Vice-President Vĕra Jourová Speech at the Media4Europe Summit: Towards a healthy European news media sector

European Commission Vice-President Vĕra Jourová Speech, at the Media4Europe Summit: Towards a healthy European news media sector (Brussels, March 3rd 2021)

“Ladies and gentlemen, 

It is a great pleasure to be virtually with you for this event on the health of the European news media sector.bIt is an extremely important issue, because the health of the news media sector is directly related to the health of our democracies. And the diagnosis is unfortunately worrying. 

COVID-19 is a stress test for our democracies. And COVID-19 has demonstrated more than ever the key role of the journalists to inform us and to make democracy work. But at the same time, it also showed the risks faced by journalists – such as threats and insults on social media or attacks during protests. The media sector is also facing an economic crisis, which started well before the pandemic with advertising revenues going to online platforms but which exacerbated further during the pandemic.

The Commission needed to act, and this is what we did. We presented a comprehensive approach in December last year through a series of initiatives. 

With the European Democracy Action Plan we put media where it should be, at the core of democracy. Strengthening media freedom and pluralism is a key objective of the action plan, along with free and fair elections and the fight against disinformation. Let me highlight two initiatives in particular that we will present this year as part of the action plan. 

Given the difficult situation our first priority is to improve the safety of journalists

The EU-funded Mapping Media Freedom project reported that 873 journalists or media workers were attacked in 22 Member States in 2020. 73% of female journalists globally have experienced online violence in the course of their work.

We need to act urgently. We will engage with stakeholders, Member States and international organisations and will present a Recommendation. We will start this dialogue as part of the new European News Media Forum in March.

In addition, we will present an initiative on abusive litigation.  This issue of the so-called SLAPP – strategic lawsuit against public participation. This is another urgent serious issue, and we need a clearer common understanding in the EU on this.

These initiatives will help journalists fulfil their democratic role. But it is also essential that journalists actually get a job and are properly paid for it. This can only happen with an economically sustainable media sector. This is why the European Democracy Action Plan goes hand in hand with the Media and Audiovisual Action Plan, which is our roadmap for the recovery, transformation and resilience of the sector. 

It includes the so-called “NEWS” initiative which will bring together all relevant funding opportunities and actions for the news media sector under a common banner. So what will be these opportunities and actions?

Let me mention a few:

For the first time, we will have a funding envelope dedicated to media pluralism under the Creative Europe programme. It will notably provide support for journalistic partnerships in the form of grants. 

The project called “Stars for media” is a great example of collaboration to develop innovative ideas. 

Thanks to the support of the European Parliament, we will also continue allocating funding via pilot projects. 

We will make the most of programmes such as Horizon Europe, for research and innovation, and Digital Europe, for data infrastructure and digital skills.

We are also working now a NEWS invest project with foundations and other private partners, and access to loans will be backed by the InvestEU guarantee.

At the same time, we encourage Member States to invest – and stakeholders should do so too. Under the Recovery and Resilience Facility, each national plan should earmark a minimum level of 20% of expenditure for digital. Measures to boost the production and distribution of digital content, such as digital media, count towards this target. I reminded Ministers recently about this.

To help the media navigate through the new opportunities, the Commission is now developing a dedicated tool which will also offer guidance on how to apply.

And we will continuously discuss the needs of the sector and build an innovation agenda with stakeholders under the European News Media Forum. 

In parallel to this new area of work, we will watch closely the implementation of key rules, such as our modernised copyright framework and the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive

We need to continue striving for a level playing field in the online world – this is also the aim of the new Digital Services and Digital Market Acts.

All this taken together will create, and I am convinced about that, a fairer, a healthier environment for the media sector which is highly needed.

For the first time, we address both the democratic and economic dimensions. 

The people, those working in the media, the journalists, and those getting the information that they provide, the citizens. 

And the companies, the media organisations and their business models, which necessarily have to recover from the crisis and adapt to the digital transformation. 

And finally we address the powerful, too powerful, role of online platforms – which in many ways put independent media at a disadvantage.

It is only by working together that we will succeed. We need to mobilise all stakeholders and this is why, once again, I would like to thank you for this event. I wish you very fruitful discussions.”

Brussels, March 3rd 2021

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