Media pluralism is a fundamental pillar of democracy.
Yet, in several EU countries, large segments of the population are no longer able to access impartial news. Governments are attempting to control the media, through ownership concentration and abusive laws damaging independent outlets.
RECLAIM works to safeguard European citizens access to independent journalism and a pluralistic media landscape.
Monitor challenges to media and journalists ability to operate free from governmental interference.
Develop training materials on competition enforcement for public interest media foundations and watchdogs
Bring the stories of embattled journalists to EU and Member States officials’ attention.
File anti-trust complaints and expert reports before the European Commission.
Explore legal avenues under EU competition law to safeguard a pluralistic media environment.
Develop recommendations for EU policymakers.
OUR FEATURED POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS
Enforce anti-trust laws.
The Commission should carry out a preliminary study on the competitiveness of news and media markets in Europe.
Ensure authorities' independence.
The Commission should investigate whether National Competition Authorities meet the requirements of independence and autonomy set out in EU law.
Open infringement proceedings.
The Commission should bring Member States whose Media Regulatory Authorities and/or Competition Authorities are not independent and impartial before the European Court of Justice.
Go to Court.
Media outlets should consider suing Member States which failed to transpose the AVMS Directive and to ensure the independence of national Media Regulatory Authorities.
GOVERNMENT AFFILIATED MEDIA CONGLOMERATE DOMINATES 80% OF NEWS COVERAGE
With the establishment of KESMA, Fidesz cemented its control over the media. In the absence of a strong response from the EU, such a model could be easily replicated in other Member States, endangering media pluralism in the whole EU.
Corporate ownership can be used to influence and manipulate the editorial line of a news outlet. Through the creation of the media conglomerate KESMA, Fidesz now indirectly controls over 80% of news coverage in Hungary, putting independent media outlets in the corner. This was achieved by fundamentally distorting competition.
In November 2018, more than 470 government-affiliated media outlets merged, giving birth to the media conglomerate KESMA. Competition and Media Authorities were excluded from reviewing this operation. The government issued a decree declaring it of “national strategic importance”, thereby exempting it from regulatory review and preventing any oversight on KESMA’s impact on the market.
Merger review exemptions are extremely rare. They need to be based on clear public interest grounds and are implemented after the relevant competition authorities have had the chance to study possible competition concerns, not before. Given its apparent abuse of the spirit of the law, the decree was challenged by the opposition, who claimed its incompatibility with the Hungarian Constitution.
Despite the critics, the Constitutional Court rejected the petition in June 2020. It stated that the matter pertained to the government alone, given KESMA’s national strategic importance. In the aftermath of the decision, several civil society and media freedom organisations vigorously criticised the ruling, calling for the protection of the media’s freedoms.
Since 2010, Orban’s strategy to capture the media has also encompassed the allocation of state advertisement. Using it as an instrument of political favouritism, Fidesz can distort the market by exerting economic pressure against non-aligned media, compounding and exacerbating the important competition and democratic concerns raised by the creation of KESMA.
At RECLAIM, we believe the European Commission should do more. It can, for instance, assess the competitiveness of media markets through market investigations in the media and advertising sectors. At the same time, it should conduct early assessments of the impact of similar draft laws on the media market. The protection of media pluralism and consumer choice must become a priority.