Media shares of foreign publishers Drucken

Media shares of foreign publishers – danger or opportunity for freedom and diversity of the media?

Christian Möller
Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media

The Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media

The mandate of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media was adopted by all then 54 participating States of the OSCE in the Permanent Council (PC) on 5 November 1997. The first Representative, Freimut Duve, took up his work in January 1998. His term was extended once until 31 December 2003. The Office of the youngest independent institution of the OSCE – besides ODIHR and HCNM – is located in Vienna.

The function of the Representative is to observe relevant media developments in the OSCE region with a view of providing an early warning against violations of freedom of expression. His mandate refers to OSCE principles and commitments, thus forming a common and universal framework with regard to media freedom for all participating States regardless of cultural or historical background. In case of non-compliance with OSCE principles and commitments the Representative will seek "direct contact, in an appropriate manner, with the participating State". The Representative's second main task is to assist participating States by advocating and promoting full compliance with these main provisions. He collects and receives information on the situation of the media from all bona fide sources and may at all times collect and receive from participating States and other interested parties (e.g. NGOs) requests, suggestions and comments, related to strengthening and further developing compliance with relevant OSCE principles and commitments, including alleged serious instances of intolerance by participating States ("hate speech").

Freedom of the press and the media is not only an idealistic idea, but also a keystone for democratic societies, constitutional values, and economic development, thus meaning human security and stability. Media as the "fourth power" serve a watchdog function not only for politics and governments but also for economics and companies and confine corruption. Also, in the last years media itself have become an important and still growing part of the economic sector.

Media Concentration and Foreign Media Ownership

Over the past decade the European journalistic media have experienced some fundamental changes. Decisive for the historically unique chance to create a Europe wide network of free, independent and pluralistic media were the regime changes in Eastern and Southeastern Europe. At the same time the opening of those markets has accelerated the trend of media concentration all over Europe. This has been particularly evident in the print media sector.

Free and independent media need a sound financial basis. They have to be independent from indirect pressure on the content by advertising companies or state subsidies in order to guarantee for the editorial independence of their journalists. Especially in the emerging, sometimes rather small, markets in Eastern and South Eastern Europe the financial situation of newspapers and the revenue of advertisement is very insecure, making journalists and media vulnerable to influence from companies and/or governments.

Here, foreign investment in media might help to stabilize the financial situation, thus giving more room for editorial independence and investigative journalism, as long as the editorial independence of the local journalists is guaranteed. Principles for Guaranteeing Editorial Independence, as proposed by the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, could be a means to achieve this independence.

However, media concentration always implies a threat for pluralism of opinion. Horizontal concentration, e.g. ownership of a large number of regional newspapers, might lead to unified papers with local supplements only. Vertical concentration, e.g. the ownership of newspapers, printing houses and distribution channels, might prevent market access for smaller or new media companies.

After the process of media concentration can be observed in many countries in the OSCE region, the Representative on Freedom of the Media decided to conduct an in-depth research on the impact of these concentration processes on professional journalism and freedom and pluralism of the media. The study that will be published in December 2003 will consist of two parts: part one describing the media landscape of eight exemplary countries (Finland, Lithuania, England, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Romania, and Italy), part two evaluating a questionnaire that has been sent to journalists in these countries.

More information on the Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media is available online at