Media plurality campaign
1 May 2014
Wanted: a million free press supporters
Journalists who want to work for freer and more diverse media have the chance to sign a Europe-wide petition asking the EU to legislate against the concentration of ownership and control in the hands of too few companies.
The campaign is supported by the TUC, read Frances O'Grady's comment piece: Media ownership: power and influence in the hands of the few.
Ask your MP to sign the Early Day Motion in parliament:
That this House shares the widespread and continuing public concerns regarding the power of media barons in the events leading up to the Leveson report; notes that recent legislation gagging civil society groups has only served to amplify the voices of established news organisations, thereby distorting democratic debate; condemns the way in which groups such as benefit claimants, immigrants, women and environmental campaigners are routinely misrepresented in the media; believes that there should be urgent action to safeguard the right to independent and pluralistic information; further notes that a coalition of civil society organisations and professional bodies from throughout Europe has come together with the immediate purpose of running a European Citizens Initiative demanding action to ensure media pluralism; and therefore expresses its support for the UK Coalition on Media Pluralism which aims to open up a serious debate on the need to limit the concentration of media ownership and to increase the range of voices in the local and national media.
The campaign aims to attract more than a million signatures across Europe to an EU petition for media pluralism. If the petition achieves one million signatures, the EU commission must discuss issuing a directive to ensure commercial media in every state must be widely owned to ensure their independence from both the state and the influence of powerful corporate owners.
Academics, journalists and media campaigners across Europe have agreed to work together on the campaign.
Granville Williams, from the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom (CPBF), the UK co-ordinator of the initiative, said:
"This is an ambitious and inspiring project to develop a clear, democratic framework for the media across the European Union. It involves co-operation among more than 100 organisations who care about free and independent media."
The NUJ supports the online petition, which calls for:
- effective legislation to avoid concentration of ownership in the media and advertisement sectors
- guaranteed independence of media supervisory bodies from political power and influence
- definition of conflict of interests to prevent media moguls occupying high political office
- clearer European monitoring systems to check the health and independence of the media.
The petition specifically rules out any government interference in journalists' work and editorial content must remain independent of legislation.
Steve Barnett of Westminster University, a prominent commentator and parliamentary adviser on the media, said the campaign was needed because politicians were "wary of grasping this political nettle".
The NUJ campaigns for media plurality – in 2011, the union fought off Rupert Murdoch's latest bit to take over BSkyB.
In other European countries, the media is concentrated in too few hands.
Giovanni Melogli, who helped instigate the initiative, described the political corruption caused by the immense media power of Silvio Berlusconi, who controlled the three biggest commercial TV networks and the public broadcaster RAI while serving as the country's longest-serving prime minister.
Bill Emmott, a former editor of the Economist and expert on Italy, said:
"The concept of a businessman taking over government is not acceptable. It is not a question of singling out one man, terrible as he is. The problem lies in the political parties as well."
István Hegedüs of the Hungarian Europe Society said the problem was the oppressive power of the nationalist government in Hungary that had set up a media council to control broadcasting and the press.
"We need competent European institutions to supply legal instruments to aid the struggle for freedom of media in Europe."
In the case of Ireland, Barry McCall, president of the NUJ, said:
"There are only two owners of the national press and both of them have right of centre political views."