Die EU Commission wants to better protect media freedom with a new legislative initiative. European providers see themselves "increasingly exposed to interference in editorial decisions," says the justification for a new draft law presented to the FAZ, which the commission intends to present this Friday. This leads to a distortion of the competitive conditions – this is how she justifies her responsibility. The "opaque and unfair allocation of economic resources" or advertising orders to promote "government-friendly" reporting have the same effect.
The Commission wants to set uniform minimum standards and close regulatory gaps. In practice, the initiative is aimed against massive interventions in the media market, such as those undertaken by the Hungarian and Polish governments in recent years. So far, the Commission has only been able to intervene indirectly, if at all.
Protection of editorial decisions
The draft prohibits Member State authorities from directly or indirectly intervening or influencing editorial decisions. Journalists and their families should not be penalized or monitored for not disclosing their sources unless justified by an overriding public interest. The use of spy software against journalists, as was the case in the Pegasus scandal, is also generally prohibited, although exceptions for reasons of national security remain permissible. Member States should create independent bodies to investigate complaints. When states place advertisements, the amounts spent for each medium should be disclosed.
The Media Freedom Act also sets standards for public media providers. They are intended to “provide a plurality of information and opinions in an impartial manner”. Management personnel are to be determined in a “transparent and non-discriminatory” manner and on the basis of national law. The states, in turn, must ensure that the providers are adequately financed. This was not the case, for example, in Slovenia under the previous national-conservative government.
The EU Commission would be empowered by the regulation to monitor media freedom in the internal market and to report on it annually. It is to be supported by a new EU-wide supervisory body, in which the national supervisory authority of each member state is represented. In this body, information is to be exchanged and problems discussed; it should be able to give its own opinions. The commission would provide the secretariat and one non-voting member. Violations of the protection standards can only be enforced through infringement procedures.