fund for the Promotion of Pluralism and Diversity of Electronic Media, which has increased programme diversity and has enabled the existence of some 30% of local broadcasters.
The profession of journalism is marked by ever lower standards of reporting and content producing. Employment possibilities have grown but the working conditions of journalists have worsened, as market logic prevails over professionalism and ethical behaviour. For many journalists and the journalists’ association, self-regulation may increase the quality of media content. However, in an atmosphere of insecurity and fast technological transformation, efforts to introduce self-regulatory provisions are marginalised by both private and public media.
Finally, media literacy initiatives and transparency requirements imposed on the media are not clearly linked. Enabling citizens to make informed choices about media services is an individualised process, as media operators rarely support initiatives to promote or practice media literacy and education.
Denmark (
Free speech, and the need for free and independent media, is a central characteristic of the Danish society and the Danish media policy and regulation. One of the main findings of the report is that there is a broad consensus among the various media policy actors regarding the fundamental values of the Danish media policy, including media freedom, media independence and media diversity. Due to the small size of the Danish media market, the media subsidy system is vital to achieving these ends. For many years, public service broadcasters have been the dominant players in the radio and television markets, while the printed press has received substantial subsidies in order to fulfil its democratic role.
The Danish media market is based on a delicate balance between public and private media. It can be regarded as an ecological system in which each individual part is dependent on the others. Due to the small size of the market, the interdependence of its various elements is particularly strong. Regulatory action (i.e. in the form of public financial support and the regulation of the activities of public service broadcasting) has thus the potential to provoke major shifts in the media system and should accordingly receive careful consideration. During the past decades, the regulatory framework governing public service media has substantially evolved but developments appear to have strengthened political control. In addition, technological developments, particularly the digitisation of most types of media and distribution, have posed a direct challenge to the media, especially the printed press. The business model that has been the cornerstone of the newspaper industry has declined because the number of subscribers has decreased dramatically over the past ten years. Further, advertising has increasingly moved away from the printed media onto online platforms, where global players such as Google dominate. In consequence, the press is facing a financial crisis that requires new forms of public subsidy.
The changing media structure requires adjustment of media regulation also in terms of the regulation of public service media. While many of the new regulatory initiatives are addressing particular issues in the Danish media sector, they are increasingly inspired by broader EU tendencies, for instance, with regard to state aid assessment, as well as the implementation of the ECHR in the Danish legislation and the ECtHR’s case law regarding the media and free speech.
Findings further show that the relatively homogenous and well-established nature of the journalistic profession in Denmark has led to a high sense of professional integrity among journalists, and to a strong ethos concerning their role as watchdogs in relation to the political system. However, journalists’ working conditions have worsened. The increase in news provided online and the emphasis placed on rapid production makes it harder to produce well-researched news stories.
Media literacy is seen as an important area of the Danish media policy. A number of initiatives have been taken to improve media and ITC literacy and thus promote citizens’ access to information and public debate.
Estonia (
The general strengths of the formulation and implementation of the Estonian media policy include recognising freedom of speech as one of the most important values in democracy, and regulation supporting access to information. A centrally coordinated media policy is absent. Only broadcasting is specifically regulated but a regular monitoring system does not exist. Even though content requirements for the award of broadcasting licences are designed so that broadcasting may have a positive impact on the flow of information to the benefit of democracy, media organisations seem to disregard the rules. The print and the online media are subjected to general laws that regulate access to information, privacy, defamation, etc.
The small size of the national media market favours an oligopoly of professional media channels. It also affects the journalists’ job market and inevitably limits the number of groups and individuals who should negotiate media policy. Due to the small size of the country, the local media and local communication need special support.
The major problem concerning free speech in the field of the media is striking a proper balance between operators’ commercial interests and the public’s need to obtain trustful, non-biased and professionally processed information. Hence, the role and regulation of public broadcasting is important. In Estonia, public broadcasting is financed from the state budget and does not air advertisements.
The impact of the ECHR has mostly been felt in cases concerning defamation and privacy. The analysis of the argumentation of the Estonian Supreme Court shows that truth, the public interest and privacy values have been balanced in most of the cases involving the media during the past ten years. Although the jurisprudence of the ECtHR is not often cited by the Estonian Supreme Court, there is a strong similarity as regards the values endorsed by the two courts. Overall, the Estonian legal system and the judiciary strongly protect free speech.
Turning to the journalistic profession and the factors that affect journalistic autonomy (internal and external pressures; access to the job market and journalists’ perception of journalistic autonomy), the extent of the freedom of expression that the Estonian media enjoys does not translate in individual journalists enjoying the same level of autonomy. Therefore, the protection of journalistic autonomy and support for journalistic quality is one of the major aims of media policy. One important conclusion to be taken into account in media policy analysis is that journalists and the top management in national dailies have different views about transparency in media organisations as well as on the profession’s integrity. The Union of Journalists in Estonia is weak while many journalists, especially young journalists, are not aware of their professional role and values. There is a lack of professional discussion in the newsrooms and the analysis of journalism and its practices is mainly done within the academia.
In Estonia, media literacy has been included as a cross-curricular topic in the national curricula. Key questions for media policy are thus the following: a) what is the quality of the instruction offered by universities to future teachers of formal education; and b) to what extent the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Education co-operate in sustaining media education.
Finland (
Findings show that media policy in Finland is directed towards securing a plurality of choices among channels, programmes and platforms for the public, while providing enhanced access to information. In the legislative terrain, increased attention is paid to the protection of the freedom of expression, personal integrity and privacy. Regulation also aims at securing the transparency of decision-making by providing the media and the public with access to official information and the documentation of public authorities. The overall tendency of the Finnish media policy is towards limiting statutory regulation and strengthening media self-regulation and public control. Both are important elements of a communication policy that involves not only the traditional media but also existing and emerging new forms of communication. The state bodies only review the legality of actions and licensing procedures. In many cases, the ethical guidelines influence journalists’ work more than legal regulation.
The Finnish media and communication policies have been based on economic values and on promoting competition in the media and communications markets. The Finnish media policy is much concentrated on providing technological possibilities for communication by high-speed Internet connections all over the country. However, this kind of industry-driven development has raised criticism that the authorities have not paid sufficient attention to contents. Competition law is well equipped to prevent excessive concentration. Although the legal framework is particularly favourable to free speech, economic factors seem to have an increasing influence on media policy choices. Concerns have been expressed, for instance, that the decision of the Parliament to impose a value added tax of 9% on newspaper and magazine subscriptions might cause financial problems for media companies, undermining their ability to produce news.
In terms of content regulation, there are no rules focusing specifically on content diversity and pluralism. However, both content diversity and pluralism are implicitly taken into consideration when regulating competition, granting licences and monitoring operators’ compliance with the regulations. One problematic area is the relationship between the freedom of speech and the protection of personal privacy and dignity in court cases concerning the media. In several of its decisions, the ECtHR has criticised the Finnish courts for bypassing the media’s right to initiate public discussion for the sake of privacy. However, recent decisions of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal show that the media’s intention to strengthen public discussion and to exercise public criticism is generally understood to be an important part of media freedom.
The independence and autonomy in journalism may be in danger, as media houses turn towards news industrial production. Changes in media organisations refer to both structures and modes of operation. Increased economic pressures in the media business have cut workforce in editorial offices, have increased the workload of the individual journalist, and have tightened up deadlines. These developments have a negative impact on analytical journalism and criticism and also affect the observance of ethical rules. Requirements for journalists with multi-skilling abilities (to produce content for different kinds of publishing platforms and to make different kinds of stories of a topic) have changed the nature of journalism.
There is no consistent policy approach to media literacy and education in Finland. While journalists are eager to uncover and publish information, no legal requirements exist regarding transparency or openness of the media. Consequently, people are not aware of the publishing motives or the media’s editorial decisions regarding certain topics.
Germany (
Research for the German case study has shown that different, partly antagonistic, values shape the German media policy. The need to ensure free and independent media and the need to deal with the economic aspects of the media as a sector of the economy have influenced the approach of the various policy actors and policy-making. The freedom of the media from the state is a core value of the German media policy. Consequently, German media law consists of regulatory mechanisms for broadcasting and mainly self-regulatory mechanisms for the print media.
Many different actors with varying remits and degrees of salience are involved in the formulation and the implementation of state regulation, co-regulation and self-regulation. Policy actors include lawmakers in a broad sense: the state parliaments, the federal parliament, and the bodies of the EU, the Council of Europe and UNESCO. The German judiciary, the ECtHR, the CJEU and self-regulatory bodies influence the implementation of media policies. Private lobby organisations, scientific think tanks and the Internet community also form part of the network of media policy actors.
The advent of Internet-based services and technical convergence have blurred the boundaries between previously distinct media sectors, prompting discussion on whether or not existing laws governing the media should be revised. Although the Internet has brought different media together, it has not altered their distinct roles. Public service media are still meant to serve a common public space for democratic discourse while the online press can be partial. Competition and anti-concentration rules promote media pluralism to a certain extent, as they ensure the market presence of several actors. They therefore indirectly support media freedom. However, the regulation and the implementation of concentration rules specific to broadcasting tend to be less efficient. Concerning public service media, of particular interest at the moment is the redefinition of the public service remit, which was triggered by the severe criticism of public service broadcasters’ online activities by private operators. State aid control by the European Commission has resulted in a new interstate treaty, which places some restrictions on the content of public service broadcasters transmitted online.
