Media pluralism as a multidimensional concept: Using the Media Pluralism Monitor to evaluate and inform policies

How to ensure media pluralism in information environments where news is increasingly accessed through algorithmic platforms, and where the impact of platforms goes beyond the impact of media?

The 8th ECREA European Communication Conference will take place as a live virtual conference between 6 and 9 September 2021 with an overarching title Communication and trust: building safe, sustainable and promising futures.

The Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom will host a panel on Tuesday, 7 September, 11:00 – 12:30, Room 10, to discuss Media pluralism as a multidimensional concept: Using the Media Pluralism Monitor to evaluate and inform policies.

Media pluralism has always stretched beyond the market plurality dimension, including, among other things, the protection of fundamental rights such as freedom of expression; requiring the status and safety of journalists to perform their work without undue influence; the independence and effectiveness of media regulators; gender equality in media structures and diversity representation in media outputs. In today’s information environments where news is increasingly accessed through algorithmic platforms, media pluralism extends into the new dimension where the impact of platforms goes even beyond the impact of media. Therefore, if media pluralism, as a hallmark of healthy democracy, is to be safeguarded, policy solutions should consider the multiple dimensions of which it is composed and the ways these dimensions interrelate. To illustrate this complexity and to draw insights for future policy-making in this field, this panel will explore, from a comparative perspective, several aspects contained in the concept of media pluralism and evaluate policies designed to ensure and safeguard the favourable conditions.

The five papers are all based on the Media Pluralism Monitor (MPM) data. The MPM is a wide-ranging research instrument designed to assess risks to media pluralism both online and offline and considering legal, economic, political, and social dimension of the phenomenon. The six rounds of the MPM implementation across the European Union member states and candidate countries have resulted in an unprecedented data-set on the existing legal and policy frameworks, quality of their implementation, as well as the actual situation in practice. The data has been collected by national media experts, assessed and referenced in a database consisting of 200 variables.

The panel is chaired by Iva Nenadic and consists of five presentations:

Market pluralism: Interplay between ownership concentration, transparency and editorial autonomy / Beata Klimkiewicz; Iva Nenadic

  • empirically exploring patterns of relationship between levels of news media concentration, ownership transparency and editorial autonomy across the EU countries; arguing that media ownership concentration is not necessarily an issue in itself but should be observed in relation to ownership transparency and editorial autonomy.

Safety of journalists in a context of high political polarization: A case of Spain / Jaume Suau, Spain; Carles Ruiz; Pere Masip

  • assessing how Spain is implementing the Recommendation (2016) of the Council of Europe on the protection of journalism and safety of journalists and other media actors, and if it enables an environment favourable for conducting journalism. Spain is an interesting case of analysis because of the convulsive political situation, with rampant corruption and citizens’ growing distrust towards political institutions. Political instability and polarisation have been growing in recent years, with four national elections in the four years, the rise of a new far-right party, as well as the Catalan push for independence. In this context, the number of cases of attacks and threats to the safety of journalists has increased drastically.

Media and information literacy as a litmus test of risks to media pluralism in Europe / Aukse Balcytiene; Anda Rozukalne; Andres Konno

  • the dynamics of risks recognised in the Baltic media scene will be paralleled with shifts in media and information literacy (MIL) assessments. The MPM instrument explores MIL as if it is a key aspect of an accessible and participative media system, but it does not look into some essential social-constructivist qualities, such as trust among citizens, their readiness and willingness to take action and engage in deep thinking with media. Examples from the Baltic countries will be suggested supporting popular belief that applied MIL actions can and should eliminate distinct flaws of the media system, for example radical and populist narratives and even disinformation. Such a dominant belief, however, is an unattainable standard. Instead, the paper conceptualises MIL as socio-constructivist process. It argues for the need to re-calibrate popular expectations about what makes MIL a required element of contemporary organisation/machinery of citizens making.

Women and media: policies and representation / Marisa Torres Da Silva; Carla Baptista; Francisco Rui Cádima; Luís Oliveira Martins

  • presenting a critical and comparative overview of gender equality policies and representation of women in the media within countries taking part in the Media Pluralism Monitor 2021, with respect to year 2020. According to the latest report, access to media for women is one of the highest scoring indicators in the MPM, with 63% (EU) and 65% (EU+5), which represents medium risk, at the fringe of high risk.

The changing role of media regulators / Ingrid Lambrecht; Elda Brogi; Peggy Valcke

  • one of the traditional functions of the media regulator has been to provide the general public with transparency on media dynamics. However, global media dynamics are greatly affecting online information flows, requiring a next level of transparency in order for authorities to fulfil that function. Without the necessary transparency on these dynamics, large online media services and intermediary platforms may be creating more implications for exposure diversity, polarisation and democratic participation than is currently possible to assess. We therefore explored the possibility of media authorities to play a more active role in safeguarding media pluralism by highlighting recent monitoring efforts of pioneering media authorities across Europe.

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