Europe needs to protect its free media if it wants to protect democracy.
That was the conclusion of the “Role of Independent Public Service Media (PSM) for Democracy in Europe” hearing at the European Parliament in Brussels on 26 September.
MEPs and top managers from EBU Members in Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Greece, Lithuania and Sweden agreed that urgent actions need to be taken to protect free media and independent PSM in Europe.
EBU Executive Board Member and DG of Swedish Radio, Cilla Benkö, underlined that liberal democracy in Europe is currently being challenged and the EU is doing little to stop attacks on free media.
"This is a clear call for action", she said. “Protection of free media and independent PSM should be made the priority of the EU.
"The true independence of PSM should be guaranteed, long term funding must be secured and PSM's broad remit should be safeguarded," she added.
The hearing was co-hosted by MEPs from different political groups – Petras Austrevicius (ALDE), Tanja Fajon (SD), Eugen Freund (SD), Cecilia Wikström (ALDE) and Tadeusz Zwiefka (EPP) and attended by around 70 participants.
It provided an opportunity for MEPs to publicly recognise the value of PSM in sustaining healthy democracies. Cecilia Wikström said in countries where independent PSM is striving, democracy is thriving.
"There is no democracy without freedom of expression and freedom of media", said the EU Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel.
EBU President and DG of French Belgian Member RTBF, Jean Paul Philippot pointed out that the pressures on PSM in Europe are increasing manifold; from politicians, who want to control them by constant budget cuts and severe competition shrinking their remit.
These challenges are having an impact across the continent and not only on the continent's young democracies.
At the same time, the hearing was told, the EU seems to lack a solid media policy, which protects free media in Europe and which deals effectively with attacks on free and independent media.
"Independent, professional and well-funded PSM can be part of the solution for overcoming the challenge for liberal democracy in Europe", said Dr Klaus Unterberger from Austrian Member ORF.
"Now, more than ever we need the credible and trusted voice of PSM. PSM, which provides high quality and verified content, which gives voice to the voiceless, and which caters for the social cohesion in the European societies loaded with heavy challenges."
In his concluding remarks, Polish MEP Tadeusz Zwiefka said, called for discussions on the importance of PSM's contribution to society to continue at a future event.