Research has revealed that the composition and diversification of media content is a field of tensions characterised by competing interests. The legislature and the courts have reacted differently on a number of key issues, such as journalists’ protection from unwarranted criminal prosecution. Another important finding is that private broadcasters have substantially reduced political news coverage.
Concerning journalists and their working conditions, the analysis shows that editorial offices have to cope with more and more tasks with fewer personnel. The role of freelance journalists in news production has gained importance. Further, the Internet has substantially changed journalists’ working environment: it has made research easier but it has also increased journalists’ workload; journalists are required to produce content both for traditional outlets and their online formats.
The understanding of the concept of media literacy in Germany differs form that of the EU. What is employed is the term ‘media competency’. This focuses on protecting media users from negative media influence rather than strengthening their capacity to critically evaluate media content.
Greece (
Research in the case of Greece has shown that the Greek media policy is a centralised process, almost exclusively confined in the hands of the government. This cabinet-centred model of media policy-making has been thoroughly influenced, albeit in informal ways, by powerful economic and business interests, which have sought to gain power, profit, or both, at the expense of the normative functions that the media are expected to perform in the public interest. Media policy-making has been largely driven by instrumentalist considerations and the lack of political will to antagonise the powerful business interests that govern the media. Also, the role of the independent regulatory bodies in media policy design has proved limited and their independence from the government debatable. EU law and European human rights norms have had an important impact on domestic regulatory decisions but have not strengthened the ability of the domestic media to perform as independent agents of information.
The effects of these processes have been evidenced in the Greek media market, which is characterised by a high degree of mono- and cross-media concentration. Quite importantly, most of the established media owners also engage in other sectors of the economy, where the state is a significant customer. This raises serious concerns regarding the quality of the information services that the outlets of these media proprietors provide. Also, most media enterprises are not healthy enterprises. Their economic frailty has rendered them prone to advertising, sponsorship but also political pressures in return for financial backup and support. In fact, the financial viability of many private media enterprises has depended for decades (directly or indirectly) on state resources and lenient state treatment, with severe implications on reporting.
Perhaps the epitome of the problematic relations of the media with the political system is the failure to adopt a sound legal framework for radio and television licensing. The lack of licences has inevitably hampered the efficiency of monitoring compliance with the rules that cater for the diversification of media content. The low degree of transparency in granting state subsidies and public advertising to the media and the limited development of independent public service media raise additional concerns about free speech and independent reporting.
At the same time, existing self-regulatory codes of journalistic ethics have remained inactive. This is both a cause and a consequence of the fact that a good number of journalists are embedded in relations of dependencies from politicians, party officials, or private businesses which invest or advertise in the media. Such dependencies act as a lever of censorship or, more often, self-censorship. Moreover the codes of conduct that are espoused by the journalists’ associations – the bodies responsible for the monitoring and enforcement of the codes- are out of touch with contemporary conditions and the challenges that the emergence of new information services online has posed for journalism. Journalists’ associations have for the most part displayed indifference towards the quality and ethics of journalism in Greece.
More broadly, there is lack of debate concerning the safeguarding of the freedom of expression online. This probably explains the uncertainty regarding the legal norms regulating the content of information provided through Internet-based services. Concurrently, policy makers have refrained from reflecting on whether or not new applications and information services that do not strictly fit into the traditional regulatory systems for broadcasting and the press should be regulated. Media literacy as part of media education has also received limited attention.
Italy (
The main principles of the Italian media policy are expressed in the Italian Constitution. This provides for the protection of free speech, which should guide the decisions of all media policy actors. The Department of Communication of the Ministry of Economic Development is the main government actor involved in the implementation of national media regulation. Although the ministry enjoys fewer competences since the establishment of the Communication Authority (AGCOM), it still plays an important role in shaping the plurality of the market. AGCOM is one of the most important bodies in the implementation of the Italian media policy. However, its effectiveness – as well as that of other institutional actors, is hampered by the intertwining relationship between the media and political power. This remains strong and influences the formulation of the Italian media policy. During the past few years, citizens’ mobilisation on media policy issues has been growing and occasionally, it has exerted pressure on the government as regards the making of media policy decisions. The judiciary, for its part, plays an important role in defining the scope and limits of the freedom of expression and information.
Regarding the structure of the media market, the legislator has enacted a set of legal caps on concentration in the press and the broadcasting markets. However, the legislation that is currently in force does not provide for effective tools that reduce barriers to market entry. Another key finding is that technological developments influencing news production and the distribution of content have posed a challenge to the regulatory framework. The battlefield has been the protection of copyright of the content available through Internet service providers. The ongoing policy debate reflects the need, for content producers, to adapt existing business models to new forms of content provision. The debate also depicts the need, for policy makers, to revise the ways in which content production is protected, so as to strike a fair balance between citizens’ freedom of information and producers’ remuneration for their investment in the creation of content.
In terms of content, public service broadcasting has a main role to play for fostering internal pluralism and diversity. The subsidising of Italian newspapers, on the other hand, has become highly controversial. Although subsidies are welcomed by the editors, they are seen by citizens as constituting surreptitious funding for political parties.
The Italian information market rests on major investors who are also involved in other production fields as well as political party or government members. Under such conditions, the independence of journalists can be jeopardised. Another threat to the freedom of information stems from the pressure of criminal associations. Co- and self-regulatory mechanisms are used to promote ethical journalistic standards and practices. However, they are not particularly effective, since in many cases political and economic pressures are stronger and prevail over controls and sanctions. At the same time, the journalistic profession is changing dramatically on account of technology transformations. New models of journalism are being formed, like data journalism and citizen journalism. The Italian editorial industry has not yet realised the potential of the new media and has not developed structured strategies for the use of the new communication tools.
Although in Italy the media are an important and influencing source of information, most people do not have a positive opinion over the level of freedom and independence the media enjoy from political and economic powers. Therefore, media literacy interventions could provide citizens with the ability to critically evaluate each of the features of the media market.
Romania (
The main pillars of the Romanian media policy are the freedom of expression and the freedom of information, coupled with the protection of human dignity and privacy. The state is the main actor in formulating and implementing media policies. All other important stakeholders – the industry, professional associations, owners’ and employees’ unions, media development NGOs, etc. – are present on the advocacy scene. The main level of policy is the legislative one, despite the overarching lack of confidence citizens have in the Romanian Parliament. Overall, there is no coherent, consistent, long-term and genuine commitment to a culture of ‘policy-making’. Rather, media regulation is seen by politicians as a way to solve personal problems or create advantages, and as a means to gain visibility and popularity.
EU law has prompted authorities to act in ways that support media independence. However, the principle of media independence has not been internalised or incorporated in policy goals. There is a tendency to over-regulation but implementation is limited. Self-regulation, in turn, has never been really functional in Romania.
The Romanian media market is agglomerated and mainly populated with private-owned entities. There is no legislation in Romania that can limit the concentration of property in the print media, and cross-ownership is not regulated at all. The public media have been subject to a seemingly never ending reform process, affected by obsolete laws and the lack of political will to change them. The ways in which both regulation and the organisation of the public media are carried out are deeply flawed. In addition, existing accountability mechanisms often allow for politicisation.
As a rule, there is a clear distinction between the intensity of content regulation between broadcast and other types of media in Romania. Content regulation is quite dense for the Romanian broadcasting sector and relatively weak for the other forms of the media. The electronic media have a series of public interest and diversity obligations but their implementation is problematic. Lawsuits against journalists have become less and less numerous and most of them are filed under accusations of libel and defamation. Journalists have generally won the cases against them, the Romanian courts complying with the practice of the ECtHR.
New technologies have significantly affected the media environment in Romania. The speed and the virtually omnipresence of the Internet (especially on mobile devices) have forced the traditional media to adjust on the go. The online environment strives on personal initiatives and individuals with little or no journalistic background of ethical sensitivities have emerged as opinion leaders: the bloggers. Some of them have become influential enough, inducing advertisers to offer them lucrative contracts. The individual nature of the blogs makes, however, any expectation of self-regulation unrealistic.
Despite the various dimensions of the media field and its puzzling complexity, deciphering the media and critically receiving their services is not a preoccupation for the state authorities or for the formal education system. There are no permanent state-sponsored programmes to this avail and advancements in the field of media literacy and education only rely on the efforts of media-related NGOs and, to some extent, on some media companies.
Slovakia (
One of the significant findings of the Slovakian case study is that the judiciary plays an important, though ambiguous, role in the operation of free and independent media in Slovakia. The main regulatory body for the electronic media, the Council for Broadcasting and Retransmission (RVR), has endorsed a conservative approach in its activity, hampering, to some extent, free speech. Other key bodies that shape the Slovakian media policy, such as the Ministry of Culture and the Parliament, reflect social or party-ideological normative values in their approach to media policy-making (or lack thereof). There is only one institution – the Constitutional Court – which has historically shown a long-term effort towards the protection and promotion of media freedom and access to information. The majority of lower Slovakian courts, however, have not adopted a consistent approach in cases raising issues pertaining to free speech/access to information and the protection of personal rights.
