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With the EMFA, the EU has a new toolbox to prevent governments from taking over the media

25 March 2024
With the EMFA, the EU has a new toolbox to prevent governments from taking over the media

On 26 March, the European Media Freedom Act (EMFA) has received its final green light by national Ministers. The law will soon become binding for all Member States. The EMFA is a significant step, but not a sure-fire success, towards safeguarding and promoting media pluralism and editorial independence in the EU.

Richard Burnley, Director of Legal and Policy, EBU said: “The EU now has the right tools to prevent governmental control over the media. While it may take time to fully reverse the worrying trend in certain Member States, the EU should use the EMFA immediately as a bulwark against any new attempts by governments to interfere with independent media organisations. The recently proposed changes by the Slovak government regarding their public broadcaster, RTVS, would significantly compromise its independence and clearly clash with the EMFA’s principles. We remind the Slovak government of their new obligations under the EMFA and call on the EU to protect the independence of public service media based on the new law.”

The EMFA sets out clear safeguards for public service media. Member States must ensure their editorial and functional independence, prevent the politicization of management structures, and guarantee adequate, sustainable, and predictable funding. These principles are key so that public service media can fulfill their important role for social cohesion, opinion-forming and democratic participation.

Importantly, the EMFA also establishes minimum standards for the protection of journalistic sources. However, the EBU urges Member States to go beyond these standards and encourages stronger protections for journalists and their sources.

Richard Burnley continued: “If Europe wants to remain a stronghold for democracy in the world, Member States must commit to free and independent media by adopting the most ambitious laws possible to protect journalists and their sources. Where journalists can be spied on, neither media freedom nor democracy can thrive.”

Since large online platforms, device manufacturers and user interfaces nowadays stand between Europe’s media and their audiences, the EBU also welcomes important rules promoting the access to media services via these powerful intermediaries. Public service media applaud, for example:

  • the procedural safeguards if large online platforms intend to suspend or restrict editorial content made available by independent media
  • the obligation for device manufacturers and interface providers to display the visual identity of media organisations, such as logos, alongside their content and services
  • the right of media organisations to request audience measurement results for their content and services provided on online platforms

As next steps, the EBU encourages the EU and Member States waste no time in making use of the EMFA where appropriate.


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