March Newsletter – Digital Media: thinking ahead to online democracy

©Artwork by Hayati’nin Evreni – “Six Tuscan Poets”, Giorgio Vasari – see it here on Instagram

Dear  Friend,

As readers of this newsletter and media policy experts, you will surely have a view on: a) the following terminology issue which troubles me; b) what priority we deserve under the next EU mandate.

There is growing evidence that the current reference to ‘platforms’ is too broad and pointing to the telecoms world, while the old notion of ‘social media’ is misleading. Most people also agree that Google, Facebook, Twitter & Co. are not media in the sense of content producers subject to journalist ethics and regulation. What term and definition is therefore required, notably to frame appropriate the EU’s thinking and initiatives in this respect for the coming legislature (2019-24)? We would welcome your pointing to relevant articles, and your personal thoughts (unless you tell us it’s confidential, we’ll build on it in subsequent newsletters).

This will also be discussed at our Europe Media Lab event, after the EU elections. More generally, this event aims to brief new MEPs on the media sector’s needs. To build upon the past Digital Single Market, a possible priority 2019-2024 could be “Democracy in a digital world: sound platforms and independent media”.

Merci! Danke!
Christophe Leclercq,


Dominant trends in political participation & online democracy

The Freedom House report on freedom on the net 2018reveals that Digital Authoritarianism is on the rise around the world as governments “are tightening control over citizens’ data and using claims of “fake news” to support dissent, eroding trust in the internet”. In the picture: 2018 freedom on the net improvements and declines.
Read the full report here.


The latest Democracy Index of the Economist Intelligence Unit explains that political participation is growing worldwide and is manifesting itself more in the form of protest or vote, increasingly involving women. “This improvement takes place amid a deterioration of trust in democracy”.
Watch the EIU video about this topic here.


Data Science vs Democracy: download the 11th edition of The Progressive Post focused on digital revolution and Democracy with a special coverage on the EU Elections 2019 (available in EN & FR). You can also read the editorial by President of FEPS Maria João Rodrigues: “Manufacturing dissent? Fake-news, micro-targeting and democracy” (FR), as well as the op-ed by EC Vice-President Frans Timmermans: “Social Democrats will leave nobody behind in the transition to a more sustainable world” (FR).


Media News

 “Deal struck on copyright reform after ‘intense’ negotiations”, by Samuel Stolton

On 13 February, EP and Council negotiators reached an agreement on copyright rules with the aim to ensure that tech giants respect intellectual property rights on the internet, while also protecting freedom of expression.
Read the full article on, as well as the EP Press Release on this subject.

UK turning “continental” on platform regulation & media aid?

The Cairncross Review: a sustainable future for journalism concludes that online giants like Facebook and Google should be regulated to “nudge people towards news of high quality” and help in the fight against misinformation. On this issue, the UK Parliament (DCMS) has just published its Final Report claiming that “Companies like Facebook should not be allowed to behave like ‘digital gangsters’ in the online world“.
Learn more on “Digital gangsters’: UK parliament slams Facebook on data protection, disinformation” and “UK report: Tax relief and extra funding for news outlets“, by Samuel Stolton.

Note: media policy articles do not happen by chance. The EURACTIV Media Network decided to deepen this topic for one year, as part of its Digital Hub.



Healthy media as a top-10 priority for the EU’s next mandate? 
The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) has launched a Manifesto inviting all candidate MEPs to commit for the “revival of a free and pluralistic media in Europe”. Learn more about the EFJ Manifesto here and discover the 10 principles to which over 200 MEP candidates have adhered.


Apple’s new service could help or kill online journalism
A new service designed by Apple (nicknamed the “Netflix for News“) could bring back rising revenues in the news industry as long as it’s not used in an opportunistic way by the company, for instance as a “premium” paid product on top of Apple News. In a best case scenario, “Apple’s service would help these news outlets reach new readers who don’t already subscribe“. Read the full article at “Apple Could Save Online Journalism—or Strangle It“.


EU Digital & Media Policy

DIGITALEUROPE Event – Masters of Digital 2019 
This recent event addressed crucial issues related to the EU digital ecosystem. It gathered leading EU policy-makers, as well as relevant partners from the digital and media sector, included EURACTIV. A strong message of union and defense of our democratic values emerged from this summit and can be summarised in the closing words of the EC Secretary-General Martin Selmayr: “The EU needs Digital, but also Digital needs the EU. We must work together. EU elections 2019 are a necessary rendez-vous with democracy”. Learn more here about this event.


London School of Economics – Media Policy Project 
This project launched in 2011 by the LSE Department of Media and Communications, is funded by the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF5), with additional support from the Open Society Foundations. The aim of this initiative is to promote media policy communication between academics, civil society and policymakers: “we want policy makers to have timely, easy access to relevant research and to the range of views held by civil society”. Learn more about the LSE Media Policy Project at


First Draft Summits – EU Collaboration Against Disinformation
First Draft is organising three summits that will be held in Brussels, Frankfurt and Milan (7-19 March) with the aim to give a quick and coordinated response to the issue of disinformation in Europe. In particular, these events “will bring together journalists, researchers, analysts and innovators from across Europe to kick off a cross-border collaboration as part of our new CrossCheck International Initiative”. has been a partner of this initiative since it was launched in 2017. Register here.



The Media-policy reading List for the next Commission? 

What would you recommend the next Commission reads to ensure a pro-active EU media policy that ensures the sector fulfills its full democratic function?

Move Fast and Break Things – How Facebook, Google and Amazon Have Cornered Culture and What It Means For All Of Us (2017)

In this essay, American artist Jonathan Taplin offers his view on the modern changes of the digital world, ruled byunregulated monopoly platforms such as Google, Facebook and Amazon. The success of these giants “came at the heavy cost of tolerating piracy of books, music and film, while at the same time promoting opaque business practices and subordinating the privacy of individual users. It is the story of a massive reallocation of revenue, in which $50 billion a year has moved from artists, creators and owners of content to the monopoly platforms”. The Financial Times identified this as one of the best business books for 2017.


The Entrepreneurial State – Debunking Public vs. Private Sector Myths (2013)

Economist Mariana Mazzucato reverses the role of the State from a bureaucratic machine that passively witnesses the innovations developed by a dynamic private sector, to the State being the primary risk taker in technology-based investments. Mazzucato gives the example of the US government, responsible for key technological innovations that led the country to economic growth: “If the rest of the world wants to emulate the US model, they should do as the United States actually did, not as they say they did”. This is, according to the author, the key difference between the “myth” and the “reality” of such a success. The New Penguin edition 2018 is available here.



This Month’s Insight

A study on “Innovative educational and media practices for an inclusive and participatory Europe“: the crisis in the traditional media is accompanied today by a growingdistrust of the institutions on the part of European citizens. As part of the Erasmus+ INsPIrE project, these Academic Papers, suggest a viable solution to this issue: “higher education institutions develop innovative projects in partnership with civil society to change this dual relationship and foster emancipation”Download the e-book here!

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