Digital Services Act and Democracy Action Plan consultations: Europe’s MediaLab responses

Process: from policy analysis to action, not just statement and law-making

Europe’s MediaLab (Fondation EURACTIV), the think-and-do tank for a healthy media sector, has provided its inputs on these public consultations launched by the European Commission:

– Democracy Action Plan (download the pdf)

– Digital Services Act (download the pdf)

Indeed, we believe that these two processes, and the Media Action Plan promised for end 2020, should be converging. Europe is at a crossroads. Like the e-commerce directive shaped the last 20 years allowing powerful new players, the decisions the EU will take will be decisive. These are our main 7 recommendations:

  1. “Quality journalism and media pluralism”: EU legislators should foster an environment conducive to quality journalism and media pluralism. A NEWS programme could complement the  MEDIA programme (audiovisual & film).
  2. Business models for free and independent media proved essential during the pandemic. The media sector was already fragile, due to the pace of technological change and the move of most advertising to US platforms. And as people cannot meet, the press now loses its main profitable business: events.
  3. Sector enquiry and ex-ante regulation: EU legislators should establish that platforms have publisher-like liability for the content they spread. Dominant in a number of markets, platforms are an ‘essential facility’, a ‘must’ gatekeeper for other actors and for users. Building on competition tools for digital regulation makes sense and will help the media recover some of its lifeblood. DSA and a “new competition tool” will take years of discussion: a sector enquiry plus use and adjustment of current tools should come first.
  4. “Systemic Publishing Platforms”: platforms that are hosting, selecting and promoting content (notably Google, Facebook and their subsidiaries) should be defined in a dedicated sub-category, allowing targeted regulation.
  5. “Transparency of Funding”: Transparency of funding by platforms to stakeholders & think-tanks, to track and to avoid excessive influence-buying.  
  6. Trust Indicators are necessary for platforms to promote quality content versus “fake news”. Using physical fact-checkers is relevant. Item by item evaluation is too slow: source curation should influence platforms’ algorithms. Transparency obligations regarding elements defining algorithms should be introduced.
  7. Integration of policies and actions: Issues, and several solutions, are on the table for years, while market imbalances deepen. Legislative processes are slow, as shown by the e-commerce and the copyright processes. Impact and more competitive players depend on: a) first using existing instruments, notably competition law and a sector enquiry; b) integrating regulation, democracy and information industrial strategy; c) engaging stakeholders outside policy circles, also thanks to innovation budgets. 

We will be pleased to share our view and gather reactions from stakeholders from the media landscape. For questions, comments or endorsements, you can contact directly:

– Christophe Leclercq  Phone: + 32 (0)2 226 58 13

– Marc Sundermann  Phone:  +32 (0)2 788 36 68

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