Time for NEWS bundle to help media transformation
Support for News media is more important than ever. The EU has many small projects helping news media recover and transform. Media-specific EU-funded projects include existing ones (notably pilots suggested by the Parliament, and also a recent wave regarding digital journalism, fact-checking, media literacy), and also new cross-sectoral projects proposed under Creative Europe. Also relevant are media-relevant proposals under Horizon Europe and possibly under InvestEU financing.
However, given the fragmentation of the news media sector and of its representations, too few media companies are aware of them, or fully learning from their results. In the neighbouring fields of film and audiovisual, the MEDIA programme achieves great visibility and impact. Building on this, it is recommended to regroup under the brand “NEWS” most projects relevant for news media
Bundling media-related EU projects under NEWS will help news media transform faster. There is a lot of support for this ‘NEWS bundle’, with potentially greater impact for the Media and Audiovisual Action Plan, without much downside. This idea is also based on an earlier suggestion by 42 MEPs supporting a NEWS programme and this recent OpEd by MEPs and stakeholders is providing policy solutions.
NEWS is a ‘bundle’, not a new programme: beyond this ‘family name’, each project should keep its ‘first name’, organisation and budget line. This is a way of helping news media better, without spending more at EU level than planned (beyond recovery spending via States and policy rebalancing of market-based revenues). NEWS is a clear acronym, which could stand for ‘News in Europe Working Sustainably’ or ‘News in Europe Working for Society’. The time for it is now: to be included in the EU’s media action plan and /or democracy action plan, or in their implementation.
And as the EU moves from self-regulation of platforms to co-regulation, ‘regulatory guidance’ is also required for ensuring prominence to trustworthy news sources such indicators, under both the (slow) legislative process of DSA, and also the (quicker) upcoming action plans. Transparency and scrutiny over algorithmic content selection are needed. Indicators of trustworthiness could be one way to address the issue. Read more here: Opinion by Christophe Leclercq, Marc Sundermann and Paolo Cesarini.
THINK // Rebalancing media through regulation and transparency
Actions against Google, Apple and Amazon deals in the US and EU
The partnership between Google and Apple which has made Google’s search engine the default choice on Apple’s iPhones and other devices is now in jeopardy. The Justice Department filed a landmark lawsuit against Google defining the alliance as an example of the company’s illegal tactics to protect its monopoly and choke off competition in web search (The New York Times).
For Google and Apple, problems are arising in Europe as well
Four French online advertising lobbies have filed an antitrust complaint against Apple over changes the iPhone maker will make to privacy features within the next version of its mobile operating system. In fact, under the new Apple operating software, iPhone owners will be asked whether they’re ready to allow installed mobile apps to gather a key identifier used to define campaign ads and send targeted ads (EURACTIV).
In Germany, the antitrust authority is looking into Apple anti-competitive behaviors and its deal with Amazon: through this cooperation, only Apple dealerships and Amazon can offer the product on the platform. As for Google, the Italian watchdog has started an investigation over alleged advertising market abuse (Reuters).
EU’s Failure to Hit Google Where It Hurts Is a Lesson for U.S (Bloomberg)
The EU has not yet managed to regulate anti-competitive behaviors from Big Tech. Antitrust can’t easily tackle big firms in fast-moving markets as they gain huge advantages from the data they collect, the reputation they build among users and prominent prompts that have helped them keep ahead of competitors and sweep into new areas. But can the US do any better? EU regulators fined the Silicon Valley giant three times from 2017 to 2019. But Google is as dominant in Europe as ever. The U.S. has real power to force break-ups and it can build on the efforts of those who have gone before it, but it is important that it learns the lesson from the EU’s experience (Politico).
TRANSPARENCY OF ALGORITHMS: “Private and Public broadcasters call for action against the negative impacts of global online platforms on Europe’s democracies, cultural diversity and media plurality” (ACT, AER, EBU and EGTA:): “Platforms also need to commit to being responsive towards users’ requests, by offering transparency to platform users (know your business user principle) and authorities to ensure they effectively respond to their existing and future obligations. Broadcasters need to understand how an algorithm uses their content and impacts its exploitation.”
Reporters Without Borders proposed its recommendations to European institutions on how to respond to the challenges to democracy and fundamental rights. These 10 recommendations are focusing on establishing democratic safeguards in the online information field and on building the foundations of a sustainable ecosystem for the troubled media industry.