The main factor determining the structure of the media market in Slovakia is its size or affluence - not legislation. While national or international conglomerates have many local branches, their advertising decisions are made in the central offices established in big cities, particularly the capital. This managerial approach creates a disadvantage for small, local and regional, independent media. The influence of vested interests in the market is relatively low. The role of political, corporate, economic or other interests in policy formulation and implementation with respect to the structure of the market is rather limited, since much depends on the government in power. More successful and important for policy formulation seems to be lobbying behind the scenes, especially in Parliament.
Concerning the diversification of media content, libel and defamation suits have proved one of the most controversial issues in the practice of journalism in Slovakia. The balancing of the right to the protection of one’s personal honour with the right to free speech and the freedom of the press by the Slovak courts is problematic. In libel and defamation cases, the Slovak courts have frequently awarded public figures high levels of reimbursement for non-pecuniary damages. The media regulator RVR, for its part, has shown a conservative attitude towards controversial content, thus constraining public debate.
With respect to journalism, there is a long-term problem with the quality of higher education in Slovakia in general and in journalism/media studies in particular. The Internet has facilitated journalists’ access to cheap and multiple sources of information, it has made archive search easier, and blogs have sometimes provided interesting tips for reports. Overall, however, the investigation of journalistic practices suggests that the extent to which journalists in Slovakia are ready to uphold their distinct interests as a professional group and journalistic values is low. The role of journalistic unions is seen as inefficient and not particularly helpful. Moreover, the dependencies that exist between employers and employees have often had a negative effect on news coverage and reporting.
Findings in relation to media literacy suggest that most, if not all the goals set in governmental media literacy strategies have not been achieved as planned. The general level of media literacy in Slovakia is unknown. Most active in promoting media literacy in Slovakia is civil society (often supported by state or EU funding). At the same time, the media environment in Slovakia remains insufficiently transparent, despite the fact that according to formal requirements, media ownership information has to be disclosed and published on a regular basis.
Spain (
The analysis has shown that the Spanish media policy has traditionally been shaped by political actors, although in more recent years, private interests have had an important influence on the process. Political parties are the main category of political actors involved in the formulation and implementation of media policy. The parliaments and the governments, both at the national and the regional levels, lead media policy-making. Private operators appear, nevertheless, to have influenced the drafting of the General Statute on Audiovisual Communication (GSAC). Accusations that this statute is favouring private interests have been confirmed in practice, as the regulation of media mergers has been eased and mergers have, subsequently, taken place fairly quickly. Spain lacks an independent media regulator. Although the GSAC has established such a body, this has not yet been created.
Telecommunications are still regarded mainly from a mere technological perspective and no clear policy pattern regarding the Internet as a communications medium can be identified. Media convergence has indeed not been clearly addressed in policy terms. With respect to public service media, since 2006, the national public service media (RTVE) has been involved in normative and institutional changes to promote its independence, yet with irregular results. Legal reforms carried out by the conservative party, which is currently in government, have similarly been unsatisfactory. In addition, no clear policy trend exists concerning the role and future of the regional public service media.
Generally speaking, all media currently face a difficult condition due to the harsh economic situation in the country and technological developments, which has consequences on the quality of the information services provided and, thus, on the quality of democracy. Self-regulation, co-regulation and classical public regulation are strategies for dealing with the challenges raised from different perspectives: whereas public regulation is usually the tool in use for structural measures, self-regulation and co-regulation are developing as mechanisms for addressing media content. One of the main findings of the research carried out, however, is that regulation has not been successful in promoting free speech and independent reporting. Media freedom and independence have been compromised by the existing dependencies of the media both on the political powers and on private interests. Media literacy might have a crucial role to play in this regard, providing citizens with useful tools that allow them to actively participate in media control.
Turkey (
Research has shown that media policy-making in Turkey is a centralised and bureaucratic process. It is led by the executive, while the parliament has a limited role. The nationalist and culturally conservative values endorsed in the legal framework have diffused into the media policy-making process. The existent media regulatory bodies are not independent from the executive, and they prioritise conservative and nationalist values to the detriment of media freedom and free speech. Research has also shown that the policy-making processes are detached from society. Civil society and the media are not allowed to play a meaningful role. Typical of the reform process tied to the EU accession process, the new laws and policies on the media are developed exclusively by the bureaucracy without prior public debate and often despite public reaction.
There is a highly concentrated structure in the media market due to the inadequacy of legal barriers to cross-mergers and the investment of the media owners in other sectors of the economy. The process of allocating frequencies has resulted in the creation of barriers to market entry, undermining diversity and pluralism in the broadcasting media. Editorial independence is never a factor for consideration in the context of reviewing mergers and acquisitions and, as a result, the media sales have frequently led to layoffs. The advertising pie is almost entirely divided between the big media groups in nearly all of the subsectors of the media. The advertising revenues that feed the online news organisations are still insufficient to create self-sufficient and independent online media.
Despite being relatively improved on account of the EU process, media laws contain restrictions based on principles of national unity, national security, and the reforms and principles of Atatürk. Amorphous concepts such as ‘general morality,’ ‘the protection of the family,’ and ‘the national and moral values of society’ leave media regulatory bodies with a wide margin of appreciation. The principal obstacles to the freedom of the press and the freedom of expression in Turkey stem from the criminal legal system. Journalists are routinely prosecuted on charges of terrorism. The persistence of the Turkish judiciary to disregard the ECHR standards shows that the infringement of the freedom of press and expression also stems from the entrenched understandings of judges and prosecutors.
While laws and policies have a censorship effect on the media, journalists also exercise self-censorship for fear of hurting the economic and political interests of their patrons, losing their job or being prosecuted. The historical weakness of trade unions in Turkey, the high level of unemployment among journalists, the high turnover rate in the sector and the deep divisions among journalists due to ideological differences make it very difficult for media employees to engage in a unified struggle against their employers and the state. The inability and unwillingness of the media to regulate themselves, as well as the authoritarian and punitive nature of state regulation have mobilised civil society to monitor the media’s compliance with codes of ethics.
The UK (
The UK has long recognised the value of free speech and it has made active use of statutory, co-regulatory and self-regulatory structures in the media field. It has supported an independent newspaper sector and it has also regulated the broadcasting sector in order to enhance citizens’ access to information and to pursue public interest goals. Important values relating to media freedom and independence were incorporated into the UK legal system through the Human Rights Act 1998. The Human Rights Act 1998 has allowed for growing attention to be paid to human rights in media cases before domestic courts, leading to the development of important defences for the press. There are, however, concerns that in certain fields, the judiciary has been unduly protective of private interests and a number of UK decisions have been held by the ECtHR to offer insufficient protection to the press.
EU law has had an influence: ATVOD, the Authority for Video on Demand, for example, started as a self-regulatory initiative by the industry, in order to pre-empt government regulation, but eventually became a co-regulator under the influence of the EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive. The proliferation of media channels as a result of new technology is viewed as a possible ground for deregulation in the UK, both as regards structural and content controls, in the broadcast sector.
Concerning the structure of the market, over the last ten years, the private media market has experienced significant consolidation, both in the print and broadcast sectors, particularly at the local level. A combination of both general and media specific competition rules are employed to promote media plurality. The UK also allows certain media mergers to be reviewed in terms of their impact on plurality under the 2002 Enterprise Act. Review is triggered by the relevant minister and this form of oversight became highly controversial in light of the attempt by News Corporation to take over satellite broadcaster BSkyB. The present system of media ownership controls is, as a result, currently under review. In the public sector, the BBC Trust reviews the impact of new BBC services through the application of a public value test. The public sector in the UK is unusually diverse, with some public service broadcasters, such as ITV and Channel 4, relying on advertising. The BBC is, however, funded by a licence fee and state support is consequently subject to oversight under the EU state aid rules.
The content of radio and television broadcast services is regulated in order to promote content diversity. A commitment to accuracy, quality and diversity is evident from the codes of conduct developed by Ofcom and the BBC for the services they oversee. The UK press, which is largely free from regulation, is not subject to any content regulation relating to diversity, though the Press Complaints Code of Conduct called on the press to be fair and accurate in its reporting.
Professional journalism is under increased working and time pressure which has led to an increase in the use of ‘pre-packaged’ content and fewer checks being run on a story. Similar concerns about editorial checks have also been voiced in relation to news agency copy, on which many media sources rely. The effectiveness of self-regulation of the press in the UK has been brought into question by the findings of the Leveson Inquiry, and a new system of press regulation, possibly involving a Royal Charter, is currently under review.
Another key finding is that the line between journalists and citizens is becoming increasingly blurred both as a result of citizens acting as journalists and by journalists straying from the mainstream media by running, for example, a Twitterfeed that contains important news items. These developments point to the importance of promoting a coherent approach to media literacy, which has been so far very fragmented.

The third phase of the project
The third phase of the project had a duration of six months. It started in January 2013 and was completed in June 2012. Within its framework selected findings of the previous phase of the project were compared in a cross-state fashion so as to a) evaluate and explain different forms of media policy-making and regulation and their effects on media freedom and independence; and b) identify the conditions under which different forms of regulation at the national and transnational levels achieve or fail to promote free and independent media. Key areas of comparative analysis and related findings are discussed below.
