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EU Wants to Ensure Independent Media, Tougher Rules for Media Mergers

Media groups seeking to take over smaller rivals will have to make sure that their deals ensure media pluralism and safeguard editorial independence under draft rules announced by the European Commission on Friday.

The Media Freedom Act (MFA) is part of the European Union’s strategy to prevent political interference in media outlets and spying on journalists. It also requires state advertising to media service providers to be transparent and non-discriminatory.

The proposed rules come amid worries about media freedom in Hungary, Poland and Slovenia and foreign interference in countries holding national elections.

“Democracy will work only if journalists have the means and the necessary protection to keep in check those in power and those with power, be it political or economic actors,”

Commission Vice President Vera Jourova told a news conference.

“This law should be seen as a piece of a broader puzzle. It is part of our efforts to protect democracy at large and to bring some order in our digital information space,” she said.

The rules will apply to TV and radio broadcasters, on-demand audiovisual media services, press publications and very large online platforms and providers of video-sharing platforms.

They will need to be thrashed out with EU countries and lawmakers before they can become law in a process likely to take a year or more.

The proposed rules require regulators to examine whether the merging companies would remain economically sustainable if there was no deal.

There are safeguards against the use of spyware against media, journalists and their families. The EU executive and a new European Board for Media Services can offer their opinions on whether the two criteria have been met.