The Articles of the European Media Freedom Act (EMFA) (Proposal 16.9.2022)

Preamble 1 to 10

(1) Independent media services play a unique role in the internal market. They represent a fast-changing and economically important sector and at the same time provide access to a plurality of views and reliable sources of information to citizens and businesses alike, thereby fulfilling the general interest function of ‘public watchdog’. Media services are increasingly available online and across borders while they are not subject to the same rules and the same level of protection in different Member States.

(2) Given their unique role, the protection of media freedom and pluralism is an essential feature of a well-functioning internal market for media services (or ‘internal media market’). This market has substantially changed since the beginning of the new century, becoming increasingly digital and international. It offers many economic opportunities but also faces a number of challenges. The Union should help the media sector seize those opportunities within the internal market, while at the same time protecting the values, such as the protection of the fundamental rights, that are common to the Union and to its Member States.

(3) In the digital media space, citizens and businesses access and consume media content, immediately available on their personal devices, increasingly in a cross-border setting. Global online platforms act as gateways to media content, with business models that tend to disintermediate access to media services and amplify polarising content and disinformation. These platforms are also essential providers of online advertising, which has diverted financial resources from the media sector, affecting its financial sustainability, and consequently the diversity of content on offer. As media services are knowledge- and capital-intensive, they require scale to remain competitive and to thrive in the internal market. To that effect, the possibility to offer services across borders and obtain investment including from or in other Member States is particularly important.

(4) However, the internal market for media services is insufficiently integrated. A number of national restrictions hamper free movement within the internal market. In particular, different national rules and approaches related to media pluralism and editorial independence, insufficient cooperation between national regulatory authorities or bodies as well as opaque and unfair allocation of public and private economic resources make it difficult for media market players to operate and expand across borders and lead to an uneven level playing field across the Union. The integrity of the internal market for media services may also be challenged by providers that systematically engage in disinformation, including information manipulation and interference, and abuse the internal market freedoms, including by state-controlled media service providers financed by certain third countries.

(5) Moreover, in response to challenges to media pluralism and media freedom online, some Member States have taken regulatory measures and other Member States are likely to do so, with a risk of furthering the divergence in national approaches and restrictions to free movement in the internal market.

(6) Recipients of media services in the Union (natural persons who are nationals of Member States or benefit from rights conferred upon them by Union law and legal persons established in the Union) should be able to effectively enjoy the freedom to receive free and pluralistic media services in the internal market. In fostering the cross-border flow of media services, a minimum level of protection of service recipients should be ensured in the internal market. That would be in compliance with the right to receive and impart information pursuant to Article 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (‘the Charter’). It is thus necessary to harmonise certain aspects of national rules related to media services. In the final report of the Conference on the Future of Europe, citizens called on the EU to further promote media independence and pluralism, in particular by introducing legislation addressing threats to media independence through EU-wide minimum standards.

(7) For the purposes of this Regulation, the definition of a media service should be limited to services as defined by the Treaty and therefore should cover any form of economic activity. This definition should exclude user-generated content uploaded to an online platform unless it constitutes a professional activity normally provided for consideration (be it of financial or of other nature). It should also exclude purely private correspondence, such as e-mails, as well as all services that do not have the provision of audiovisual or audio programmes or press publications as their principal purpose, meaning where the content is merely incidental to the service and not its principal purpose, such as advertisements or information related to a product or a service provided by websites that do not offer media services. The definition of a media service should cover in particular television or radio broadcasts, on-demand audiovisual media services, audio podcasts or press publications. Corporate communication and distribution of informational or promotional materials for public or private entities should be excluded from the scope of this definition.

(8) In the digitalised media market, providers of video-sharing platforms or very large online platforms may fall under the definition of media service provider. In general, such providers play a key role in the content organisation, including by automated means or algorithms, but do not exercise editorial responsibility over the content to which they provide access. However, in the increasingly convergent media environment, some providers of video-sharing platforms or very large online platforms have started to exercise editorial control over a section or sections of their services. Therefore, such an entity could be qualified both as a video-sharing platform provider or a very large online platform provider and as a media service provider.

(9) The definition of audience measurement should cover measurement systems developed as agreed by industry standards within self-regulatory organisations, like the Joint Industry Committees, and measurement systems developed outside such self-regulatory approaches. The latter tend to be deployed by certain online players who self-measure or provide their proprietary audience measurement systems to the market, which do not necessarily abide by the commonly agreed industry standards. Given the significant impact that such audience measurement systems have on the advertising and media markets, they should be covered by this Regulation.

(10) State advertising should be understood broadly as covering promotional or self-promotional activities undertaken by, for or on behalf of a wide range of public authorities or entities, including governments, regulatory authorities or bodies as well as state-owned enterprises or other state-controlled entities in different sectors, at national or regional level, or local governments of territorial entities of more than 1 million inhabitants. However, the definition of state advertising should not include emergency messages by public authorities which are necessary, for example, in cases of natural or sanitary disasters, accidents or other sudden incidents that can cause harm to individuals.

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