The freedom and independence of public service media in the 14 countries studied by the project (
Research has shown that there exists an extensive body of guidelines and standards established by international and regional institutions, particularly the Council of Europe, which provide guidance to individual states concerning the regulation and independent operation of public service broadcasters (PSBs). Analysis in the framework of the project has examined how well these standards find reflection in practice in the countries under study, focusing on three main areas: the management and supervision, financing and remit of PSBs.
As regards management and supervision, the following models have been identified: a) the centralised model where appointment of the members of the managing bodies essentially involves the executive and/or the legislative branch; b) the decentralised model, where insulation from political influence is sought by assigning responsibility for appointment to external bodies which are not linked to government or parliament (i.e. independent regulators, regional councils, etc.) or to internal bodies; and c) the mixed model which lies in between the centralised and the decentralised model. The supervisory bodies of the PSBs in the 14 countries studied vary in nature, being internal, external or both. Internal bodies are either solely assigned with supervisory responsibilities or enjoy mixed competences, engaging partly in management and partly in supervision. This can prove problematic and undermine autonomous management, if the exercise of supervisory functions allows for encroachment on management.
In terms of PSBs’ financing, the most common model in the countries examined is that of mixed funding that rests on a combination of public resources with commercial revenue. The most common public funding instrument is the broadcasting licence fee. However, public revenue may also originate directly in the state budget, emanate from taxation or derive from specific public funds in the form of subsidies, grants or concession fees paid by commercial operators.
Domestic legislation in all the countries reviewed lay down a set of more or less comprehensive provisions identifying the public service remit of PSBs. EU Member States are generally afforded a wide margin of discretion concerning the definition of the public service remit. In most of the countries reviewed, technological developments enabling the expansion of PSBs on new platforms have triggered heated discussions on the funding of their new activities, an issue that is closely linked to the demarcation of the public service remit. The public value test, a soft EU law instrument for the ex ante evaluation of PSBs’ new media services, has not exerted an overwhelming impact on the organisation of the PSB systems under study. In the countries were such tests do exist, these display significant divergence, particularly as regards the bodies assigned with the task of carrying them out.
Findings suggest that financial uncertainty and political interference in the workings of PSBs remain the order of the day in many countries reviewed. Although these pressures appear most acute in the post-communist countries of Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania and Slovakia, governing elites continue to seek to influence PSBs’ reporting in Spain, Greece and Italy. The countries that afford most protection to their PSBs are those that combine a ‘pluralist’ and representative approach to regulation, or, in the case of the BBC in the UK, a constitutionally ‘independent’ body, with a strong legal and professional tradition of journalistic freedom, secure funding, high levels of transparency, and widespread public understanding of the role of public service media (PSM) in society. Both formal structures alongside cultural expectations and political conventions appear therefore to be needed for the independence of PSM to be fully realised in practice. Also, besides attention given to the remit, institutional structure, regulatory oversight, and funding arrangements of PSM, careful consideration must be given to the quality, ethos and practices of management, journalists and staff working within them. In addition, PSM should be as transparent as possible in relation to their governance with clear lines of accountability to enable their independence to be properly assessed.
Politics and the media in Eastern European countries (
Analysis has focused on the different patterns of governmental interference in the media across the five Eastern European countries covered by MEDIADEM: Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Romania and Slovakia. The first model of aggressive majoritarian attempts to control the (public electronic) media was characteristic of the 1990s. The second model started to become dominant towards the turn of the century, when the party systems in many Eastern European countries started to disintegrate or reform, due to the growing strength of populist parties. The end result was a new pattern of relationships between political parties and the media in which the weaker sphere started to become the political. The analysis of each country case shows that it is difficult to infer any strict model of relationships between the media and the political sphere in Central Eastern Europe. Countries have different transition trajectories, different cultures and institutional set up. Also, some of them appear more advanced (Estonia, for instance) in terms of resembling Western European models. Yet, one feature that is common is the fragility of the institutional set up and the possibility of the re-emergence of problems, particularly in the form of attempts for direct partisan control over the media (as the case of Hungary shows for instance).
With respect to private media, findings show that the influence of the private sector over the formulation of media policy has varied from country to country, depending on the strength of the respective governments, the dimension of the market and the vested interest of various actors in influencing media policy-making. One common pattern in the development of private markets is that there was no long-term policy strategy behind them. The current state of the media sector is the result of a balancing act between the political will in controlling the sector and the play of market forces and business interests. Another common trend is the lack of effective transparency measures as regards media ownership. This can undermine the assessment of monopolies/oligopolies and facilitate media owners’ informal conduct, when these seek political and economic influence via their media content. Institutional aspects also merit attention. The birth of broadcast regulatory bodies has been a complicated one in the countries reviewed. Regulators appeared for the most part on unregulated markets, populated by media outlets that had already carved their niches. They therefore were perceived, from the very beginning, as instruments of coercion and political control.
Overall, findings show that despite the differences in their historical background, political orientations and strategies adopted, the countries examined share a number of common features regarding the role of their institutions. The main feature of these institutions is political control. Estonia may present a different situation, with domestic authorities being rather uninterested and reluctant to engage in media policy formulation, leaving such a task to the industry and the judiciary. Another common feature is that most of the institutions analysed in the five countries are rather reactive than proactive in their approaches. In addition, strategies and roadmaps seem to have shifted with every change in political power with the sole purpose of securing control over the media – or market advantages for the ‘friendly’ media companies. A third common feature is the formative impact of the European influence – either via the EU acquis and membership, or the ECHR standard-setting. The broadcast systems have clearly benefited from the EU influence. Also, the courts have been positively influenced not only by the ECHR provisions, but also by the ECtHR rulings. These had a modelling effect over domestic judiciaries, albeit this has been rather slow in some instances.
Trends and policy approaches with respect to new media services in the 14 countries studied by the project (
Analysis has disclosed a legal and definitional vacuum around new media services in most, if not all, the countries reviewed. A key finding is that there is no consensus on the definition of new media and the consequences of digitisation on media production processes. Without prior definition, the political and legislative branch has no way to legislate properly. The current EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive provides only a partial solution. It does not cover all new media services and therefore does not address the impact of the new media revolution in a comprehensive manner. Besides the application of general civic and criminal legislation, sometimes coupled with the extension of the application of traditional media regulation, the most frequently used tool for the regulation of new media services is individualised self-regulation, that is, the development of norms at the level of single media organisations. This mainly focuses on the regulation of the online behaviour of media professionals
Turning to the main policy issues that have emerged in relation to new media services in the countries examined, the analysis shows that issues pertaining to hate/libel speech concern most countries studied. In all the countries reviewed, the online-only news media must comply with the general legislative framework. However, an emerging trend seems to be that it is explicitly stated in the press law or in other media acts whether, and if so, under what conditions, online-only news media have equal rights and duties as the traditional media. A discrepancy, however, exists in some countries as to whether blogs should be considered as having the same level of responsibilities as the professional media. New information and communication technologies have further raised key challenges about possible policy convergence between the media and telecommunications sectors. There are three types of policy response: countries which have opted for convergence; countries which keep the two spheres separated; and countries without any legislation for new media services. Also, there is no clear trend towards institutional convergence in most of the countries investigated. In short, public policies and their institutional structures are in a process of adaptation to the new media environment.
Concerns for the profitability of major traditional media have emerged as a major issue in most of the countries examined. This has been complemented by concerns pertaining to the constraints faced by new media services in relation to finance. This is a typical problem of those new media services that have no backing by traditional media parent companies. Overall, new media services face similar constraints as traditional media do, although their nature and intensity may vary depending on the type of service involved. In terms of regulation, however, new media services are considered to be ‘freer’ than audiovisual traditional media, since regulation is not as strict as for linear broadcast programmes, for instance. The new media have exerted a remarkable influence on journalistic practices in some of the countries under study. Findings show a growing concern about the lack of full-time professional journalists in the newsroom, the increasing workload of journalists, and the imposition of more tasks requiring additional skills, often with salaries at the same or a lower level.
Concerning the contribution of new media services to democratic processes and free speech, findings reveal an emerging impact of new media services on certain features of the political system in some of the countries under study. New media services have sometimes published information that had the potential to cause public outrage and therefore significant political change. In addition, the rise of leaks and investigative journalism online has substantiated that it is possible to practise the journalistic profession without recourse to the traditional media and their production routines.
Professional autonomy in journalism as a factor for safeguarding free speech in the 14 countries covered by the project (
The concept of professional autonomy in journalism derives from the core function of journalism in a democratic society: to provide people with truthful and unbiased information and a plurality of opinions. Support offered to the autonomy of journalistic performance and the professional community is a crucial issue for media policy. This is because there is no journalistic professional autonomy without free speech, and there is no free journalism without autonomy, that is, the freedom of journalists to define, shape and control their own work processes and to act on their own judgment, taking responsibility for their independent decisions.
Scholarly literature suggests that journalistic autonomy exists on three levels: a) individual autonomy (the individual journalist); b) collective autonomy (the media outlet’s newsroom/organisation); and c) institutional autonomy (the media as an institution in society). Various external and internal factors influence the three levels of journalistic autonomy. The external pressures mainly come from the spheres of politics and economics. Although political and economic pressures are considered to play a decisive role in limiting journalistic autonomy, pressures stemming from journalists’ immediate environment (the newsroom, their peers, their everyday working routines, etc.) or from within the profession (e.g. ethical conventions) are also important.
