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European University Institute - Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies

Unpacking journalism’s challenges amidst technological disruptions

In celebration of World Press Freedom Day, the Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom hosted a seminar addressing journalism's contemporary challenges. Professors and researchers led discussions on journalist safety, economic vulnerabilities, and the role of digital platforms.

10 May 2024 | Event - Video

Every 3 March since its inception by the United Nations in 1993, World Press Freedom Day continues to serve as a beacon for the indispensable role of free media in nurturing informed citizenship.

With this seminar, the Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom aimed to spotlight structural problems while highlighting positive developments, like new legal instruments in Europe within the field. Speakers shared insights from the Centre's main research projects, in particular, they presented preliminary findings from the Media Pluralism Monitor.

Researcher Iva Nenadić set the tone by exploring the ethical integrity of journalism, emphasising concerns over the lack of progress in ensuring the independence of public service media, which plays a crucial role in providing unbiased information, especially in times of "information disorder."

She then addressed the influence of digital platforms, which have become central to news distribution: “While platforms offer opportunities for diverse voices, they also pose risks such as misinformation and foreign interference. Moreover, media organisations' dependency on platforms for distribution and revenue has led to changes in their practices, potentially compromising their integrity,” she observed. 

Iva also tackled challenges derived from the growing disconnection between traditional news brands and younger audiences, who are increasingly relying on social media platforms and influencers for news. 

On the other hand, Roberta Carlini delved into the issue of media ownership concentration, underscoring the implications for media plurality and democratic discourse. She drew attention to the rise of oligarchs as media owners, highlighting a growing trend where powerful individuals or entities control significant portions of the media landscape. This phenomenon was explored in light of its implications for editorial independence and economic viability.

The complex relationship between media ownership and economic sustainability poses a dilemma: relaxing anti-concentration rules could potentially enhance the economic viability of media companies and improve their sustainability. However, this approach raises concerns about the further consolidation of media ownership and its impact on media diversity and pluralism.

In her session, Elda Brogi emphasised the urgency for robust regulatory frameworks to preserve information integrity within the labyrinthine digital landscape. Regarding the newly approved European Media Freedom Act, she stated: "While it is far from perfect — the criteria to define the media services are problematic — it reminds that media services are those to be safeguarded, as content producers who bear the editorial responsibility for the content they disseminate. Platform co-regulation is not a cure-all for combating online disinformation." 

Urbano Reviglio's presentation highlighted the key role of local media in promoting democratic participation, drawing from the insights of the Local Media for Democracy Project. In particular, and given their proximity to the audience, he underlined the essential function of local media in building resilience against disinformation and raising awareness of issues such as environmental problems.

Finally, CMPF Director Pier Luigi Parcu tackled the significance of monitoring press freedom and measuring media plurality. He analysed EMFA’s monitoring requirements, and discussed their overlap with the existent Media Pluralism Monitor as well as the need to update the latter since many articles will require evaluation of the response at the national level: “Our comparative study will not be anymore a comparison of member state with their own laws, but has to take into account that there is a European media law (...)”. Parcu clarified that the European Media Freedom Act sets a new standard, which requires a new dimension to measure media pluralism, likely involving less focus on new issues and more in terms of adding a novel European dimension to the measurements.

Following the presentations, the seminar ended with an an open discussion, where participants engaged in an exchange of ideas, strategies, and best practices aimed at fortifying press freedom.

For those who missed the live event, the recording is now available online.

Last update: 10 May 2024

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