November 2019 Newsletter | ‘Systemic Publishing Platforms’ & Trust and Stars4Media

Dear reader,

Media4Europe newsletter – This is still Fondation EURACTIV’s newsletter, but rebranded Media4Europe for the coming year, given the name of the launching event on November 19th, and the final event in September 2020, for the new programme Stars4media.

New concepts, new battles, new projects…the end of 2019 is mirroring the rest of this exciting year for the media sector! Concepts, first. We are eager to hear your opinion about important notions that could help frame the discussion in our sector: “Trust indicators” and “Systemic Publishing Platforms”. Now that the EU institutional stage is almost set, we believe it’s time to focus on content again and both these concepts might be helpful.
Battles, next. Will the EU pick up another fight with Facebook regarding fake news and fake ads? What will be the national responses to Google bypassing the Copyright directive? These questions are the promise of an eventful year in 2020 on both the EU and national policy battlegrounds.
Projects, finally. We are proud to launch, along with diverse partners, an EU-funded pilot project on media innovation and cross-border cooperation. Stars4Media is about upskilling media professionals, the sustainability of the media sector and cross-outlets cooperation. Could this be relevant for your media contacts?

Valentin Dupouey, Director, Fondation EURACTIV
Christophe Leclercq, Chair of Fondation EURACTIV, @LeclercqEU


Exchange and training programme on media innovation

Are you a young media innovator eager to gain key skills in Europe?
Or a publisher/editor thinking of management development and Europe’s media sector? 
Stars4Media, the exchange and training programme for media “rising stars” to speed up innovation and increase cross-border coverage, was launched on November 6th, and promoted by the Media4Europe event on November 19th.

This one-year pilot project is coordinated by VUB, in cooperation with Fondation EURACTIV, WAN-IFRA, and EFJ, and co-funded by the European Commission.

  • Press release
  • Coming soon: Call for expression of interest (applications open until January 20th)

Regulated digital platforms for a fair media ecosystem

“Appetizer”: work in process on SysPPees and Trust Indicators
Christophe Leclercq is talking with top experts from media, regulatory and academic circles, on two concepts that could help policy-making for the new EU mandate.
Trust Indicators are actually not new: they were mentioned (in different ways) in the report of the High-Level Expert Group on disinformation (Avoid censorship, dilute fake with quality news), and in the Code of conduct signed by platforms and advertisers in Sept 2018. However, they are not in place in the sense of independent, outside input into platform’s algorithms. Some stakeholders see a great potential for improving, and even the possibility of a new services’ market.
‘Systemic Publishing Platforms’ (nickname SysPPees) is a new concept, building on previous efforts to define dominant platforms. Dominant in a number of market, they become an essential facility. SysPPees are as critical to democracy as the ‘fourth estate’, and as banks are to the economy: they deserve closer attention, indeed regulation, while avoiding bureaucracy and censorship. Defining them better would facilitate the use of existing rules (mainly competition), and allow differentiated legislation (notably under Digital Services Act, and also Democracy Action Plan). The two concepts are related: carrying Trust Indicators (with a default and other choices) would be one of the obligations of SysPPees.
Interested experts can contact privately or publicly: @LeclercqEU


Disinformation and Platform regulation

EU disputes Facebook’s claims of progress against fake accounts
“There is a kind of stock and flow problem,” Commissioner Julian King said of Facebook, which admits to hosting some 120m fake accounts, adding “it can have a disproportionate impact because a relatively small number of fake accounts can generate an enormous amount of activity”.
Find here the self-assessment reports of the Code of Practice signatories: Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Mozilla and trade associations
Read more: EU mulls disinformation regulation but admits alert system has ‘never been triggered’, by Samuel Stolton
“There can be an issue of biopower when you have a relationship where there is indeed a giant that sets their own terms and conditions.”– Margrethe Vestager, Commission Executive Vice-President Elect, at EURACTIV event on Monday 18 November


On November 20th, big press organisations and  Agence France Presse filed a complaint against Google with the French Competition Authority. They are accusing the American giant of imposing their conditions unilateraly, despite the Copyright directive. Indeed, the “neighbouring rights” are meant to promote a better sharing of digital revenues.

In October, during a joint press conference with Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron called on European competition authorities to initiate “as soon as possible all possible proceedings” against digital platforms that do not comply with the rules on “neighbouring rights”.“Some actors like Google want to free themselves from it. We will not let this happen and very clearly ask national and European competition authorities to examine and initiate as soon as possible all possible procedures and beyond,” Emmanuel Macron added. (Ouest-France: “Sur les droits voisins, Emmanuel Macron veut utiliser le niveau européen pour faire fléchir Google“)

Cédric O, secrétaire d’État en charge du numérique a expliqué: “Il y a une décision prise par des États démocratiquement élus qui souhaitent qu’il y ait le meilleur partage de la valeur dans le cadre de la diffusion de l’information”.Droits voisins. Pour le ministre, Google et les Gafam « ne peuvent pas faire régner leurs lois », Ouest-France.

Google une fois de plus au-dessus des lois ? – Tribune co-signée par 1500 journalistes, éditeurs et personnalités de la presse européenne (dont Christophe Leclercq pour EURACTIV). This Open Letter is available in 5 languages: Google once again above the law? (EN, FR, DE, ES, IT)

Read more:
As Google Backlashes Have Risen And Fallen, So Have Its Grants To News Organizations, Alex Kantrowitz, Buzfeed
If Journalists Want to Save Journalism, They Should Stop Asking Google for Money, Stefano Feltri, Pro Market

The Media Economics Programme by VUB-SMIT: Do you want to become an expert in diverse aspects of media economics? Are you keen on updating yourself on the economics of journalism, platform competition, etc.? The Postgraduate in Media Economics is a new programme at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

Olivier Braet of VUB / imec-SMIT & Mediahub Brussels gave the keynote at the NEM Summit 2019 in Zagreb, on ‘The Power of Platforms’. This includes both a description of markets at stake, an issue analysis, and potential remedies (presentation).


THINK – Proactive media policy for healthy democracies

In October, Fondation EURACTIV helped organise the Media Intergroup MEP breakfast meeting. 15 MEPs from different political groups and committees are involved in the process. The objective is to relaunch a “Media Intergroup” in the EP and tackle challenges of the media sector: media independence, press freedom, disinformation, platform regulation.
Opinion piece: “Cooperation of four key Commissioners needed for healthy media, democracy“, by C. Leclercq. He was also interviewed on RADIO LINGUISTIKA, explaining how to develop a Sectorial/Industrial Policy for the Media Sector in Europe.



C. Leclercq addressed the workshop on media, pointing the ‘Elephant in the room’ with the rise of social media platforms. The rapporteur, Christian Moos (trade unions), took note of the suggestion to consider an own-initiative report on the media sector’s health.


This month’s quotes

I Invented the World Wide Web. Here’s How We Can Fix It by Tim Berners-Lee, November 24, 2019 (The New York Times): “We need platforms to open their black boxes and clearly explain how they’re minimizing or eliminating risks their products pose to society. In my view, governments should impose an immediate ban on targeted political advertising to restore trust in our public discourse.”
Read more: The Contract for the Web