With respect to external influences, research has shown that the relationship between politicians and journalists influences journalistic autonomy on the institutional level. Economic pressures, on the other hand, influence all levels of journalistic autonomy: the institutional, organisational and individual levels. Market pressures, in particular, are particularly pronounced in all the countries reviewed, although they appear in different forms under different circumstances. Another common problem is the diminishing border between marketing and journalism.
In most countries under study, the degree of journalists’ individual autonomy depends on the media sector (public or private, national or local) and the outlet for which they work as well as on the journalists’ job position in a news organisation. The Internet era has in many cases altered the job market: the online media have not only created new job opportunities; they have also changed the profile of journalistic competencies. In most of the countries covered by the MEDIADEM project, policy makers have not analysed and debated the effects of the changing job market, working conditions and career opportunities of journalists on the practice of journalism and journalistic autonomy.
On the factors of influence emanating from the organisational and professional domains, it is worthwhile mentioning that although journalists value their personal freedom of choice, they do not think about it from the perspective of the broader concept of professional autonomy. Economic dependence on owners and advertisers, in turn, often provokes self-censorship. Generally speaking, in-house guidelines and rules are among the most important factors influencing professional behaviour. In many countries, the owners’ interests are balanced with self-regulating requirements (i.e. editorial statutes) supporting the independence of the editorial staff. Another important component of the professional values of journalism culture is self-regulation. Depending on the general political and journalistic culture as well as the strength of civil society, media self-regulation mechanisms can promote individual autonomy. Journalists’ trade unions can also play an important role in the protection of journalistic autonomy, especially by increasing job security and by safeguarding the rights and social benefits of journalists.
European judicial approaches in relation to media freedom and independence in the 14 countries covered by the project (
Findings show that the impact of the judgments of the ECtHR and the CJEU on national media policy and on the protection of media freedom and independence differs from country to country. This is especially so concerning the case law of the ECtHR and less so with the case law of the CJEU. Most countries studied seem to accept in practice the direct effect and supremacy of EU law and the decisions taken by the CJEU over national law. However, while the ECtHR has generally dealt with a broad array of media-related issues from a fundamental rights perspective, the jurisprudence of the CJEU has focused on a limited set of mainly structural questions.
The ECtHR has developed over the decades a comprehensive European legal framework pertaining to media freedom. This accounts, for example, for the clear prerequisites in the case of protection of sources, the understanding of the role of the media as a public watchdog in modern democracies, and the legal distinction drawn between facts and value judgments in defamation cases. Overall, the ECtHR jurisprudence has had a positive influence on domestic media policies, especially with regard to libel and defamation cases, restrictions to publishing, the protection of private life and the protection of sources. This positive influence is most obvious in those countries where the ECtHR case law has direct effect in the national legal order. In other countries, it often depends on the willingness of policy makers to effectively adhere to the ECtHR decisions and the ECHR standards. Progress in this regard is often made on a case-by-case basis and in incremental steps. As a rule, the adoption of individual measures, aimed at correcting the human rights failures identified by the ECtHR, is not problematic, whereas general measures, designed to avert similar human rights violations from eventuating in the future, pose more problems, especially when confronted with well-established, national traditions.
Findings suggest that all the countries reviewed have had problems and tensions as regards the effective implementation of the ECtHR case law. This is also true for the countries with well-established democratic systems and a relatively high level of media freedom and independence, although most of the systematic problems identified concern countries with less well-established democratic systems and limited protection afforded to media freedom. The reasons for deficient implementation vary and can be found in the problematic relationship that has developed in some countries between domestic courts and the ECtHR concerning sensitive national issues, which affect media legislation and domestic judicial reasoning. Tensions also arise when domestic long-standing legal traditions are questioned. Divergences often crystallise on concrete issues such as the distinction between value judgments and facts in defamation cases (for instance, in Estonia and Greece), or the preference given to privacy protection over the freedom of expression (as is the case in Finland). Such tensions are prevalent to a smaller or lesser degree in most countries, but concurrently, there is an overall tendency for national higher courts to increasingly accept the adjudications of the ECtHR. In some countries, it is mostly the lower courts that tend to disregard the ECtHR case law, while higher courts to some extent remedy this situation by adhering to the ECtHR standards and jurisprudence (for example in Slovakia). Yet, in other countries, the legal system has for a long time not been adapted to effectively implementing the ECtHR decisions (see for example the lack of a legal basis in the Italian legislation allowing for the re-opening of domestic proceedings following a ECtHR judgment finding Italy in breach of the ECHR).
Regulatory approaches in the 14 countries covered by the project (
Research in the framework of the MEDIADEM project has investigated whether constitutional provisions providing free speech safeguards act as drivers for particular forms of media regulation (public or private). Findings reveal that constitutional principles contribute to defining the regulatory space for media regulation and to allocating regulatory functions between different instruments (e.g. competition and regulation) and actors (e.g. courts and regulators; public and private regulators). The analysis shows that in the countries studied by the project, the interpretation and enforcement of freedom of expression strongly relies on national courts and increasingly on independent regulators. In general, courts seem to provide stronger protection for the freedom of expression when this is balanced with privacy and one’s dignity or reputation. Regulatory approaches, in turn, differ across media within and between countries. Both the national and the European regulatory interventions are fragmented, being predominantly inspired by national legal and political traditions. Within the EU, the regulatory framework is organised around different conceptual pillars from the national ones, as it is the case for ‘audiovisual media services’ and ‘linear’ versus ‘non-linear’ audiovisual media services. But differences emerge among the Member States even in areas where minimum EU harmonisation has been adopted. The multi-level system for media regulation additionally encompasses the institutions of the Council of Europe and a plethora of private regulators operating at the national level.
Concerning the structural regulation of the media vis-à-vis the freedom of expression, findings show that one important way to promote pluralism and, consequently, free speech, is to rely on competition policy, with the aim of preserving so-called external pluralism and to a lesser extent internal pluralism. Many of the countries studied have developed ad hoc, stricter merger control rules, which are specifically designed to safeguard pluralism in the media sector, with only a few countries using only general competition law. However, also in the absence of sector-specific regulation, in some countries, cooperation between the competition authority and the communication regulatory authorities in mergers, acquisitions and other concentration cases concerning the communications market is introduced by legislative acts. Four main regulatory models can be observed combining ownership and competition rules in the countries covered by MEDIADEM: a) media ownership rules with proxies, plus competition rules: where the stricter approach prevails; b) media ownership rules with complex pluralism analysis, plus competition assessment: where the stricter approach prevails; c) no media ownership rules or pluralism analysis, and sole application of modified competition law analysis; and d) no media ownership rules or pluralism analysis, and sole application of competition rules.
With respect to content regulation, public regulation of content is limited by free speech safeguards, which leaves significant space to different forms of private regulation. In the countries analysed, content regulation is probably the most fragmented and controversial domain. Besides the protection of content diversity, all countries impose restrictions on content, aimed at protecting conflicting rights such as privacy and copyright. Such content regulation is often specific to certain types of media. At the same time, content regulation is carried out by a considerable mix of institutions. When as in the press there is less administrative regulation, self-regulation, on the one hand, and regulation through litigation, on the other, tend to emerge. Similarly, in the field of digital media regulation has been first driven by private forms, then by the interaction with the courts while more recently there has been a tendency to expand the public regulatory domain, as exemplified by the amended version of the AVMS Directive. Broadcasting content remains the most heavily regulated field despite the disappearance of technological justifications that used to support a different regulatory framework from the press.
A somewhat related field to content regulation is copyright protection in the media. An emerging, fundamental policy issue is the potential conflict between copyright and the freedom of expression within the newly defined structures of supply chains for the production of news. Online news aggregators have come under strict scrutiny by courts with the aim to verify whether or not their activity is lawful under current copyright legislation. The domain of copyright enforcement is also important since it is increasingly the realm of private agreements between content producers and internet service providers. Such arrangements, often concealed, might affect users’ rights, including with respect to privacy, personal data, free speech and access to the Internet. More light should therefore be shed on the scope and provisions of such agreements.
Findings with respect to the regulation of media professionals show that the boundaries of the concept of professional journalism are not so neat throughout the countries reviewed, as definitions of journalists by public regulation are generally lacking. Only private regulation provides for criteria that inform journalistic activity. The analysis of the countries participating in the project shows two models: (i) the status based definition (generally associated with the presence of a strong professional association based on membership); and (ii) activity based self-regulatory regimes (focused on what is journalism rather than who is a journalist). Due to technological developments, new issues concerning the definition of journalist have emerged. The consequences of drawing the boundaries are linked with the granting of special privileges, such as access to sources or events, or the statutory right to the protection of sources, but also the recognition of responsibilities, such respect for journalistic ethics. The boundaries between professional and non-professional journalism have thus to be redefined.
