Position: Media freedom and pluralism must equal, not undermine audiovisual policies and cultural diversity

The SAA welcomes the Commission’s proposal for a European Media Freedom Act and its objective to protect media freedom, independence and pluralism, as well as journalists. Indeed, it is crucial to make sure that the public and private media are able to freely express opinions without interference from governments. However, it is important to make sure that the EMFA regulation doesn’t create any legal uncertainties, especially those that may have adverse effects on European cultural diversity.

Cultural policy measures play an important role in promoting European creation and the diversity of cultural expressions, and those must not be negatively impacted by the EMFA. The cultural dimension of media law and the Member States’s cultural sovereignty must be recognised by EMFA with a reference to Article 167 TFUE which notably requires the Union to take cultural aspects into account in its action, in order to respect and to promote the diversity of its cultures. In the audiovisual sector, those cultural policy measures are rooted in the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD), the cornerstone of European media law that is fostering European creation, production and distribution.

The European Commission’s proposal for a European Media Freedom Act builds on the successes of the AVMSD. It establishes the European Board for Media Services due to succeed to the European Regulators Groups for Audiovisual Media Services (ERGA) established by the AVMSD and enlarging its competences. First, we believe that it is necessary for the Board to be fully independent from the European Commission in order to fulfil its role as regulator of the audiovisual media services with the same independence as its members at national level. Second, we consider that in its current wording, the EMFA proposal raises legal uncertainties on its interplay with other provisions of the AVMSD, in particular the promotion of production and distribution of European audiovisual works (Articles 13, 16 and 17).

It is therefore essential to clarify the relationship between the EMFA and other legal acts taking into account the twofold nature of media as a cultural and economic asset. In addition, the proposed Article 20 on national measures affecting the operation of media service providers should focus on media pluralism, editorial independence and fundamental freedoms and not create a new assessment procedure for national cultural policy measures implementing the AVMSD.

These are our 2 key recommendations that we urge policymakers to explicitly mention in the European Media Freedom Act:

Refer to the respect and promotion of cultural diversity

  • Article 167 TFEU and Subject matter and scope (Art 1)

Evaluate national cultural policies deriving from the AVMSD through the AVMSD and not a new EMFA procedure

  • National measures affecting the operation of media service providers (Article 20)

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