Media pluralism in the EU and *cough* responsible blogging

Some European MPs sure love to control everything, as Alex’ post Horrible European Surveillance Proposals already demonstrated. It may be old news to some of you, but check out this motion for a European Parliament resolution (pdf) by Estonian MEP Marianne Mikko entitled Draft report on concentration and pluralism in the media in the European Union (2007/2253(INI)). In her proposal Mikko makes some sensible suggestions, but then comes this:

O. whereas weblogs are an increasingly common medium for self-expression by media professionals as well as private persons, the status of their authors and publishers, including their legal status, is neither determined nor made clear to the readers of the
weblogs, causing uncertainties regarding impartiality, reliability, source protection,
applicability of ethical codes and the assignment of liability in the event of lawsuits,

followed by

9. Suggests clarifying the status, legal or otherwise, of weblogs and encourages their voluntary labelling according to the professional and financial responsibilities and interests of their authors and publishers;

The explanation:

The development and acceptance of new technologies have led to the emergence of new media channels and new kinds of content. The emergence of new media has brought more dynamic and diversity into the media landscape; the report encourages responsible use of new channels. In this context the report points out that the undetermined and unindicated status of authors and publishers of weblogs causes uncertainties regarding impartiality, reliability, source protection, applicability of ethical codes and the assignment of liability in the event of lawsuits. It recommends clarification of the legal status of different categories of weblog authors and publishers as well as disclosure of interests and voluntary labelling of weblogs.

Now, for my question. Have weblogs really become so important (in Europe) that their authors pose a threat to media pluralism? Or is former old school journalist Mikko merely concerned about the competition from new media? Discuss, if you like. By the way, thank goodness we are not living in Iran.

Full disclosure: My real name is Guillaume van Turnhout, I am vaguely centrist and I am voluntarily declaring that I have no outspoken covert agenda, neither politically nor commercially. I am sure this will be of great comfort to AFOE readers who, in any case, are already totally aware of the banality of my blogging existence. Hat tip for this post goes to Sargasso.

Dare we hope?

Bad news for the old crook.

Through his family-controlled Fininvest empire, Berlusconi runs Mediaset, by far the biggest commercial TV broadcaster in Italy. His empire also runs the biggest national advertiser, the biggest publisher and much else. Given Italy’s long tradition of political interference with public sector broadcasting, this means that when he has been prime minister he has wielded influence over almost everything watched by Italians on TV, from news programmes to adverts.

But on January 31 the European Court of Justice made a first dent in Italy’s unusually concentrated media market when it ruled that the national broadcasting system failed to foster competition. In essence, the court recognised what anyone who has lived in Italy (I did so for five years) knows: the present system is a stitch-up between Mediaset and Rai, the state-controlled broadcaster.

This was an important moment because it reminded Italians that, even if they cannot fix what is wrong in Italy, Europe can sometimes do it for them. Since Berlusconi entered politics in 1993-94, turning his media dominance into a serious national issue, Italy has had two spells of centre-left government – 1996-2001 and May 2006 to the present day. In neither spell did the centre-left succeed in passing laws to reform the media sector or curb politicans’ conflicts of interest.

One can speculate as to the reasons why. In the late 1990s, it was perhaps because former premier Massimo D’Alema was too clever by half and Berlusconi outmanoeuvred him. More recently, Prodi’s government was probably too weak and divided to pass such laws – though it had promised it would.

In any event, the spotlight will now move to Brussels. Buoyed by recent victories such as the landmark Microsoft case, the EU competition authorities have never felt stronger when it comes to taking on corporate power. At some point in Berlusconi’s future premiership (assuming he wins the election), it is a safe bet that a test case challenging his media dominance will under the scrutiny of Brussels.

The credibility of the EU as a regulator with worldwide influence will be on the line. But so, too will the reputation of the multi-billionaire Berlusconi. It will be some spectacle.

Tidal Wave Fails to Devastate Rue de Solférino

Well, we shall wait to see the pundits explain exactly why the planned “vague bleue” for Nicolas Sarkozy failed to wipe out all traces of socialism in France as predicted. Leszek Kolakowski once described his Theory of the Infinite Cornucopia, which states that there exists an Infinite Cornucopia of reasons that can be invoked after the fact for whichever event actually happens. No doubt the cornucopia will be emptied and licked clean.

Le Monde reports – the PS has actually gained seats from last time, and the doomsodden predictions are exploded. Current forecasts put the UMP on 311-320 seats as against 359 in 2002, the PS on 210-212 compared with 149 last time out, the Communists on 17-18 (still in with a chance of saving their status as a parliamentary group), the Greens clinging on to four seats, the Nouveau Centre (the pro-Sarkozy UDFers) with 20 seats, and Francois Bayrou’s Mouvement Democrate with four seats. Le Pen gets zilch. Philippe de Villiers’ barking-right MPF gets anywhere between 2 and 6 seats.

It’s the leadership that suffered, though. Alain Juppé, the ex-prime minister and ex-con who was tapped to run a new, giant ministry of transport, infrastructure, energy and the environment, lost his seat in Bordeaux to the Socialist mayor. Arno Klarsfeld, one of the Right’s intellectuals, also got the order of the boot. Essentially everywhere, the MoDem voters swung to the Left.

So did François Hollande, although personally rather than politically. It emerged today that his partner, Ségoléne Royal, has thrown the First Secretary out of their home. Le Figaro found this such shattering news that they ran it on the front page lead, as a tiny news-in-brief ticker mentioned the insignificant detail that, well, the left got a majority of votes cast.

Laurent Fabius and Jean-Claude Cambadélis, who both rushed to the cameras with prepared doomsaying about how the PS must be “refounded” (translation = must be led by me), may be feeling a little stranded by the wave’s failure to arrive.

Fifth anniversary of 9-11

I do not normally do linkdumps here on AFOE, but German Television Channel ZDF has a magnificent interactive online anniversary exhibition on 9-11 that is a must see even for those of you who do not speak German: click here

PS: I cannot tell if the site works for people who are not on DSL or ISDN. Hat tip for the link goes to Dutch weblog Sargasso.