Dear friend of the media and of Europe’s MediaLab,
Welcome to ‘la rentrée’ after a well deserved summer break. We approach the beginning of a new season filled with enthusiasm for the upcoming projects and with hope for the media supporting prosperity and peace. We need to do our share and do it well, in concertation.
As a ‘Fondation d’Utilité Publique’ / public interest foundation working for the health of the media sector, we decided to apply to the European Media Hubs call for proposals with a strategic CHESS: Crosslingual Hubs for East-west co-working and Stars4Media Support. There should be more EU and NATO correspondents from Eastern Europe and new infrastructure to support media in the capital of Europe in a not so distant future.
As far as the EU elections loom, we acknowledge significant progress made on regulation around the media sector during the current Commission’s tenure. We however believe that time has come for more impact. Democracy and media was this Commission’s number 6 priority. Has enough impact been delivered? Media should be a horizontal, integrative action across all other priorities and policies? It is a geopolitical force as much as the engine keeping the European Union alive. What else if not our values, our European family? And the door is open for future enlargements of EU and NATO.
In this newsletter, you will delve into how the ongoing conflict in Ukraine is intricately reshaping the Russian media sphere. Rooted in our core principle of cross-border collaboration, casting our gaze towards the East becomes not just imperative, but essential.
📺Media Resilience in Eastern Europe
Dmitry Muratov, editor in Chief of Novaya Gazeta and 2021 Nobel Peace prize laureate, was added by Russia to the list of foreign agents (AFP news republished in the Guardian). This is a direct move to silence the media, a reminiscence of the Cold War times.
Across the EU more initiatives for independent Russian and Belarussian journalists are therefore needed. One example is the Free Media Hub EAST, led by the Prague Civil Society Centre. The Hub will award over €2.2 million in grants-worth of support including tech and cooperation. The latter will focus on the EU hubs hosting the exiled media: mainly Czechia, Germany, Poland, Latvia and Lithuania. The Free Media Hub EAST is a pilot project funded by the EU through their call for proposals launched in April 2023.
🎙️Trust & Media vs Disinformation
Continuing on the same topic and 18 months after Russia’s full scale invasion of Ukraine, it is time to take stock of the Russian media landscape. The Stars4Media NEWS beneficiary The Fix Media’s Veronica Snoj analysed five key trends in post-invasion Russian journalism (The Fix Media). In her analysis, Snoj predicts more media-led charity fundraising initiatives in the following year.
At the same time, the European Commission is calling for a narrative observatory complementary to the work of the European Digital Media Observatory – EDMO. The project is expected to decode the spread of disinformation on controversial subjects, such as Russia’s war against Ukraine or European elections. The mission of the new observatory also includes proposing strategies and policy actions to tackle the effects of disinformation, as first started in the Code of Practice on Disinformation, which MediaLab’s founder contributed to in 2018.
On its side, the Commission has strengthened its support for the news sector announcing 12 consortia of news organisations to receive approximately €14 million over two years. Among these, there are five Stars4Media NEWS winners: Arena for Journalism in Europe, Bulle Media, Agora SA, VOX Europ and Delfi UAB.
The Open AI-AP deal has struck many in the media sector as it seems that the American news agency has sold their content production for peanuts. What is the negotiation power of the media when dealing with the Big Tech? Why can’t news publishers negotiate with Big Tech the same way Bob Dylan negotiated his publishing rights?
🗞 Media Trends & Decisions with a Media Impact
AI remains the topic across the EU and not only.
Regulation of online platforms in one form or another, is tempted worldwide. In February 2021, Australia proposed a law requiring GAFA to pay media outlets for shared stories on their platforms, leading Facebook to protest by blocking news sharing. About a week later, both Facebook and Google struck a deal with the Australian government and the restriction stopped.
Yet in June 2023, Canada passed the Online News Act requiring tech giants to pay news outlets for shared and/or repurposed content.
Now, the EU Digital Services Act is in full implementation mode – but can it be the answer (EURACTIV) to the current ‘cash-strapped global and national media landscape (EPRS)’? Certainly yes, says the European Commission, according to which Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover fostered spreading of Russian propaganda (The Washington Post).
While Musk’s endeavours are challenged, top EU voices equally challenge the conditions for non-EU citizens’ and former Big Tech consultants to sensitive European top jobs. This particularly results from the early summer turmoil on nomination of Fiona Scott Morton – leading economist and a US citizen – for the Chief Economist position in European Commission’s DG COMPETITION, still vacant. The debate regarding this nomination reached the European Parliament’s ECON (link to the hearing) as well as many EU Member State capitals. The move ended with the withdrawal of Ms Morton’s candidacy (Commissioner Vestager informed of the withdrawal letter via X here). It is the first time a non European citizen may have had access to such a sensitive position, unprecedented in the US. As of mid August that position is reopened for applications, with various reports informing that the Austrian-American economist Florian Ederer was contacted for interest in putting forward an application (APA). Any bets?
What the future holds for these efforts of regulatory industry policy? To be continued…