European Union Report Proposes Stricter Media Regulation

It proposes EU-wide rules in such areas as libel laws and media councils with the right to impose fines and order apologies by media outlets.

LONDON -- Media companies in the European Union face stricter regulation, including EU-wide rules, investigations following complaints and media councils with the right to impose fines and order apologies by media outlets.

Proposals for such rules are part of a report by a EU body set up more than a year ago to ensure that media organizations do not abuse their power, the Financial Times reported.

The report has explored similar issues as the U.K. government and U.K. newspaper industry, which has been looking at the proposals made by the Leveson Investigation into media ethics following the News Corp. phone-hacking scandal.

It recommended a press regulator with wider powers. The newspaper industry's work on defining such a regulator could be superseded by the European proposals, if they become EU law.

The media councils would follow EU-wide standards and get monitored by the European Commission “to ensure that they comply with European values,” the FT quoted from the report. That proposal is expected to draw criticism from media companies fearing increased government interference.

The EU group said it was looking to protect media freedom but suggested a harmonization of media laws across the Union's 27 states.

“It would be particularly important to adopt minimum harmonization rules covering cross-border media activities on areas such as libel laws or data protection,” the FT quoted from its report.

“All EU countries should have independent media councils with a politically and culturally balanced and socially diverse membership,” the report also says. “Such bodies would have competences to investigate complaints [and] should have real enforcement powers, such as the imposition of fines, orders for printed or broadcast apologies, or removal of journalistic status.”

Neelie Kroes, vp of the European Commission, welcomed the recommendations, but said the European Commission would take time to digest them before proposing any new media laws.


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