EU Council considers enabling media to contest online content restrictions
The Swedish presidency of the EU Council proposed giving media outlets the power to scrutinise content restriction decisions in a new compromise text to the Media Freedom Act circulated this week.
The new media law is a legislative proposal to put more stringent transparency measures and safeguards on editorial independence and thereby bolster media freedom and pluralism throughout the EU.
The new compromise text, leaked by Contexte, was shared with national representatives of the Audiovisual and Media Working Party, a technical body that prepares the work for ministerial approval, ahead of a meeting next Tuesday (21 February).
Commission releases Media Freedom Act proposal, to mixed reactions
The Commission has released its proposal for a Media Freedom Act, to mixed reaction from civil society and media sector organisations.
The most significant changes in the text concern the article regulating media content distribution on very large online platforms (VLOPs) like Facebook and Twitter, which are under stricter obligations under the Digital Services Act.
In the original text, the platforms with more than 45 million users in the EU are required to allow their users to declare whether they are independent media outlets and if they are subject to binding or voluntary requirements in terms of editorial standards and responsibility.
Under the new compromise, as part of these declarations, media service providers would be required to provide the contact details of whatever authorities oversee these editorial requirements.
Where there is reasonable doubt that they are under regulatory supervision, the platforms would now be obliged to confirm this with the relevant authority.
If the VLOPs consider the media content does not pose a systemic risk to society but is incompatible with their terms and conditions, they might restrict or suspend its dissemination while explaining to the media outlets the reasons behind its decision.
The platforms would have to inform the media at once about their intention to restrict or suspend their content, allowing the outlets to object within an “appropriate period of time”.
Before, the media’s capacity to object was limited to suspension decisions. In contrast, restrictions are much broader as they cover the recommender system of social media that might demote certain content for whatever reason.
Even if the media does not reply, the platforms would have to inform them once the content is suspended or restricted.
Every year, these large digital platforms would also have to publish detailed information on the number of instances they carried out restrictions and suspensions of media content and on what grounds.
Other significant changes deal with the guidance on media regulation issues that will be provided by the European Board for Media Services, the body that will replace the existing European Regulators Group for Audiovisual Media Services.
In issuing this guidance, the Swedish presidency wants the Board to consult with civil society organisations and not only national authorities and stakeholders.
Reference to the Board working “in close cooperation with the Commission” in advising national authorities on regulatory, technical or practical aspects of the Media Freedom Act’s implementation has been removed.
The Commission might also issue guidance related to implementing the new media law and the Audiovisual Media Services Directive, but only for cross-border matters.
Member states ask for flexibility, regulators’ independence in new media law
The independence and flexibility of media regulators, data protection and non-compliance measures are the focus of several member states’ comments on the European Media Freedom Act proposal.