Findings further suggest that despite a heavily fragmented regulatory landscape, some common features between the surveyed countries can be identified in relation to the regulatory instruments and institutions used at the national level. In all the countries reviewed, independent regulators have policy implementation powers. Policy setting powers associated with rule-making are not allocated to independent authorities in the majority of cases. Moreover, in many countries policy implementation still implies a shared system, which gives the political bodies avenues into the governance of the media system. Another important finding is the growing regulatory role of courts, both national and European (the CJEU and the ECtHR), in acting in effect as ex post regulatory bodies in relation to media content, balancing the freedom of expression with conflicting fundamental rights such as privacy and the dignity of others. This role of the courts may have one important advantage; courts are more likely to be independent than other regulatory bodies, and in many of the countries examined, there is a developed tradition of judicial independence. However, courts also have serious limitations as regulators since they operate ex post facto and within the scope of the litigation defined by the parties, at least in civil matters.
Another key finding is the pervasiveness of private regulation in the countries examined. Private regulation can be sub-divided into a number of different categories in relation to the topic and to the identity of the regulators: it is possible to distinguish between professional, technical and consumer regulation. The importance and variety of these forms of private regulation offer two important lessons. First, there is a need for a clearer classification of the different types of systems: the tendency to fit them all together within the category of ‘self-regulation’ is profoundly misleading, as it ignores the different degrees of involvement of public and private stakeholders in the regulatory process, and also the different functions which private regulation may perform. The second issue raised is one of legitimacy: the need to ensure sound governance arrangements and adequate multi-stakeholder representation is often ignored in the policy debate. A related finding is that there needs to be a rethinking of the meaning and role of private regulation, and of the mechanisms for its legitimacy.

The fourth phase of the project
The fourth phase of the project had a duration of eight months. It started in March 2012 and was completed in October 2012. During this phase of the project, succinct policy recommendations were developed for the promotion of media freedom and independence. These targeted policy makers and other stakeholders at the national and European levels. Some recommendations were formulated on the basis of a regulatory matrix discussing the regulatory process that characterises media regulation in the countries studied by the project, particularly as regards the type of actors involved in the regulatory process (public or private); the role of these actors in the different phases of the regulatory process; the scope of regulation, depending on the sector(s) addressed by regulation; and, the objectives pursued. The policy recommendations of the project are the following:
Belgium (
1) Ensure a better coordination of media policy among state policy actors; 2) Ensure that the legal and constitutional rules on freedom of the press are technology-neutral; 3) Guarantee journalists' freedom and independence; 4) Support self-regulation in journalism ethics; 5) Support innovation and creativity in the media sector; 6) Ensure a fair and well-balanced relationship between news content producers and distributors; 7) Support the implementation and update of the Media Pluralism Monitor; 8) Guarantee a level playing field for private and public media; 9) Ensure the independence of public service media through increased transparency and public participation; and 10) Support media literacy projects.
Bulgaria (
1) Ensure transparency of media ownership and prevent excessive commercial media concentration; 2) Guarantee transparent financing in support of plural independent media; 3) Regulate political advertising in the media and guarantee fair media coverage during election campaigns; 4) Improve the ethical integrity of the journalistic profession; and 5) Enhance the independence and effectiveness of the media regulatory bodies
Croatia (
1) Base the establishment and coordination of media policy on high professional and democratic criteria; 2) Fully expose the functioning and reorganisation of public services to public influence and democratic procedures; 3) Create a reliable analytical basis for the development of media laws and regulations; 4) Amend and restructure the existing laws and regulations, in particular the Media Act and the Electronic Media Act; 5) Strengthen the role of the independent regulator (the Agency for Electronic Media); 6) Liberalise the approval of concessions; 7) Increase the transparency of the structure of the market; 8) Support programmes of public interest; 9) Follow changes in journalism; 10) Promote media literacy and transparency; and 11) Rely on the Council of Europe and European Union media policy regulations.
Denmark (
1) Reform the press subsidy system in order to strengthen the quality of news production; 2) Reform the press subsidy system in order to make independent online-only media eligible for subsidy; 3) Strengthen the editorial independence of public service broadcasting by implementing a new kind of public service contract that focuses on social and cultural functions instead of programme requirements; 4) Strengthen the institutional autonomy of public service media through the abolition of the current top-slicing of the public service broadcaster; 5) Strengthen the independence and autonomy of public service broadcasting by defining public service broadcasting exclusively as a requirement of institutions; 6) Strengthen the efficiency of media regulation by achieving Danish jurisdiction over foreign television channels that mainly broadcast to Danish audiences; and 7) Make the media policy-making process more transparent and research based.
Estonia (
1) Review the liberal and market-oriented approach to media policy; 2) Enhance independent mechanisms for the scrutiny of broadcasting organisations; 3) Support professional journalism, transparency of job appointments and accountability of individual journalists; 4) Balance the freedom of the press and individual rights in the context of justice administration; 5) Promote multi-faceted debate on media ethics; and 6) Integrate journalists’ professional education and media literacy in the media policy.
Finland (
1) Emphasise the importance of the freedom of expression in the court practice and judicial interpretation; 2) Train officials in delivering requested information; 3) Make information on the media’s ownership and economic issues more transparent; 4) Introduce a readers’ ombudsman system in the news organisations; 5) Develop the ethical practices of online forums and other discussion platforms; 6) Abide accurately by the ethical guidelines in online publishing; 7) Accumulate resources and enlarge autonomy for journalism; 8) Emphasise the ability of critical consideration in journalistic training; and 9) Evaluate properly the social and communicational policy responsibilities of YLE.
Germany (
1) Guarantee a free and independent public communications space; 2) Enhance the comprehension of the interrelated and multi-level governing nature of media policy comprising of the state level (Länderebene), the federal level (Bundeseben) and the European level; 3) Ensure that public service broadcasters are in the position to maintain and develop online news services and online versions of their existing services and enhance the legal framework conditions in order to increase programmes with political news coverage and information; 4) Ensure financially and socially sufficient as well as stable working conditions for traditionally employed or freelance journalists.
Greece (
1) Enhance institutional stability for media policy-making; 2) Facilitate participatory and evidence-based media policy-making; 3) Strengthen the independence of the National Council for Radio and Television; 4) Regulate the migration to digital terrestrial television; 5) Ensure that undue media ownership concentration is prevented; 6) Promote the independence of public service media; 7) Redesign the system of press subsidies and public sector advertising channelled to the media; 8) Remove excessive legal and judicial constraints on what the media can publish; 9) Strengthen journalists’ independence and ethical performance; 10) Promote media literacy and education.
Italy (
1) Strengthen the independence of the National Communications Authority (AGCOM); 2) Safeguard the independence of the public service broadcaster; 3) Improve the clarity of the regulatory framework as regards pluralism; 4) Safeguard freedom of expression vis-à-vis copyright protection; and 5) Update the regulation of the journalistic profession and improve journalists’ working conditions.
Romania (
1) Ensure a free flow of information; 2) Consolidate a balanced dual system; 3) Act for a timely and transparent digital switch-over; 4) Keep the Internet free and open; 5) Secure a stronger professional status of journalists; 6) Promote broad media literacy; and 7) Participate actively in the formulation of the media policies of the EU.
Slovakia (
1) Ensure consistency in the rulings of the Supreme Court; 2) Guarantee appropriate levels of reimbursement of damages; 3) Focus on the specialisation of judges/courts; 4) Enable greater freedom of speech; 5) Strengthen the role of local media; and 6) Give support to freelance journalism.
Spain (
1) Enhance the quality of the legal framework through better instruments adapted to the digital society and more transparency in the process of law development; 2) Create a single public body to supervise media activities; 3) Ensure greater independence of the public service media; 4) Create a strategic plan for public service media in the digital environment; 5) Increase social participation in the public media spaces and institutions; 6) Endorse industrial restructuring and entrepreneurial journalism; 7) Promote network neutrality, liberalise digital services and create a public Chief Technology Officer.
Turkey (
Democratise media policy-making; 2) Safeguard the independence of media regulatory agencies; 3) Ensure media freedom and the freedom of expression; and d) Prevent unfair competition in the media market.
The UK (
1) Establish a self- or co-regulatory cross-media regulatory framework that is both suitable for a converged media environment and capable of commanding the trust and support of the public; 2) Further state support to relieve the economic pressures on journalism; 3) Further industry support for ethical journalism; 4) Clarify the public interest in investigative journalism through the development of coherent guidelines regarding the public interest in press reporting; 5) Create an open and transparent appointment system for key board members of Ofcom and the BBC Trust; 6) Secure funding for the BBC on the basis of a transparent process; 7) Ensure clear and effective control of media ownership concentration by an independent media authority; 8) Introduce the legal requirement that media firms, established and operating in the UK, should publish ownership details in a transparent manner; 9) Ensure disclosure of vested interests in content by editors, publishers and journalists; and 10) Consolidate the media acts and ensure that coordination takes place with relevant legislative, regulatory or judicial bodies across UK jurisdictions to facilitate, where appropriate, a consistent approach to law reform.
European policy-makers and stakeholders (
1) Foster a more integrated approach to media policy; 2) Adopt a technology-neutral approach to media regulation; 3) Accelerate the shift from public service broadcasting to public service media; 4) Revise the relationship between ex ante regulation and ex post competition policy taking into account new technological developments and update competition policy; 5) Improve governance and provide for sound institutional arrangements at the national and EU levels; 6) Strengthen institutional and governance arrangements at pan-European level; 7) Refine and strengthen the evaluation of private regulation in the media domain; 8) Enhance coordination of the journalistic profession at the European level; 9) Improve the implementation of ECtHR rulings at the national level and promote new forms of judicial cooperation.
