Council of Europe , Kyiv, 10-11 March 2005 – 2005/03/10-11
Defining the role and the responsibilities of journalists in crisis situations, discuss how to protect media pluralism and cultural diversity in the face of globalisation, and how to defend human rights in the “information society”, were the main themes of the 7th European Ministerial Conference on Mass Media Policy in Kyiv - Ukraine from 10-11 March 2005. This conference, who will include communications ministers from the 46 Council of Europe member states, had as a subject : Integration and diversity: the new frontiers of European media and communications policy. . Placed under the aegis of the Council of Europe, this conference also joined together well-known media figures and NGO representatives.
Three issues served as a basis for further discussion: In what way has the diversity of media ownership any significance for the democratic development of society? Does a global media concentration affect diversity at the national level? What should the role of the Council of Europe be with regard to diversity and pluralism? Many speakers, and particularly representatives from smaller Member States and from civil society, voiced concern about media concentration in their country, and the need to improve international monitoring and transparency of ownership. In this regard, they state that powerful international players and large national or transnational groups are taking growing control of both the political sphere and the media; the resulting unavoidable conflicts of interest are harmful not only to cultural diversity but also to democracy itself. Moreover, the media market may be targeted at quick profits and streamlining/narrowing down of the media available and, if things go really badly, may also damage the common values and pluralism of opinion, news and entertainment that so significantly contribute to giving a society energy and cohesion. But it can also be directed both at quality and quantity, pluralism of opinions, news and entertainment, and at media justice, locally and globally. Thus, if media concentration poses a direct threat to cultural diversity and to independent news coverage, however, at the European level, some media concentration, naturally within certain limits which we must clearly define, may be necessary to withstand the pressures of major non-European, and also European, media groups and to guarantee a diversified supply of European content as a vehicle for conveying common values and local identities.This is what the struggle is all about : « creating a market in which there is scope for diversity, both in content and ownership. This is primarily a matter of such factors as competition laws and financing systems, while being a question of interest both in the global and national context ».
On this basis, participants stress that « It is extremely important that society in general shoulders its responsibility for broad and diverse media content. For political society, it is even more important to monitor developments in the media sector closely and to advance good solutions and conditions, both for the general public and the media sector. If this is done carefully and responsibly, the chances are that it will be possible to preserve the democratic values that the media sector now helps to form and can help to form in the future ». They also state, « In the context of globalisation, we are concerned that local cultural industries and products may disappear from the local market. Promoting cultural diversity means that, while people are given a choice in the range of cultural products, local artists and creative industries are nevertheless protected. It has to be recognised that cultural vitality also depends on contacts with other cultures. In this respect, cultural diversity should not only be protected, but also promoted ».
As a result, the 7th Ministerial Conference on Mass Media Policy has identified a number of priority areas for audiovisual and media policies in Europe . Ministers stressed « The particularly important role of public service broadcasting in the digital environment, as an element of social cohesion, a reflection of cultural diversity and an essential factor for pluralistic communication accessible to all ». They further pointed out, « T he need for transparency in the media sector, including transparency of ownership, and the importance of monitoring media concentrations, both at the national and European level ». The conference concluded with the adoption of a political declaration and three separate resolutions, one on each of the main themes. Participants also adopted an action plan for Council of Europe-led co-operation in the fields of the media and new communication services for the next few years. At the request of the NGO Forum preceding the Conference, an additional paragraph was added to the Political Declaration to recall « The need to safeguard the independence of the media and to guarantee freedom from interference by political authorities ». [05-09]