Vĕra Jourová, Vice-President of the European Commission for Values and Transparency. Credit: Lukasz Kobus via EC Audiovisual Service.

EC Vice President Jourova Preparing Rules To Protect Media

Vera Jourova, the European Commission (EC)’s Vice President for Values and Transparency, is preparing EU rules to protect media and journalists, make their funding from public budgets more transparent, and preserve media plurality, she said in an interview with the public Czech Radio.

She also wants to ensure that neither states nor their organisations can interfere with media content. The new EU legislation will demand that states set criteria for the appointment of public media councils, said Czech EU Commissioner Jourova.

The EC plans to present the new “European Media Freedom Act” in September, she said, responding to current problems for member states.

EC President Ursula von der Leyen promised last September to submit a regulation on media freedom in 2022. At the time she said that Europe cannot do without a legal regulation to ensure the unbiased character of media outlets.

“Neither the states nor their organisations may interfere in the content that is to appear in mass media,” Jourova told Czech Radio. If media companies receive public money, it should be clearly specified on what it will be spent, she noted.

“We do not want states to use public sources to fund media which then write nicely about them, which is the current practice in some places,” Jourova said.

Czech Radio communication director Jiri Hosna said the system of collecting television and radio licence fees, in operation in the Czech Republic, was a guarantee of public media independence. “At the same time, this creates a direct relation between the public and Czech Radio and Czech Television, respectively,” he told CTK.

The new EU legislation will also cover media ownership. The EC will require information on proposed business acquisitions that could harm media plurality.

The legislation will include articles on better protection of journalists from the pressure to reveal their sources, and a complete ban on the use of espionage technologies, she added.

The new rules are to protect media and journalists and secure stable funding of public media, Jourova stressed. She also said that states should take measures to guarantee the transparent and unbiased appointment and dismissal of the heads of public media outlets.

Jourova noted that the EC regulation may also affect the appointment of media councils in the Czech Republic.

The provisions on public support for the media are a response to the situation in Hungary.

“Hungary has inspired us not only in the sphere of media funding from public budgets, but we primarily react to the creation of a monopoly called KESMA, comprising several hundred different media outlets now that enjoy the highest state support, after which it is disputable to what extent such media can be independent,” said Jourova, who has previously been a critic of the media situation in Hungary.

The Central European Press and Media Foundation (KESMA), which controls a major part of media outlets in Hungary, is close to the government of PM Viktor Orban.