logo_enOn 22 March 2013 the European Commission launched  two public consultations, open until 14 June 2013.  The consultations formalise a debate started by recommendations made in January 2013 by an independent High Level Group (HLG) on Media Freedom and Pluralism convened by the Commission.

The first and wider consultation invites comments on issues such as the scope of the EU’s competence to act in order to protect media freedom, the respective roles of public authorities and self-regulation or protection of journalistic sources in Europe. The consultation’s findings will allow the Commission to identify if broad support exists for European or national action in areas covered by the EU Treaties.

As Mark Thompson explained in a post on the LSE Media Policy Project Blog on the HLG report suggests measures which include monitoring and encouraging public investment in journalism and state intervention to preserve media important to maintaining pluralism.  As the same blog points out, another report from legal experts at the European University Institute has argued that the EU does have competence in this area. The question of its own competence in areas of media freedom and pluralism is one of the main issues for which the Commission is now seeking input through the consultation.

The first consultation is available here.

The second consultation is specifically limited to the High Level Group’s recommendation that audiovisual regulatory bodies should be independent. Audiovisual media are already subject to EU regulation. The consultation asks whether independence could be better ensured if Article 30 of the Audiovisual and Media Services (AVMS) Directive were revised. The AVMS Directive (AVMSD) aims at a Single Market for audiovisual media services and at legal certainty for Europe’s TV and audiovisual industry. It creates a level playing field for both broadcast and on-demand audiovisual media services across frontiers; it aims at preserving cultural diversity, at protecting children and consumers, at safeguarding media pluralism and at combating hatred on grounds of race, gender, nationality and religion.

The second consultation is available here.

Neelie Kroes, European Commission Vice-President said:

“In the EU we face threats to our fundamental freedoms, such as media freedom and pluralism across Europe. The High Level Group sent a strong signal that we need to take decisive action to ensure the freedom and pluralism of our media services in the future. Media pluralism is an important part of democracy, I urge you to give your views to these consultations.”

The LSE Media Policy Project Blog points out that If the EU starts to take a more active role in protecting media freedom and pluralism within Member States it will be a big change.

“In the area of media policy the Union has so far limited itself to broadcasting and only in matters pertaining to consumer protection and the promotion of a common market in audiovisual media services.. Such a change is exactly what the European Initiative for Media Pluralism is calling for in its demands that the Commission start work on a new directive on media pluralism and press freedom. Could these consultations demonstrate that the Commission is already taking the first steps?