In a resolution adopted on Wednesday by 577 votes to 47 and 76 abstentions, MEPs push for substantial support for the media sector from the EU and member states in order to help the sector recover from the pandemic and transform itself to keep pace with the changing business models of the digital age.
Ensuring financial and political independence
Worried about state capture of media in some member states and lawsuits designed to intimidate and silence journalists (“SLAPPs”), MEPs call for legislative and non-legislative tools to protect media organisations.
In order to safeguard the financial and political independence of European journalists and journalism, Parliament wants a permanent EU news media fund and stresses that EU recovery funds earmarked for the media must support media organisations in those EU countries where media face particular financial and political pressure or rule-of-law concerns.
MEPs also point to the dangers of the “disproportionate economic impact” and “predatory behaviour” of global online platforms that dominate data and advertising markets and have the power to remove legal content provided by media services. Additionally, they demand the urgent adoption of the Digital Services and Digital Markets acts, which can provide a level playing field for the EU media and ensure equal access to data and rules on online political advertising.
Helping audiovisual media
To support the EU’s audiovisual industry (filmmakers, producers, distributors and cinemas) MEPs demand the EU to develop special tax policies as well as fiscal and financial incentives to boost production and investments, the setting up of EU insurance guarantees for audiovisual co-productions and rules to ensure catalogues of on-demand services contain a share of European works of at least 30%.
“This is truly a crucial moment to strengthen the EU’s media and audiovisual sector”, rapporteur Dace Melbārde (ECR,LV) said. “The media ecosystem was fragile even before the pandemic but the crisis has reinforced the existing challenges it faces, as well as created new ones. Audiences are increasingly shifting to digital platforms, and the income from these is disproportionally flowing to the global players. Last year, the European media sector experienced a significant drop in advertising income, which is a crucial source of revenue for media organisations. At the same time, the Covid-19 crisis has amplified
the role of quality journalism; an absence of professional and swift reporting during times of
pandemic can cost lives.”
According to early estimates, during the pandemic news media has seen its advertising revenues drop by 20% to 80%.
The EU audiovisual sector suffered a massive revenue loss – a drop of almost 70% in box office revenues for cinemas and distributors in 2020, totalling EUR 4 billion, alongside a reduction of 30% in active productions. MEPs also quote increase of production costs due to stricter health and safety measures.