Regulatory matrix (
1) Independent regulatory authorities, regardless of the width of their remit, should be provided with sufficient regulatory powers vis-à-vis state bodies. At the same time, the independence of their members should be ensured; 2) The independence of regulatory authorities at the national level should be combined with better coordination at the European level; 3) Domestic media private regulators, particularly as regards the regulation of professional journalists, should strengthen their coordination through the creation of international/European fora. Their regulatory approach should overcome the traditional distinction between press/broadcasting/new media in order to achieve a more integrated structure.

Potential Impact:
Potential impact
The objective of the MEDIADEM project was to investigate the configuration of state media policies and to inquire into the policy processes, tools and instruments that can best support the development of free and independent media, with a view to formulating concrete policy guidelines for state and non-state actors involved in the design and conduct of media policies, the EU and the Council of Europe.
MEDIADEM took place in a period of heated discussions concerning media policy and regulation, particularly in light of the increasingly converged media environment. Based on the understanding that media policy is generally concerned with the organisation of media markets and media performance (usually in the pursuit of specific values and normative principles related to the role of the media in society), MEDIADEM has sought to carve a distinct media policy domain devoted to the creation of an enabling environment for the media to perform as agents of information and debate that facilitate the functioning of democracy. From this standpoint, the project has advanced the argument that media policy must be understood as the whole range of discourses, values and policy tools that are employed to shape the media in a way that promotes their role as facilitators of public communication in the interest of democratic government.
Scholarly research and elite discourse have often juxtaposed that media policy follows the logic of the marketplace and technological developments. This should not mislead one into thinking that there are no conflicting interests and values at stake. MEDIADEM research has shown that media policy-making often involves competing political, corporate or other interests that seek to impose particular values and priorities on how the media should be structured and operate, contending as much for material advantages as for ideological legitimisation. This extends to the whole cycle of media policy. Academic studies of media policy and regulation have generally paid less attention to the phase of implementation, often reflecting the assumption that the rules and regulations introduced are automatically put into practice. However, implementation, namely the efforts employed to administer policies, and monitor and enforce what has been agreed upon at the stage of media policy formulation, involve complex processes that do not necessarily lead to the planned or desired policy outcome. Implementation may vary depending on the issue area involved, the actors enjoying responsibilities for it, and their interaction with other actors vying for influence over the final policy result. By employing an inter-disciplinary perspective, which drew on media and journalism studies, political science and legal scholarship, MEDIADEM has disclosed the complexity of contemporary media policies, in terms of subject matter, institutions, processes and settings, engaging in a study of both media policy formulation and implementation. In doing so, it has generated new insights into how media policy should be approached, analysed and evaluated - to be taken up and further developed by future projects in the field.
By focusing on media freedom and independence as a distinct area for the study of media policy formulation and implementation, the MEDIADEM project has shown that despite widespread assertions of free and independent media as the cornerstone of democracy and existing safeguards for free speech, contemporary media in Europe are subject to an array of pressures. These derive from the world of politics, the market, economic and technological factors but also from regulatory failings and deficient compliance with fundamental rights and freedoms. Although the exact nature of these concerns, their intensity and thus the steps needed to address them inevitably vary from country to country, the analysis has made clear that media systems in Europe display important failings that undermine free speech and independent media operation.
Based on the premise that the media’s freedom and independence should not be taken for granted, the MEDIADEM project has advanced knowledge on the means through which media policies can contribute to free speech and independent media reporting. The various project publications provide in-depth, comprehensive information on the media policies of the countries selected from the perspective of media freedom and independence. MEDIADEM’s analysis has depicted the array of policy approaches and the variety of the regulatory forms and tools used to govern the media in the countries examined; has identified key trends and concerns relating to the operation of free and independent media, both for traditional and new media services; and has assessed the success or failure of the media policies, as framed and conducted, to address these pressures. The project’s findings are therefore of interest to researchers and scholars who pursue systematic inquiry into the media policies of the countries reviewed and media policy more broadly.
MEDIADEM has covered a diverse range of countries, allowing for interesting comparisons to be made. The project included West European countries, which have, in principle, established media policies and institutional structures, alongside Eastern European countries, which have experienced considerable volatility in the development of their media policies and institutions during their transition to democracy. Notably, MEDIADEM has also covered a large extent of the variety of European media markets in terms of size, competitive strength and levels of media development, in addition to their diversity in terms of the interrelationship between media structures and political systems. MEDIADEM’s comparative analysis sought to reflect this diversity when discussing policy patterns and regulatory practices, and made an effort to identify best practices, when available. The project has accordingly produced a pertinent basis for assessing existing policy and regulatory models and might also contribute to the development of new conceptual and normative frameworks for policy actions that support media freedom and independence in Europe.
In terms of the project’s wider societal implications, the project has generated important insights into the conditions under which free speech and the freedom to receive and impart information and ideas can be safeguarded and promoted, highlighting a number of policy actions that can promote free and independent media. Key messages targeting policy makers and other stakeholders at the national level include:
a) ensuring that the development of media policy is coordinated, evidenced-led, open and transparent;
b) ensuring effective compliance with international guarantees of free speech;
c) addressing inappropriate political influence on both public and commercial media;
d) updating regulatory rules and structures in the light of convergence;
e) supporting a plural media environment;
f) monitoring and controlling media ownership; and
g) promoting quality journalism and media literacy.
More detailed recommendations tailored to national concerns and specificities have also been put forward for each of the 14 countries reviewed (see above). These can be taken up and further developed by the various national media policy stakeholders or applied directly by policy makers. Research has further shown that the Council of Europe, the EU and other stakeholders active at the European level may usefully complement national action in the pursuit of free and independent media. Seven recommendations were identified as being worthy of careful attention by the European institutions and the broader European media policy community:
a) adopting an integrated notion of media for technology-neutral policy-making;
b) improving media governance arrangements;
c) strengthening the implementation of the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights;
d) mainstreaming free speech, media freedom and pluralism in EU law and policies;
e) making appropriate procedural arrangements for such mainstreaming to take place;
f) strengthening the independence of public service media and their openness to the public; and
g) reaching a better understanding of contemporary journalism and the challenges it faces.
This said, it is not possible to deliver grounded data on the impact of the project on policy-making in terms of attributing specific policy changes or reforms under consideration to the work of the project. This is not only because reforms require time for reflection but also because possible links between research and policy-making are not necessarily visible and, in any case, certain. However, MEDIADEM’s rich record of events and dissemination activities at the national and European levels (presented below) have allowed the project to a) serve as a platform for the exchange of views and ideas among interested parties and individuals; and b) engage various stakeholder groups in debates about the contribution of media policy and regulation to the protection and promotion of free and independent media. In many of the countries under study, through the contacts developed with policy makers and other stakeholders, the project has raised awareness of the ways through which media policy may assist in the development of free and independent media and has alerted the media policy community on the fragility of media freedom and independence in Europe. Debate has allowed a better understanding to be reached of the complexity of media policy as such, particularly on account of its positioning in a system of multi-level governance, and of the importance of free and independent media for democratic processes.
In some of the countries that participated in the project, the activities and events organised under the framework of the MEDIADEM project created opportunities to single out specific policy issues that had somehow remained at the fringes of the policy agenda, stimulating debate on what could be viewed as ‘new’ or ‘forgotten’ topics and themes. Concurrently, by channelling attention to distinct policy axes worthy of consideration, the project has underlined that meaningful policy results, in support of free speech and independent media, can only ensue when a holistic approach is followed, simultaneously addressing various areas of concern.
An important contribution of the project lies in that in some of the countries under study, the project has brought together policy makers and other communities of interest. This is important not only because interest in media policy and regulation varies considerably from country to country but also because differences in institutional agendas and policy approaches had sometimes obstructed fruitful discussion. The debates that took place between public and private regulators, media representatives, journalists, academics and civil society facilitated the exchange of views and opinions in some of the countries under study, fostered a more collaborative environment, and notably, promoted an understanding of each group’s responsibilities concerning the promotion of free and independent media.
To conclude, the project has made every effort to inform policy-making. It has done so by producing a rich source of information on the media policies of the countries reviewed, allowing for useful comparisons to be made, and by acting as a forum for policy makers and key stakeholders to come together and intensify debate on the challenge of realising media freedom and independence.

Dissemination activities and exploitation of results
Effective dissemination of the project findings was considered to be key to MEDIADEM’s success from the start. Accordingly, MEDIADEM was structured with dissemination firmly in mind in order to increase the visibility of its output and to lead to more focused and, in policy terms, relevant and accessible research findings. Throughout the project, the consortium sought to combine research with dissemination activities and to widely diffuse the project’s scientific and policy-related both at the national and European levels. To this end, much effort was put into designing a sound project dissemination strategy with a view to guiding the consortium’s activities as regards the multiple ways in which the project’s findings could be used, and the development of contacts and networks with various communities of interest. The ultimate aim was to raise awareness of the complexity of contemporary media policies and engage various stakeholder groups and the wider public in debates about the contribution of media policy and regulation to the protection and promotion of free and independent media.
