Dear reader,

After setting itself “top 6” priorities, including democracy and digital, the European Commission led by Ursula von der Leyen now gets to grips with coordinating media-related policies.

In line with our Op-Ed “Cooperation of four key Commissioner needed for healthy media, democracy”, we welcome the setup of a dedicated media project group of Commissioners. We understand that its first meeting  takes place on 5 February. 

Chaired by Vice-President Vĕra Jourová, it brings together key players such as Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, and Commissioners Thierry Breton, Mariya Gabriel, Didier Reynders, and Olivér Várhelyi. Speed, clarity and coordination will be key to speed up processes and find integrated solutions. It is encouraging that Commissioners will soon work together for media freedom and media pluralism, and – most importantly – for the economic sustainability of the sector.

An industrial viewpoint enhancing skills and innovation is essential, complemented with competition tools (as interesting cases from the Anglo-Saxon world quoted below prove). Unless media ‘pluralism’ is interpreted to focus on media sustainability and platforms’ dominant positions, economic issues would not really be tackled. Journalist work is valued, but it lives from business models, which are weakening. 

What is needed is an overall vertical strategy for the media sector, across functional departments and policies. However, for the moment, there is no date for the announced Media Action Plan. Beyond and above other ‘Action Plans’ (Democracy, Artificial Intelligence, etc.), and the Digital Services Act, this Project Group of Commissioners needs a short and strategic umbrella document. This would set-out its mandate and provide clear guidance to achieve a balanced digital ecosystem.

                                                                            Christophe Leclercq, Executive Chair, @LeclercqEU

THINK – Regulated digital platforms for a fair media ecosystem

Platforms avoid responsibility; UK and Australia will regulate them: the EU too?

While Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg called for regulators to take their responsibility, platforms continue lobbying against their own liability – i.e., responsibility -, as if they were mere telecommunications infrastructures. This actually highlights why they need to be subject to existing and future regulations. A new category is needed between telecoms and media, e.g. defined as Systemic Publishing Platforms (‘SysPPees’), as suggested in our Open Letter “Democracy and Digital: Trusted Media and Platform Regulation”.

Soros accuses Facebook of conspiring to re-elect Trump
Intervening at the World Economic Forum, George Soros made some serious allegations about the link between Facebook and Donald Trump: “Facebook will work to re-elect Trump, and Trump will work to protect Facebook so that this situation cannot be changed and it makes me very concerned about the outcome for 2020″.

The UK Competition Authority Sheds Light on Online Platforms and Digital Advertising
The UK’s Competition and Market Authority (CMA), has recently published an interim report focused on the way the digital economy’s biggest names operate, at the detriment of the people and the businesses that use their services everyday.
This report by the British CMA proves right that a strategy for the media sector should include a smart policy mix – notably, (co)regulation, including interpretation of competition rules, alongside legislative initiatives -, as stated in our Open Letter “Democracy in Digital: Trusted Media and Platform Regulation”.

Le Royaume-Uni va lancer un régulateur ad hoc pour contrôler les GafaSelon le « Financial Times » le Royaume-Un va créer l’année prochaine un régulateur dédié pour contrôler les géants du numérique. Si le projet est mené à son terme, le Royaume-Uni deviendrait l’un des premiers pays en Europe à se doter d’un régulateur spécifique pour la « big tech ». Ceci fait suite au Cairncross report (House of Lords), rapporté l’an dernier dans cette même newsletter.

Competition and industrial policy are compatible, do they require different rules?

Three authors for the think-tank Fondation Robert Schuman show a way beyond the usual oppositionThey suggest several possible adjustments in the Treaty, as alluded in the past under this French-German-Polish initiative. Comment by Christophe Leclercq: “Treaty changes are unlikely to be agreed, let alone approved, during this mandate (they might be later, if such a mandate emerges from the next EU elections, in 2024). Hence, in good European practice, we need to pioneer changes without changing the Treaty. If one takes a sector approach, several measures can be taken. This could include a competition notice explaining how competition applies in this area.” 

Australian government sides with publishers over digital platforms
It will require platforms and publishers to strike deals on codes of conduct. This will cover how they work with each other on commercial matters including revenue, data sharing, use of content, and algorithm changes. If voluntary agreement can’t be reached within a year, the government will impose them. It will also: 1) set up a new division of the competition regulator to proactively manage digital platforms; 2) expand part of media regulation to ensure a new framework covers all players in content production and publishing, including the digital platforms; 3) mandate a new, comprehensive inquiry into the digital platforms’ dominance within the advertising technology ecosystem; 4) expand the range of financial grants for local and regional publishers; 5) reform privacy law to increase the power of consumers.

Open Letter to the Commission President co-signed by five MEPs and former MEPs, and ten policy and media experts: “Democracy and Digital: trusted media & platform regulation”. Democratic debates require trusted information, less economic pressure on media, and more policy pressure on platforms. Three concepts could help the von der Leyen Commission: ‘co-regulation’, ‘trust indicators’, ‘systemic publishing platforms’.

Digital Juries: A Civics-Oriented Approach to Platform Governance  
Many existing platform governance structures lack formal processes for democratic participation by users. Drawing inspiration from constitutional jury trials in many legal systems, this paper by Jenny Fan and Amy Zhang proposes digital juries as a civics-oriented approach for content moderation.

Digital in 2020: A geopolitical programme“,Samuel Stolton  Departing from a tumultuous 2019, in which several tech behemoths faced the ire of European regulators, the forthcoming twelve months in the digital arena will prove
to be lively in terms of EU policy.

Consultation  sur les médias avec la plateforme Médias & Citoyens: La plateforme “Médias & Citoyens” a été lancée pour débattre sur le monde médiatique et “restaurer le lien de confiance entre citoyens et journalistes”.

DO – Exchange and training programme on media innovation

Stars4Media is an exchange and training programme for young media professionals (“rising stars”), accelerating media innovation and careers.
Press release // Video

Call for Initiatives 

We increased the informal coaching, also on our newly-created LinkedIn Group!
Now you have more opportunities to express your personal interests, then come up with an interesting idea, and seek partners. Next, you will turn your idea into an Initiative, and implement it if you are selected. Don’t procrastinate: the sooner you apply, the more chances you have to get support! The windows of opportunity are 20 February, 20 March and 20 April 2020.

Events on Media Policy and Media Innovation

February 3rd – 6th in the European Parliament
Programme of the 11th European Innovation Summit – Implementing Horizon Europe: from Policy to Impact.

February 6th – Masters of Digital – DIGITALEUROPE
The Masters of Digital is Europe’s largest digital policy conference gathering over 400 senior representatives from the digital technology world as well as leading political figures.

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