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European Media Freedom Act Proposal: Concerns EU could meddle with publishers’ business operations

european parliament

The European Publishers Council has reacted strongly to the European Media Freedom Act proposal released late last week. The legislation is designed to bring the benefits of a free press to all corners of the European Union, a worthy objective, but buried within the text are proposals that could hinder all publishers’ ability to operate without interference across many aspects of their media operations.

In a strongly worded statement released on Friday, the European Publishers Council aimed a number of sharp criticisms at the legislation. A key objection to the EU’s proposal is that it would allow regulatory authorities to interfere in all EU member-nations’ press, even in countries where press freedom already flourishes.

There is a fine line between establishing principles and safeguards to underpin press freedom and state regulation of the press. It is essential that the new Media Freedom Act does not cross this line, endangering press freedom in the many member states where it flourishes.

Angela Mills Wade, Executive Director, European Publishers Council

A secondary concern, but of no less importance to European publishers, is that the proposed legislation calls for the establishment of a new European Media Services Board which would allow regulators to scrutinize other aspects of publishers’ business operations, not just press freedom.

The moment a statutory regulator is given powers to scrutinise any aspect of how newspapers, magazines and other independent publications operate, the press is no longer free from government oversight. We will be calling on legislators to ensure that the press remains subject only to editorial self-regulatory codes of practice and the general laws, which can be challenged in court.

Angela Mills Wade, Executive Director, European Publishers Council

Ominously, the proposed legislation additionally calls for the idea of an “internal market for media” but fails to expand upon what that could entail, as well as measures for regulators to sanction foreign state-funded media which spread disinformation. What is categorized as disinformation remains to be seen.

In a positive development, tech platforms will be required to warn EU media outlets before they suspend or remove their content based on the tech giants’ own content moderation policies.

We do need clear rules and transparent procedures to prevent gatekeeping platforms from removing editorial content based on their own content moderation policies and we will work with the legislators to develop a workable framework.

Angela Mills Wade, Executive Director, European Publishers Council