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Money and the Media

A favourable economic environment is key for both the exercise of media freedom and a diverse media landscape. However, media are under serious economic pressure and challenges, including loss of audience share (to social media) and losses in advertising revenue.

This economic situation makes all forms of media more vulnerable to shocks – from government fines, expensive licensing systems, as in Tanzania, legal cases, or prosecutions – which makes outlets more likely to avoid controversial or critical coverage. In some contexts – such as Mexico, Colombia  and Belarus  – these financial pressures also increase the influence and necessity of state advertising. This situation limits the resources available for investigative reporting and poses a threat to the sustainability of public-interest journalism, as well as to the production of reliable and accurate information.

Across the world, we continue to see abuse of state resources, including public advertising (in countries like Mexico and Colombia and political figures attempting to capture media outlets (as in Hungary,  and media regulators. These strategies heavily affect the independence of the media and limit the range of viewpoints and information available to the public.

In Italy, Luigi Di Maio – leader of the Five Star Movement and then-Deputy Prime Minister -called on state-owned companies to stop advertising in newspapers, and announced plans for ‘a reduction of indirect public contributions’ to the media in the 2019 budget. [1]

Even in Denmark – a country with consistently high XpA scores – a 2018 agreement included a 20% reduction of the budget for national public-service media.[2]

A lack of transparency regarding media ownership can promote monopolies and undue concentration of media ownership, and mergers between media outlets, telecommunications companies, and other types of companies may limit opportunities for promoting media diversity; see Serbia  for an example. [3]

 

[1] Council of Europe, Freedom of Expression in 2018, April 2019, available at https://rm.coe.int/freedom-of-expression-2018-/1680943557

[2] Council of Europe, Freedom of Expression in 2018, April 2019, available at https://rm.coe.int/freedom-of-expression-2018-/1680943557

[3] The United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media, the Organization of American States Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, Joint Declaration on Media Independence and Diversity in the Digital Age, 2 May 2018, available at https://www.article19.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Joint-Declaration.2018.pdf

 

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