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Discussing the sustainability of trusted media content in Europe

Monday, May 15, 2017      MEP Michal Boni       0


Editor's Note: this is a transcript of the speech MEP Michal Boni (EPP/Poland) gave at the Future Media Lab. annual conference on 2 May 2017 in Brussels. For more information about this event, please click here.


What legal, technological and business approaches are needed to sustainably fund free and independent media in today's digital world? How can we boost innovation in the media world?


We live in a challenging time. The digital revolution has achieved its critical point - it is clear that digital issues are now the game changer. And we can see the specific tipping point in politics. The model of politics based on the evidence and finding solutions for the development is over. Now, post-truth politics is our new reality.


What is the real impact of those two factors on democracy and democratic discourse?


Populism is growing and establishing the new model of the influence of politicians and politics on various societies. Not facts, but emotions create behaviours. Not the knowledge and recognition of the problems, but stereotypes and extreme simplification of the rules governing the reality and social processes build the framework for understanding the world. Not public debates, but strict propaganda is the key in shaping the minds. Open minds are closing. The threats and fears are stronger than - according to Kant’s legacy - the critical instruments of our mind.


In this so-called dramatic context we should analyse the role of the media - now. The role of media as a fourth power. But, power for what? For what kind of purposes? From my point of view it is obvious: for the liberal democracy.


There are some phenomena:


Firstly: The transition period form the analog media model (traditional TV, radio, newspapers) to the digital era and strong convergence of the media is crucial.It should be done, but with assistance and support focused on making the all new forms of media - much more trustworthy. In addition, it have to be clear that respect to the authors and their rights should be fulfilled under digital conditions. It needs to be consideration what kind of rules and rights, publishers need to have and how to create the new model of the editorial responsibility.


The responsibility based on freedom of media and expression and independence, which means very often impartiality or full access to the all sources of information.


All those issues require balanced solutions: understanding publishers’ needs and users expectations.


Secondly: The impartiality of media is one of the key issue and concerns especially public media. Public media are not for the ruling parties, should not be for authoritarian regimes and governmental propaganda - as it is e.g. now in Poland. In this case - the public media are dividing society sending only one kind of the message - a pro-governmental one. On the contrary, public media have to serve all citizens and the democracy - it is clear that all channels and discourses should be open for all views, various opinions and fact checking procedures. The responsibility of editors should be strengthen. This is not so easy in the European Union, because a lot depends on the national environment and legal frameworks.


Thirdly: The impartiality of media market is much more difficult, especially if we are talking about private media and private networks. We need to asses: what is the most important for the current and future role of media?


Is it the dependency on marketisation processes and principles (market position and profits) - leads to further tabloidisation, or finding the equilibrium between market needs (crucial for business models) and the value oriented media, with incentives for the trusted content? There is actually no systemic contradiction between free market rules for media and trusted journalism and content, under one condition:the market rules should be based on competition in the positive sense. It should be the safeguard for free media. It means, that all measures for - so called deconcentration of media, as it is now in Poland - should be treated as an attack on free media.


It concerns in the same way TV programs, newspaper networks and the digital platforms with independent sources of information and with clear opportunity for the users to choose their own way in looking for the sources of information, and not be constantly driven by algorithms.


Fourthly: The phenomenon of fake news should be analysed in the broader context. Last weekend, in the New York Times International, on the first page we had an article on Facebook troubles and confusions related to the dark side of the functioning of social media.


This is not only the problem of Facebook, but all digital platforms and their administrators. Of course, they have to find solution and use the new model of notice and take down after signals from users and fact-checking procedures. Digital procedures for fact-checking should be developed, also by using automated algorithms. Moreover, moderation on platforms should be developed and should be an obligatory solution. In many cases - the code of conducts and stronger cooperation of all stakeholders would be a proper instrument to fight fake-news and confusion in the area of information.


Any form of the censorship should be prohibited. The freedom of expression is one of the key values in our civilisation.

However, it is important to creat the new framework for the functioning of the digital platforms and combating the fake news propaganda vehicle.


Fifthly: This is not only the problem of the dissemination of dishonest or untrue information and data. Some years ago, when tabloids entered the media market - under the strong marketisation of the publishing rules - the quality of journalism was strongly undermined, even destroyed.


Now, the phenomenon of the convergence of media resulted for many people in the Internet becoming the main source of all information. Now, the philosophy of hashtag and algorithm, and the mechanisms of those tools are destroying the open discourse. Politicians started to use this new medium for and in political fights - as it was in the 1930s when Hitler started to use the radio.


There is no credibility. There is no impartiality. There is no fundamental climate for the development of democracy, for which we need open exchange of views based on facts, on strong opinions but also on knowledge.


How to address those challenges vis a vis an objective of establishing trusted journalism and media?


Sixthly: How to establish and finance this new model of convergent media, which would be based on trusty content? The answer is: finding the new business approach. On the one hand - we need the portability, openness, accessibility for all, avoiding the geo-blocking, the free flow of data and full respect of the privacy protection.


But, on the other - we need to have clear copyright rules adjusted to the digital era, sharing model for advertisements for all partners, e-privacy principles, which will not kill some business models, especially for local media, without the discrimination against third parties in having access to users’ data,the fact-checking strong institutions, the return of the traditional values of the quality of journalism - for both professionals and bloggers, all types of journalists and prosumers in the digital world.


Seventhly: So, what do we need to do? From the legislature point of view, in terms of the education and with the cooperation between all stakeholders?


Educational efforts are needed. The cooperation of all stakeholders is required. The new business approach is crucial, with balanced solutions in the digital area and with full rights for publishers where it is clear and legitimate.The transparency of rules is necessary if we want to protect open access to various sources of information, to protect the value of the truth, to guarantee the access to trusted media content, to give people the real opportunity to choose their way to understand the world.


It is all about democracy. If we understand this, it will be easier to find practical ways to counteract all current threats.


Michal BONI, MEP

Brussels, 2 May 2017


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