Council of Europe : Recommendation No. R(99)1 on measures to promote media pluralism







(Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 19 January 1999,
at the 656th meeting of the Ministers' Deputies)


The Committee of Ministers, under the terms of Article 15.b of the Statute of the Council of Europe,

Stressing the importance for individuals to have access to pluralistic media content, in particular as regards information;

Stressing also that the media, and in particular the public service broadcasting sector, should enable different groups and interests in society — including linguistic, social, economic, cultural or political minorities — to express themselves;

Noting that the existence of a multiplicity of autonomous and independent media outlets at the national, regional and local levels generally enhances pluralism and democracy;

Recalling that the political and cultural diversity of media types and contents is central to media pluralism;

Stressing that States should promote political and cultural pluralism by developing their media policy in line with Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees freedom of expression and information, and with due respect for the principle of independence of the media;

Recognising that efforts by all member States and, where appropriate, at the European level, to promote media pluralism are desirable;

Acknowledging at the same time that a potential shortcoming of existing media pluralism regulatory frameworks in Europe is their tendency to focus exclusively on the traditional media;

Noting that there are already some cases of bottlenecks in the area of the new communications technologies and services, such as control over conditional access systems for digital television services;

Noting also that the establishment of dominant positions and the development of media concentrations might be furthered by the technological convergence between the broadcasting, telecommunications and computer sectors;

Aware that an active monitoring of the development of new delivery platforms, such as the Internet, and new services is necessary to assess the impact which new business strategies in this area could have on pluralism;

Convinced that transparency as regards the control of media enterprises, including content and service providers of the new communications services, can contribute to the existence of a pluralistic media landscape;

Recalling the importance of the editorial independence of newsrooms;

Noting that whilst it is necessary for European media undertakings to develop, account must also be taken of their impact on cultural and social values;

Recalling the orientations already provided in the past by the Council of Europe to the member States in order to guarantee pluralism in the media, in particular the principles contained in the declarations and resolutions adopted at the 3rd, 4th and 5th Ministerial Conferences on Mass Media Policy (Cyprus, October 1991, Prague, December 1994, and Thessaloniki, December 1997) and Recommendation No. R (94) 13 of the Committee of Ministers on measures to promote media transparency;

Recalling also the provisions on media pluralism contained in the Amending Protocol to the European Convention on Transfrontier Television;

Bearing in mind the work conducted within the framework of the European Union and other international organisations in the area of media concentrations and pluralism,

Recommends that the governments of the member States:

i. examine the measures contained in the appendix to this recommendation and consider the inclusion of these in their domestic law or practice where appropriate, with a view to promoting media pluralism;

ii. evaluate on a regular basis the effectiveness of their existing measures to promote pluralism and/or anti-concentration mechanisms and examine the possible need to revise them in the light of economic and technological developments in the media field.

Appendix to Recommendation No. R (99) 1

Measures to promote media pluralism

I. Regulation of ownership: broadcasting and the press

Member States should consider the introduction of legislation designed to prevent or counteract concentrations that might endanger media pluralism at the national, regional or local levels.

Member States should examine the possibility of defining thresholds — in their law or authorisation, licensing or similar procedures — to limit the influence which a single commercial company or group may have in one or more media sectors. Such thresholds may for example take the form of a maximum audience share or be based on the revenue/turnover of commercial media companies. Capital share limits in commercial media enterprises may also be considered. If thresholds are introduced, member States should take into consideration the size of the media market and the level of resources available in it. Companies which have reached the permissible thresholds in a relevant market should not be awarded additional broadcasting licences for that market.

Over and above these measures, national bodies responsible for awarding licences to private broadcasters should pay particular attention to the promotion of media pluralism in the discharge of their mission.

Member States may consider the possibility of creating specific media authorities invested with powers to act against mergers or other concentration operations that threaten media pluralism or investing existing regulatory bodies for the broadcasting sector with such powers. In the event member States would not consider this appropriate, the general competition authorities should pay particular attention to media pluralism when reviewing mergers or other concentration operations in the media sector.

