1592 + 193 = 53.
I knew that the wording of the legislative act was in urgent need of improvement.
I knew that some people would want to weaken it. Destroy it. Tear it apart.
I knew that many people –including at the negotiating table; I’m sorry to say – did not have the interests of the media and, consequently, the public at heart.
So I knew that… someone simply had to do it. Had to make the first sentence of this article a reality to the biggest extent possible. And so I did.
Had anybody asked me what the final text of the European Media Freedom Act would look like in early June, when the parliamentary negotiations started, my reply would certainly have been very cautious, and probably anything but optimistic. The situation was indeed dire, time was not on our side. First of all, we lost precious weeks of negotiation as the committees squabbled over who should be responsible for what. When it was finally agreed that the lead committee would be our committee, the Committee on Culture and Education, the attempts to dilute and undermine the text began. What followed was a month of extremely difficult negotiations, and I actually didn’t think that we would succeed. At least not sufficiently.
But we did. “We” means first and foremost my team: my assistant Rok, and my policy assistant Joanna. And yes, me too. Now I can safely say that we are the ones who have made the text better. We made it more ambitious. All of our amendments have been incorporated in one way or another into the text that was approved in the committee this morning.
If I were to explain everything we have achieved, it would take you until tomorrow to read it all. If not longer. So I have decided to take you through the key details in a bite-sized format over the coming weeks, and today I will focus very briefly on “just” the one that I personally consider the most important – especially in my own work.
The situation in the media is not ideal, not even close. It has been proven that journalists are being spied on, the public media are being dismantled and subjugated, some sort of quasi-media (i.e. propaganda machine) are being set up with murky funding, and media companies are being bought by individuals. Again, with (occasionally) murky funding. For political or economic interests, obviously.
With the current text of the European Media Freedom Act, every euro allocated to the media will be publicly disclosed . How? The transparency requirement of government funding of the media was extended beyond advertising – to all services, including to online platforms. In addition, any acquisition of a media outlet will have to follow a clearly defined procedure, during which the (potential) impact on editorial freedom and pluralism will be evaluated.
Finally, we will have comprehensive legislation at EU level that establishes a legally binding framework for the operation and governance of the media.
Finally, we will be able to prevent harmful practices that have taken place thus far, both by the authorities and the private market.
Finally, we will be able to do more than say merely that “we are concerned”.
Democracy does not work without a free media. The European Media Freedom Act is not, and in all likelihood will never be perfect, but it is the most decisive step we can take at the moment to ensure exactly that. Freedom of the media.
In the meantime, there are still a few hurdles to surmount before the process is over. In less than a month, the act will need to be adopted by the plenary of the European Parliament, and then the main challenge awaits: the inter-institutional negotiations on a truly final text.
Today, a total of 1785 (1592+193) amendments would have to be voted on, had no compromises been reached. But they were. 53 of them.
And these compromise amendments incorporate the vast majority of the 193 amendments tabled by us. By me and my team.
And that is why…
… 1592 plus 193 equals 53.
Greetings from Brussels!