Dr. Roderick Flynn, a FuJo expert in media freedom and pluralism, was invited to present expert testimony to the Joint Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media on the proposed European Media Freedom Act. The Act is a landmark initiative aimed at strengthening the free and pluralistic media system and the commitment to protect journalists and editorial independence within the European Union. The Committee’s aim is to gain more insight from those that will be affected by the Act and to address in-depth at the issues that the stakeholders have with some of the Articles of the Act.
Roderick who is the principal Irish investigator of the Media Pluralism Monitor spoke about some of the Articles of the Media Freedom Act that address risks to media pluralism identified by his research as relevant to Ireland. The Committee also heard from representatives from DCU’s National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre and the National Union of Journalists.
The Media Pluralism Monitor project which directly informs the framing of the proposed Act is a European Commission-funded and European University Institute-led project. It assesses the potential weaknesses in national media systems that may hinder media pluralism. Based on 20 indicators, summarising 200 variables, it covers four areas: fundamental protection, market plurality, political independence, and social inclusiveness. For Ireland, it assesses actual and potential threats to media pluralism in under 200 headings. Rodrick is also the principal investigator on the BAI-funded Media Ownership Ireland website which allows the public to identify at a granular level the ownership and control of Irish-based and Irish-facing print, broadcast or online media outlets. Work has also commenced on the Irish element of the Euromedia Ownership Monitor (“EuroMo”), led by the University of Salzburg and funded by the European Commission. EuroMo adopts a deeper but narrower approach to understanding how editorial content may be influenced not merely through ownership and control but also more indirectly through, for example, informal associations between media owners and non-media actors (e.g. in politics, business, trade unions and civil society organisations).
Roderick emphasised that these projects illustrate how much attention is being paid to matters of media pluralism and concentration and how much concern there is internationally (and particularly at the EU level) about the manner in which the changing political, technological and economic climate in which media operate is challenging their capacity to fulfil their constitutive role in the operation of a healthy democratic polity. In terms of the Media Freedom Act itself, he highlighted five articles in particular which may require some significant legislative and regulatory change in Ireland.