Member States should consider the adoption of specific measures where vertical integration — that is, the control of key elements of production, broadcasting, distribution and related activities by a single company or group — may be detrimental to pluralism.

II. New communications technologies and services

1. General principle

Member States should monitor the development of the new media with a view to taking any measures which might be necessary in order to preserve media pluralism and ensure fair access by service and content providers to the networks and of the public to the new communications services.

2. Principles concerning digital broadcasting

In view of the expansion of the telecommunications sector, member States should take sufficient account of the interests of the broadcasting sector, given its contribution to political and cultural pluralism, when redistributing the frequency spectrum or allocating other communication resources as a result of digitisation.

Member States should consider introducing rules on fair, transparent and non-discriminatory access to systems and services that are essential for digital broadcasting, providing for impartiality for basic navigation systems and empowering regulatory authorities to prevent abuses.

Over and above these measures, member States should also examine the feasibility and desirability of introducing common technical standards for digital broadcasting services. Furthermore, given that the interoperability of technical systems can help to extend viewers' choice and enhance ease of access at a reasonable price, member States should seek to achieve the largest possible compatibility between digital decoders.

III. Media content

1. General principle

Member States should consider possible measures to ensure that a variety of media content reflecting different political and cultural views is made available to the public, bearing in mind the importance of guaranteeing the editorial independence of the media and the value which measures adopted on a voluntary basis by the media themselves may also have.

2. Broadcasting sector

Member States should consider, where appropriate and practicable, introducing measures to promote the production and broadcasting of diverse content by broadcasting organisations. Such measures could for instance be to require in broadcasting licences that a certain volume of original programmes, in particular as regards news and current affairs, is produced or commissioned by broadcasters.

Furthermore, under certain circumstances, such as the exercise of a dominant position by a broadcaster in a particular area, member States could foresee "frequency sharing" arrangements so as to provide access to the airwaves for other broadcasters.

Member States should examine the introduction of rules aimed at preserving a pluralistic local radio and television landscape, ensuring in particular that networking, understood as the centralised provision of programmes and related services, does not endanger pluralism.

3. Press sector

Member States should seek to ensure that a sufficient variety of sources of information are available for a pluralistic sourcing of the content of press entities.

IV. Ownership and editorial responsibility

Member States should encourage media organisations to strengthen editorial and journalistic independence voluntarily through editorial statutes or other self-regulatory means.

V. Public service broadcasting

Member States should maintain public service broadcasting and allow it to develop in order to make use of the possibilities offered by the new communication technologies and services.

Member States should examine ways of developing forms of consultation of the public by public service broadcasting organisations, which may include the creation of advisory programme committees, so as to reflect in their programming policy the needs and requirements of the different groups in society.

Member States should define ways of ensuring appropriate and secure funding of public service broadcasters, which may include public funding and commercial revenues.

With the prospect of digitisation, member States should consider maintaining "must carry" rules for cable networks. Similar rules could be envisaged, where necessary, for other distribution means and delivery platforms.

VI. Support measures for the media

Member States could consider the possibility of introducing, with a view to enhancing media pluralism and diversity, direct or indirect financial support schemes for both the print and broadcast media, in particular at the regional and local levels. Subsidies for media entities printing or broadcasting in a minority language could also be considered.

Over and above support measures for the creation, production and distribution of audio-visual and other content which make a valuable contribution to media pluralism, support measures could also be considered by member States to promote the creation of new media undertakings or to assist media entities which are faced with difficulties or are obliged to adapt to structural or technological changes.

Without neglecting competition considerations, any of the above support measures should be granted on the basis of objective and non-partisan criteria, within the framework of transparent procedures and subject to independent control. The conditions for granting support should be reconsidered periodically to avoid accidental encouragement for any media concentration process or the undue enrichment of enterprises benefiting from support.

VII.    Scientific research

Member States should support scientific research and study in the field of media concentrations and pluralism, in particular on the impact of new communication technologies and services in that respect.



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