MEDIADEM’s target groups for dissemination purposes included:
• Policy makers, including media regulators, officials of the EU and the Council of Europe, parliamentarians, and representatives from national ministries and regional authorities involved directly or indirectly in media policy design or implementation;
• Media enterprises, journalists, news agencies, and representative bodies at the national and European levels;
• Judicial authorities and lawyers at the national and European levels dealing with media cases;
• Researchers and research institutes working primarily in the communications, law and political science fields;
• Civil society organisations concerned with the media and human rights protection and promotion;
• Citizens.
The various dissemination objectives of MEDIADEM were realised through specific outputs and activities aimed at one or more of the various target groups. Seven key mechanisms were used to realise the dissemination objectives:
• A project website ( the project website served as a means to publicise the project output and also as a platform of communication, dialogue and information exchange between project partners, external researchers, policy-makers, other stakeholders and the public at large. All output that was generated in the context of the project was published in a timely manner at the project website. This included electronic versions of the various project reports, links to newspaper and online media articles devoted to the MEDIADEM project, presentations of the project’s events and other activities, commentaries by project partners, news on media policy and regulation in the countries covered by the project and at the European level, a list of relevant literature, etc. The website was used to build networks among, and provide links to, interested third parties and organisations working on similar or related themes and as the hub/reference point for online and social media activity. Links to the project website and its content were regularly provided through the websites and the social media pages of the participating institutions. In addition, a Twitter page of MEDIADEM was created (!/MEDIADEM) while a twitter and a facebook button were added to the MEDIADEM website so as to facilitate social media sharing. Web metrics show that the MEDIADEM website has generally attracted a large number of visitors (both new and returning) while a degree of ‘responsiveness’ to new information uploaded at the website has been noticed. With a view to remaining a source of information for interested individuals, the MEDIADEM website will be maintained.
• Publications: over the course of the project various methodological, national and comparative reports were produced. These were all made available at: In addition, the following publications were compiled:
i) A MEDIADEM policy series, comprising three policy briefs, designed to disseminate MEDIADEM findings at key stages of the research.
- The first MEDIADEM policy brief contains key observations on how to understand ‘free and independent’ media and puts together broad policy recommendations for their promotion (June 2011, available at:
- The second MEDIADEM policy brief identifies the main constraints or threats to the operation of free and independent media in the 14 countries under study and makes specific recommendations as to how these concerns might be addressed in practice by the various stakeholders (September 2012, available at:
- The third MEDIADEM policy brief focuses on the role of the EU and the Council of Europe in supporting media freedom and independence (March 2013, available at:
ii) a collective policy report addressing state and non-state actors involved in the design and implementation of media policies, the EU and the Council of Europe. This report comprises policy papers with recommendations for the promotion of media freedom and independence in the 14 MEDIADEM countries. In addition, it formulates policy recommendations targeting the EU and the Council of Europe and offers a regulatory matrix that provides an overview of the regulatory systems at work in the 14 countries under study. The report is available at: The country policy papers have also been made available in the official language(s) of the countries concerned. With a view to encouraging the sharing of results and strengthening the communication among national and European policy actors, they also include a succinct summary of the project’s recommendations for the EU and the Council of Europe (available at
iii) MEDIADEM’s first book publication Understanding media policies: A European perspective (2012, Palgrave Macmillan) (edited by Evangelia Psychogiopoulou), detailing key findings from the collective report produced under the first phase of the project. Combining a country-based study in the 14 countries studied with a comparative analysis across various types of media services, this edited volume inquires into the formulation of contemporary European media policies and the factors and conditions that affect their making. The book’s table of contents can be found at: Extracts from the manuscript can be found at: with the publisher’s permission.
iv) MEDIADEM’s second book publication Media policies revisited: The challenge of media freedom and independence’ (edited by Evangelia Psychogiopoulou, forthcoming), which explores key features of media policies and regulation in the 14 countries under study, investigating their strengths and weaknesses as regards the protection of media freedom and the promotion of independent media behaviour.
v) a series of articles, drafted on the basis of the project’s comparative analysis to be published in a special issue with the International Journal of Communication, an open access online peer reviewed academic journal (forthcoming,
vi) a final project report, reviewing the project’s scientific and policy output and considering follow-up research directions in the field of media policy and regulation and media freedom and independence on the basis of the research conducted in the framework of the MEDIADEM project (March 2013, available at
• Workshops and conferences: these were designed to broaden discussion on the project’s findings and deepen links between the project partners and the various stakeholders. MEDIADEM’s workshops and conferences comprised:
i) three half-day workshops, which were organised to discuss MEDIADEM findings in key phases of the project; disseminate the project’s output; and gather feedback from prominent experts. For the organisation of these workshops, the partners involved liaised with a national civil society organisation in order to ensure a multiplier effect.
-Workshop ‘Media policies & regulation for media freedom & independence’, Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy & the Association of European Journalists – Greek Section, 30 June 2011, Athens (;
-Workshop ‘New media, old values? Media freedom and independence in the era of convergence’, University of Edinburgh & and Open Rights Group, 9 December 2011, Edinburgh (;
-Workshop ‘Journalists’ professional autonomy and journalism ethics’, University of Jyväskylä, the Union of Journalists in Finland & the Federation of the Finnish Media Industry, 14 June 2012, Jyväskylä (
ii) 14 national discussion groups, which were organised by all project partners at the national level and in the national language. These events were held after the finalisation of the research and policy development phases of MEDIADEM (October 2012 - January 2013) in order to discuss the project findings with the domestic media policy community, civil society and the public at large. An overview of the fourteen national discussion groups is available on the events page of MEDIADEM’s website (
iii) a final European conference ‘Media freedom and independence: Trends and challenges in Europe’, organised by the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy, the European Platform of Regulatory Authorities & the Association of European Journalists. The event, which took place on 7 February 2013 in Brussels, served to present MEDIADEM’s research findings and to put forward succinct policy recommendations for the development of free and independent media in contemporary democratic societies in Europe. EU officials and representatives from the Council of Europe featured among the speakers and the audience, alongside representatives of the media, the journalistic profession and the civil society. A detailed report on the discussions held during the conference is available at:
iv) a series of workshops and conferences, organised at the initiative of project partners in order to increase the visibility of the project, boost awareness about MEDIADEM’s research, mobilise a wider number of stakeholders and gather feedback from them. These events are listed on the project website (
• Educational activities: The project’s consortium has actively pursued dissemination of its findings through various scholarly publications, presentations at conferences, workshops and seminars. In addition, MEDIADEM’s empirical research has been used in educational initiatives (at school or higher education level), where the partners had an entry.
• Media engagement, through publication of articles in newspapers and blogs, interviews, round-table talks, etc. Project partners sought to engage the media in their work and use the media to produce scientific evaluations of current topics regarding media freedom and independence. An indicative list of the project’s visibility in the media can be found on the ‘MEDIADEM in the Media’ page of the project website (
• Creating regular platforms for the exchange of views with media policy-makers: The consortium sought to establish regular channels for the exchange of views and opinions with national actors involved in the configuration of domestic media policies, as well as the European institutions. To this end, a specific email list with potential users of MEDIADEM’s output at the national level was prepared by all project teams, while the project coordinator prepared an email list for the dissemination of the project’s output at the European level. Relevant lists were updated on a regular basis and were used extensively for the circulation of the various MEDIADEM publications, the diffusion of the policy-related knowledge produced by the project and the establishment of communication platforms with key target audiences.
• Creating regular platforms for the exchange of views with other media-related research projects: The consortium established sustainable channels for the exchange of views and opinions with other collaborative research projects in the field of the media. Mention should be made in particular of: a) MediaAct (Media accountability and transparency in Europe, a collaborative research project on media accountability, funded by the European Union’s 7th Framework Programme; and b) Media and democracy in Central and Eastern Europe ( an interdisciplinary research project, funded by the European Research Council, which investigates the relationship between democracy and the media in Central and Eastern Europe. Close links were also established with the Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom ( a project co-financed by the European Union with the aim to promote the protection of media pluralism and media freedom in Europe. The consortium’s efforts to strengthen links with the media policy research community further resulted in a contribution to a collective volume, edited by the principal researchers of the INDIREG study ( The INDIREG study, which was conducted on behalf of the European Commission (Directorate General Information Society and the Media) by Hans Bredow Institute, the Interdisciplinary Centre for Law and ICT (K.U. Leuven), the Centre for Media and Communication Studies (Central European University), and Cullen International and Perspectives Associates, identified indicators for the independence and efficient functioning of audiovisual media services regulatory bodies in light of the rules of the EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive. The forthcoming edited volume, The independence of the media and its regulatory agencies: Shedding new light on formal and actual independence against the national context (eds. Wolfgang Schulz, Peggy Valcke and Kristina Irion,,id=4987/) combines findings of the MEDIADEM project and the INDIREG study, focusing on media governance and the study of media regulators in a specific set of countries.

List of Websites:

Project public website address:
The research and policy output of the project is available at:

For more information on the project, you may contact:
Evangelia Psychogiopoulou
Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy
49 Vas. Sofias Avenue, 10676, Athens, Greece
Tel.: +30 210 7257110; Fax.: + 30 210 7257114