La doctrine Macron : une conversation avec le Président français: “Les grands dirigeants de plateformes sont présents (Twitter, Facebook, Google…). Et tous s’engagent sur la golden hour, c’est-à-dire sur le fait de retirer les contenus terroristes en moins d’une heure. Ce n’est pas une loi, c’est un engagement hybride et inédit, avec des États souverains, pour réagir à ce problème. Dans quelques jours, on arrivera, je l’espère, à ce que le Parlement vote le texte qui rendra obligatoire cette “golden hour” en Europe.” explique Emmanuel Macron. Christophe Leclercq comments:: “Platforms committed to the Golden Hour against terrorist information, and to taking off illegal and harmful content. Since they also committed under the 2018 Code of Practice to using trustworthiness indicators, why are they not in place two years later?”
Towards a European Digital Industrial Policy to support Europe’s recovery – Retooling industrial policy: Europe first? By Reinhilde Veugelers (Bruegel): “The target-specific approach should not be about selecting a few ‘winners’, throwing public money at them and protecting them from global competition. Spending should be focused on a broader set of interconnected firms in the targeted areas.”
An Expert Meeting on Media, Democracy and the EU strategic autonomy was organised by FEPS on November 19th. It gathered 24 experts and media leaders, and it was addressed by Christophe Leclercq and Europe’s MediaLab Senior Fellows: Marc Sundermann and Pedro Ortun.
Hope for cooperative platform regulation with a Biden administration.
Anthony Gardner, former US Ambassador to the EU, is also leading Joe Biden team’s working group on the EU. On 24 September, in personal capacity, he addressed a video conference by Columbia University alumni, moderated by Rick Zednick. Europe’s MediaLab’s C.Leclercq asked about EU-US cooperation on disinformation and competition ‘like IBM and Microsoft in the past’. Mr Gardner would strongly support cooperation in many fields. He shared concerns about the platforms’ size and power: “They have a responsibility, as ‘’essential facility‘’.
While ‘’the US have major economic interests in the digital market and would not be OK with discrimination’’, he also seems open to digital taxation: “To avoid base erosion and tax shifting, we should do a better job at OECD”. Finally, in an allusion to new DSA and competition initiatives, he wondered indeed ‘if the current rules were fit for purpose’ for the digital era.
Christophe Leclercq’s comment: ‘Platforms claim to support regulation, albeit on already regulated areas, chiefly illegal content, leaving fake news aside. And then, in the back and via multiple channels, they lobby against further regulation. There is a tendency to ask GAFAs to improve after a news crisis emerges, like disinformation around the virus.’ (read the tweet).
Google/Fitbit will monetise health data and harm consumers. Looking ahead of privacy in health: This pending case is not about media, but raises similar issues of platforms’ extension of dominant position. Christophe Leclercq comments: “This case may also exemplify a ‘dynamic’ use of competition policy, prefacing the envisaged ex ante rules considered under DSA. This was missing when the EU regrettably okayed Google’s takeover of advertising major DoubleClick in 2008, after the US FTC failed to consider known privacy issues. These issues are coming back to the fore. Beyond individual cases, what is required now is confirming the definition of “gatekeepers” as the EU Commision calls them, a.k.a. Systemic Publishing Platforms (or ‘SysPPees’). This creates obligation under competition case law as ‘essential facility’, well ahead of the lengthy legislative process…”
BUDGET FOR CULTURE / Culture Action Europe, along with other 109 pan-European cultural networks and associations calls the European Union and EU member states to protect culture as part of the coronavirus recovery plans and dedicate at the very least 2% of national Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) budget to culture and creative sectors.
THINK // COVID and news media’s transformation
“Lasting legacy of the coronavirus crisis”: How COVID-19 is reshaping the publishing industry (WhatsNewPublishing.
Coronavirus-Driven Downturn Hits Newspapers Hard as TV News Thrives (Journalism.org)
DO // Innovative solutions for journalism through Stars4Media
Interested in learning how innovation and training can help the news media overcome the crisis?
Check the policy brief by the MediaLab and VUB: ‘’Fighting the media crisis through innovation exchanges: lessons from the Stars4Media Pilot Project’’.
The Stars4Media consortium submitted a quality proposal in September aimed at implementing the second edition of this training programme starting in January 2021.
To contribute further ideas, discover the Stars4Media initiatives and innovative training, media professionals are invited to take part in the community: the Stars4Media LinkedIn Group!
Support us and contribute to innovation for the media sector
Europe’s MediaLab is happy to announce the creation of “Les Amis de la Fondation EURACTIV (Europe’s MediaLab)” within the King Baudouin Foundation (KBF).
Thanks to donations, this will help Europe’s MediaLab to develop projects regarding training and coaching of media professionals, and the economic viability and cooperation of media in Europe.
Unless earmarked for other purposes, initial gifts will help co-fund the MediaLab’s activities under Stars4Media. The donations offer fiscal advantage to the Belgium-based donors (60% deductibility for individuals).