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EU Council advances on source protection, fund transparency in media law

A new compromise text on the European Media Freedom Act from the Swedish EU Council Presidency proposes changes to areas including the threshold of application for transparency rules on the allocation of public funds

By: EBR - Posted: Friday, May 26, 2023

The new media law is meant to increase transparency in media ownership and strengthen the sector’s pluralism.
The new media law is meant to increase transparency in media ownership and strengthen the sector’s pluralism.

by Molly Killeen

A new compromise text on the European Media Freedom Act from the Swedish EU Council Presidency proposes changes to areas including the threshold of application for transparency rules on the allocation of public funds and the provisions covering spyware and the protection of sources.

The new media law is meant to increase transparency in media ownership and strengthen the sector’s pluralism. The compromise text, dated 24 May and seen by EURACTIV, is set to be discussed at the Audiovisual and Media Working Party on 30 May.

The legislation has drawn controversy on several points so far, however, with many civil society groups arguing that it does not go far enough and national governments defending their control over media regulation – traditionally a member state competence – by complaining that it goes too far.

A new compromise text on the European Media Freedom Act from the Swedish EU Council Presidency proposes changes to areas including the threshold of application for transparency rules on the allocation of public funds and the provisions covering spyware and the protection of sources.

The new media law is meant to increase transparency in media ownership and strengthen the sector’s pluralism. The compromise text, dated 24 May and seen by EURACTIV, is set to be discussed at the Audiovisual and Media Working Party on 30 May.

The legislation has drawn controversy on several points so far, however, with many civil society groups arguing that it does not go far enough and national governments defending their control over media regulation – traditionally a member state competence – by complaining that it goes too far.

Public funds

The text also proposes a change in the article covering the allocation of public funds for state advertising and purchases.

The Commission’s original proposal included a specification that rules surrounding the annual provision of information about the state of their advertising expenditure should only apply to certain bodies, including “local governments of territorial entities of more than one million inhabitants”.

This provision, which the Council has since removed, was criticised as arbitrary by some stakeholders, who noted that this would exempt some prominent European cities.

The new compromise text, however, specifies that member states may “exempt subnational governments of territorial entities of less than 100,000 inhabitants,” as well as any entities directly or indirectly controlled by them, from the relevant reporting obligations.

Monitoring and review

When it comes to monitoring the internal market for media services, the text also suggests that the Commission, in consultation with the Board, define methodological safeguards to ensure the objectivity and selection criteria of the monitoring alongside the key performance indicators it was already tasked with devising.

The new text also specifies that the overview and future assessment of the market’s functioning should include attention to the impact of online platforms.

*first published in: Euractiv.com

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