(No.115) Media pluralism and freedom of expression in the Internet age

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Workshop Theme: 
Emerging Issues
Theme Question: 

Emerging Issues - Question 1, 2
·          What are acceptable and proportionate measures that offer Intellectual Property protection, yet allow for and respect individual users’ freedom to express themselves, to access and share content/culture, and to innovate and create?
·          In what ways are new opportunities and challenges being created as the new Internet services and traditional media (such a broadcast TV and radio) are accessed through the ‘same screen’?
·          What are the policy challenges around free flow of information, freedom of expression and human rights and the Internet as they relate to access?
·          What measures can be taken to ensure freedom of expression, access to knowledge and privacy, including for children? What are challenges to protect freedom of expression online and what measures can be taken to better empower citizen’s access to information and participation in digital age?“Net Etiquette” and the roles and responsibilities of users as they relate to openness, privacy security?

Concise Description of Workshop: 

The advent of the Internet and the transition towards convergence and cloud-based content provision potentially challenge the traditional notion of pluralism, at the same time expanding its potential and undermining its foundations. The impact of these developments on freedom of expression and pluralism is highly debated. This workshop  examines current risks in the field of pluralism and freedom of the media and devise ways to address them
The workshop will discuss:
·         The definition of media in the Internet age: how comprehensive should it be, does the definition of media include responsibility for editorial control?
·         The new actors -bloggers, citizen journalists- of the new media: do these actors require special protection?
·         Limitations to media freedom arising from political interference (state intervention or national legislation)
·         Possible policy measures to preserve media pluralism on the Internet (e.g. protecting the end-to-end architecture of the Internet, a robust best effort network, legal rules on “must-carry” content, protection of user-generated content, etc.).
·         The notion of pluralism in the era of online search: should it lead to “diversity by design”, or “exposure by design” principles to preserve pluralism?
·         Striking a balance between copyright protection and pluralism: can we find the right balance between respect to pluralism and the need for copyright enforcement? The consequences for pluralism of deep packet inspection.
This discussion will be based i.a. on the work of the Council of Europe and the new initiatives launched by the European Commission in the past months: from the creation of a high level group on media pluralism to the MEDIADEM project, or the creation of a dedicated Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom within the Robert Schuman School of the European University Institute in December 2011 which is expected to prepare inter alia a report on Commission competencies in respect of media pluralism and media freedom
These initiatives place the EU at the forefront of the debate concerning the respect, protection, support and promotion of pluralism and freedom of the media in Europe, and thus in the best position to organize this workshop.
Introduction by the moderator

  • Andrea Renda, CEPS
  • Media Pluralism: National challenges and a supra-national duty to protect media pluralism?
    • Pilar del Castillo, MEP
  • Old media pluralism vis-à-vis new media pluralism
    • Ben Hammersley, Wired Magazine
    • Eli Noam, Columbia CITI
  • Media pluralism and freedom of expression
    • Anja Kovacs, Centre for Internet and Society India
    • Evangelia Psychogiopoulou
    • Alasgar Mammadli, Irex Azerbaijan, Lawyer, Deputy of Chief
  • Access to content or content to access? Media pluralism and the digital divide
  • The multiple facets of media pluralism: Research, methodologies and public policy
    • Peggy Valcke, KU Leuven
  • The changing role of public service media online: Quality, access and availability
    • Giacomo Mazzone, EBU
    • Maciej Tomaszewski, European Commission, DG CONNECT


Organiser(s) Name: 

CEPS (Andrea Renda), ULB (Caroline Pauwels), Université de Louvain (Peggy Valcke), EUI (Florence School of Regulation – Pierluigi Parcu, Global Governance Programme – Miguel Maduro), CEU (Kristina Irion).

Submitted Workshop Panelists: 


  • Andrea Renda, Center for European Policy Studies (CEPS) – Moderator
  • Pilar del Castillo, Member of the European Parliament
  • Anja Kovacs, Centre for Internet and Society India
  • Peggy Valcke, KU Leuven
  • Alasgar Mammadli, Irex Azerbaijan, Lawyer, Deputy of Chief
  • Ben Hammersley (UK), Wired magazine; member European Commission High Level Expert Group on Media Freedom and Pluralism
  • Giacomo Mazzone, European Broadcasting Union
  • Eli Noam, CITI, Columbia University, New York
  • Evangelia Psychogiopoulou, Research Fellow, ELIAMEP, Athens
  • Maciej Tomaszewski, European Commission, DG CONNECT
Name of Remote Moderator(s): 
Camino Manjon, DG CONNECT, European Commission
Gender Report Card
Please estimate the overall number of women participants present at the session: 
About half of the participants were women
To what extent did the session discuss gender equality and/or women's empowerment?: 
It was not seen as related to the session theme and was not raised
Reported by: 
Maciej Tomaszewski
A brief substantive summary and the main issues that were raised: 

The Centre for European Political Studies organised a workshop "Media freedom and freedom of expression in Internet age" which took place on 8 November 2012 during the 7th meeting of the Internet Governance Forum. The European Commission helped with the organisation of this workshop in order to provide an opportunity for independent experts to express their opinion how the traditional notion of pluralism might be adapted to the digital age.
Those experts elaborated in their personal capacity the following recommendations:
1. First of all, in order to identify the best possible policy options, it is important to understand the current Internet media landscape. Therefore, it is important to raise awareness about the following facts:

  1. Internet is considered to constitute an environment in which media pluralism is easy to ensure. However, it is important to raise awareness that at least currently, Internet media is a highly concentrated market.
  2. Despite its universality, Internet media markets are different according to the countries. In particular, those markets are different in developed and in developing countries.
  3. It is important to recognize, that the Internet does not only constitute a tool enabling for free expression, but that it can be also used as a surveillance tool.
  4. The massive abundance of available content does not ensure media pluralism as consumers are not able to process this amount of content.  

2. Only after better understanding the current situation of media in Internet age, it is possible to lay down some proposals for ensuring media freedom and freedom of speech in Internet age. The following proposals should be considered:

  1. Tools are needed to systematically monitor different factors which have impact on media pluralisms. Those tools should take into account the specificity of the Internet.
  2. There should be a strong focus on interoperability in order to lower barriers of entry into media market.
  3. Copyright provisions also play an important role in ensuring media freedom. Some changes may include the liberalisation of copyright or the introduction in some cases of compulsory licensing.
  4. User-empowerment should be one of key actions. This might be implemented not only in raising-awareness actions, but also through better use of possibilities given by the user-generated content
  5. Pluralism of media should also mean "pluralism of sources" – it is important to ensure that information come from diversified sources
  6. A "diversity by design" notion should be introduced. This principle would mean that intermediaries who enable finding information should actually contribute to ensuring media pluralism.
  7. It is argued that certain rules imposed on traditional media are not well applied to new media, creating a disturbance in the equal level-playing field. Those rules include for instance competition law, obligations of public broadcasters, privacy laws etc. A proper consideration is needed to ensure that those rules, to the extent possible, are also applicable to Internet users.
  8. A global nature of the Internet must be recognised. Therefore, the development of international common standards in the area of media pluralism should be considered.


Conclusions and further comments: 

"The entire report from the workshop is prepared in a form of conclusions from independent experts".