The EBU highlighted the importance of public service media's online presence, media literacy initiatives and the need to set a fairer balance between news producers and online platforms as key measures to support informed citizenship and rein in the spread of so-called 'fake news'.
EBU Director General Noel Curran was in Brussels on 15 January to take part in the EU's High Level Group on Fake News. SVT Director Hanna Stjarne also figured amongst the panel of 39 experts, comprising representatives of civil society, social media platforms, news media organisations, journalists and academia, invited to help the European Commission scope the phenomenon of fake news and formulate recommendations.
EBU Director General Noel Curran said: "We’ve had misinformation and disinformation in media before. What is new now is the unprecedented worldwide reach that a small number of social media platforms gives those who want to spread falsehoods, in whatever form.
“We must ensure that there is a properly funded European media ecosystem. Quality journalism in the public and commercial sectors needs to be allowed to thrive and needs to be available and easily found by the public in the digital world. Public service media has a special role and responsibility to invest in quality journalism, in training and in investigative reporting."
"The past months we have seen an intense debate on disinformation online," said SVT Director General Hanna Stjarne. "The issue is urgent and concerns all of Europe from a democratic perspective. Developing appropriate responses to deal with the new situation requires a delicate balancing act respecting the principles of freedom of expression, pluralism whilst safe guarding the right to information. This is a key issue for the future of democracy and I am very glad to cooperate across borders."
The EBU believes that the online presence of public service media organizations is vital to support informed citizenship and represents an essential tool to fight the propagation of fake news.
According to the Trust in Media 2017 EBU report, broadcast media remains the most trusted media throughout Europe. Radio is the most trusted medium, trusted by 59% of EU citizens, closely followed by TV at 50%. Public service radio service has 80% trust in several European countries. Trust in the written press has also increased over the last five years although it is generally still not seen as a trusted medium in most European countries.
Meanwhile, trust in the internet and social networks continues to fall and trust in social networks is at its lowest ever level. Only 36% of EU citizens tend to trust the internet and a mere 21% of EU citizens say they trust social networks
Two more group meetings are scheduled to take place in February. The high-level group will craft a report for March, the results of which will feed into a communication on fake news likely expected in April.