European Media Freedom Act (EMFA)

On 16 September 2022, the European Commission published the proposal for a regulation “establishing a common framework for media services in the internal market (European Media Freedom Act)"
The European Media Freedom Act aims to address a long-term need: the protection and promotion of media pluralism in Europe by providing a common set of rules to govern the shared European information ecosystem.

Media Freedom in the European Union

The European Commission (EC) has not had many available instruments nor legal framework to act on matters related to media freedom. While some individual Member States address pluralism and media freedoms in their national legislation, media freedom has not been given an effective legal framework of its own at the EU level - until now. As an area usually reserved to the authority of Member States, which are required to comply with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, the effectiveness of the mechanisms in place to ensure their compliance has proven insufficient (see, for instance, the application of Article 7 in the EU Treaties in the case of Poland and Hungary).
Moreover, the state of media pluralism in Europe is more fragile than it might otherwise appear: The 2022 Rule of Law report and the Mapping Media Freedom platform show that press freedom is declining across Europe, while Media Pluralism Monitor reveals troubling trends:
None of the countries analysed is free from risks to media pluralism.
Professional conditions for journalists are deteriorating, of particular concern are physical attacks, increasing online harassment and a rising number of SLAPPs.
Media market plurality is close to a high-risk level (specifically media and online platforms concentration are at a very high-risk level). The results also point out the lack of transparency in media ownership.
Online platforms and election indicators score below the threshold (the Regulation on political advertising is expected to have an impact on these indicators).
Media literacy and protection against hate speech and disinformation are at medium risk
The impacts of disinformation need to be further analysed to better understand the risks it brings and create the best legal framework to address them.

What's in the European Media Freedom Act?

The proposal precisely builds on the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD). For instance, it gives a broader scope to ERGA for both actions and tasks. Through its different chapters, EMFA also includes new rules on state advertising, audience measurement and to protect journalistic sources and communications as well as safeguards to public service media. The fourth section of Chapter III, addresses the issues concerning the provision of media services in the digital environment. In line with GFMD’s digital strategy, the articles under this section will be one of our main advocacy priorities to ensure the sustainability of media and journalism in the digital information ecosystem.
This legislative proposal is accompanied by a recommendation on internal safeguards for editorial independence and ownership transparency in the media sector which encourages media companies and Member States to foster media independence and transparency.

What is next?

The proposal is now in the hands of the European Parliament. The Parliament's Committee on Culture and Education (CULT) has been pre-designated as the committee responsible, with the Committees on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) and Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) asked to give an opinion. However, some voices have proposed that this file is owned jointly by CULT and LIBE Committees, and it remains to be seen if other Committees will have their say on the proposal.