January Newsletter | Promoting quality news to support media and democracy

Promoting quality news to support media and democracy

2020 will be remembered as one of the most challenging since the creation of the EU. The pandemic amplified and accelerated the transformation of our societies. With vaccines in sight in 2021, the pandemic crisis begins moving to recovery. At the same time the new year brings new hope for the media sector.

The insurrection in Washington is alarming. Facebook and Twitter belatedly took serious action on Trump: the market is failing, but ‘ministry of Truth’ is no answer either. Europe is not better than the US. We need better regulation overall, and more visibility for quality news,  not just self-regulation of platforms.

The Commission’s proposed Digital Services and Digital Markets Acts are hugely important in this regard, but legislative: slow. They will shape the online ecosystem for many years to come. Getting the balance right will be vital. The Democracy Action Plan, and Media Action Plan with its News Bundle and the European Media Forum may improve governance and sustainability of quality information. The EU recovery plan may provide further financial relief. So, this is the big picture to support democracy: better regulation, and media sustainability.  Preferably for impact soon, before the 2024 European elections.

As THINK and DO Tank, Europe’s MediaLab focuses on the same two pillars: media policy and media innovation training. 
THINK – Media Policy: We build upon a strong track record with media across borders, and can bring together the best players. Together with our consortium partner IDATE DigiWorld , we are honored and proud to have been selected by the EU Commission for study on an Online Platform for Quality Content. Sharing across media and languages may be part of the solution to sustain the media sector.
DO – Training and innovation: In the past 15 years, together with the EURACTIV media network, we have trained more than 1 000 media professionals, fostering cross-border cooperation. Our flagship project is Stars4Media. The first edition was successfully concluded in October 2020. Together with our partners VUB, EFJ and WAN-IFRA we are now implementing Stars4Media’s second edition.
Our MediaLab will consider helping other projectsand we look forward to exchanging views with you in 2021.
Stay safe and have a great year 2021!

Marc SundermannDirector (fondationdirector@euractiv.com) & Nathalie Bargues, Communications and Project Manager (nathalie.bargues@euractiv.com)

Christophe Leclercq, Executive Chairman (founder@euractiv.com+ 32 2 226 58 13)


You can read here the Parliamentary question on EU’s support for news media by MEP Andrus Ansip, and the written answer given by EU Commissioner Thierry Breton in December 2020.

Regulating tech platforms and transparency in Europe 

Bolstered by pandemic, tech titans face growing scrutiny (EURACTIV)
Online platforms grew while other businesses faced an unprecedented crisis: Facebook’s stock is up 35%, and Amazon 67%. Governments doubled their efforts to regulate big platforms in relation to taxes, competition, data and disinformation. The newly started year is not going to be easy for Big Tech in the US and in Europe: five antitrust investigations against social media platforms were officially underway in the US. The media sector in particular realised the risks coming from online platforms’ power for its revenues in the coming year.

How “big tech” influence electoral processes and why transparency is essential (EDJNet)
The Digital Services Act will require more transparency over algorithms due to their currently opaque nature. Transparency should also apply to the Big Tech platforms’ algorithms that manage messages inviting users to adopt a certain behaviour on the eve of or during elections.

Platform regulation: the US and China accelerate

What Will Tech Regulation Look Like in the Biden Era? (Harvard Business Review)
The willingness to further regulate Big Tech in the US is now bipartisan. The main topics on which this regulation will apply are consumer protection, algorithmic transparency, antitrust policies and liability.

China orders Alibaba founder Jack Ma to pare down fintech empire (The Guardian)
China has escalated its campaign to rein in the vast tech empire controlled by Jack Ma, the co-founder of Alibaba, ordering his financial technology company Ant Group to scale back its operations.

Media and democracy in the US

United States: Violent mob attacks the media during Capitol assault (IFJ)
Violent protesters targeted and attacked media workers during the assault on the Capitol in Washington DC. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its American affiliates deplore these attacks against journalists and stand in solidarity with journalists protecting citizens’ right to know.

Lawmakers call for tougher EU disinformation laws in wake of US riots (EURACTIV)
“Lawmakers in the European Parliament have raised concerns at the role that social media played in the storming of the US Capitol, saying the EU’s proposed Digital Services Act should double down on the spread of conspiratorial material online.” Capitol riots confirm again: quality media matter for democracies, including in Europe. Is it ‘instrumentalisation’?

Media freedom & independence in Poland

Poland’s Government Tightens Its Control Over Media (NPR)
State-backed oil refiner PKN Orlen announced it was buying the private, German-owned Polska Press, a move that will put 20 of Poland’s 24 regional daily newspapers under Orlen’s control, as well as 120 weekly papers and many websites reaching an estimated 17.4 million online readers.

Polish reporters worry about newspapers turning into ‘hard-line propaganda’ outlets (Politico): “By taking over local media, PiS will gain a powerful tool to attack popular opposition mayors,” said Leszek Jażdżewski, editor of the Liberte! journal. “Local media might not be big but they’re important in inspiring coverage that reverberates in social media and in the big national news outlets.”

Media ownership in the UK

Who owns the media? Top newspaper, website and magazine owners charted (Press Gazette): Digital native news brands have yet to overhaul legacy media and broadcast brands, which make up 17 of the UK’s top 20 digital news publishers.

Google’s funding for news media

This research by the Otto Brenner Foundation and the German Trade Union Confederation shows for the European Google News Initiative (150 million euros):

– Not-for-profit and publicly funded media received 9% of Google News Initiative funding

 Almost 70% of the funding went to publishers established before 2000

 Over 85% of the funding went to Western Europe

Google also makes major contributions to support academic research on the media, addressing artificial intelligence in journalism. Many of the GNI programmes are clearly linked to Google products: GNI YouTube Innovation Funding provided 25 million dollars to support partner organisations in developing novel news formats for Google’s own video-sharing platform.
In addition, apart from audiovisual, news media direct representations in EU circles are few and limited, complemented by some fragmented media associations.

Transparency of news media’s funding

There are useful efforts to create more transparency on the media sector, notably on ownership and pluralism.

– At European level: notably the Media Pluralism Monitor (coordinated by the EUI – European University Institute). The EUI also leads EDMO: European Digital Media Observatory (additional transparency: Christophe Leclercq is on its Advisory board).

– At national level: a number of initiatives exist, including a recent one  in Spain, by Fundación Compromiso y Transparencia.


Our expertise and services: 

  • THINK – Media Policy: Strategy, research, studies and events on media policy, media innovation, platform regulation, disinformation, and governance
  • THINK – Media Policy: Stakeholder and policymaker relations, expertise on business models, editorial and legal issues
  • THINK – Media Policy: Advice and coordination of communication & dissemination (with EURACTIV Media Network)
  • DO – Innovation training: Training and coaching media on EU institutions and EU policies

Significant experience and deep industry insight are our strengths. We organise tailor-made sponsored policy debates. We offer partnerships focused on training and innovation for media, interested organisations have the opportunity to:

1- Sponsor our flagship training programme for media professionals, which showed its impact and quality: Second Edition of the Stars4Media project (co-financed by the EU). This will offer strong visibility to the sponsor among media organisations, journalists, policy makers, and media innovators all over Europe, in particular during the Media4Europe Summit in March 2021.

2- Support new waves of the Stars4Media training programme. For example, a national version of this innovation training programme connecting different regions from a specific EU country.