EU wants to assess media mergers for media pluralism and editorial independence

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union wants to issue tougher rules for media groups seeking to acquire smaller rivals on whether their deals guarantee media pluralism and preserve editorial independence, according to the draft of EU rules as seen by Reuters.

The Media Freedom Act (MFA), which the European Commission will present later this week, comes amid concerns about media freedom in Poland, Hungary and Slovenia. The EU is also concerned about the attribution of some countries’ state advertising to pro-government outlets to influence the media.

The rules will apply to television 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 debated with EU countries and lawmakers before they can become law in a process that is likely to take a year or more.

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Concerns about media freedom have grown ahead of the 2024 European Parliament elections.

“It should be considered whether other media, offering different and alternative content, would still co-exist in the given market(s) after the market concentration of the media in question,” the document states. Guarantees of editorial independence should take into account undue interference from owners, management or governance structures, he added.

The proposed rules also require regulators to consider whether the merging companies would remain economically viable if there was no deal.

The EU executive and a new European Council of Media Services can give their opinion on whether the two criteria are met.

State advertising to media service providers must be transparent and non-discriminatory, the document says.

The proposed rules establish the right of journalists and media service providers not to be detained, sanctioned, subject to surveillance or search and seizure by EU governments and regulators.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Josie Kao)

Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters.

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