How fragile is media credibility? Accountability and transparency in journalism: research, debates, perspectives Final Research Report | Media Accountability and Transparency in Europe

How fragile is media credibility? Accountability and transparency in journalism: research, debates, perspectives
Final Research Report | Media Accountability and Transparency in Europe


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<strong>MediaAcT</strong><br />

Final Research Report<br />

How fragile is media credibility?<br />

Accountability and transparency in journalism: research, debates, perspectives<br />

www.mediaact.eu<br />

www.mediaspeak.org<br />

Media Accountability and Transparency in Europe

index Index | Editorial | Birds-eye view | Opening the toolbox | Zoom-in on the newsroom | Media landscapes<br />

BIrds-EyE<br />

vIEw<br />

5 A RigHT ROYAl TUsslE<br />

Between press freedom and<br />

state-sanctioned self-regulation<br />

8 lET’s TAlK TO THE nEWsROOM<br />

Facts and figures of the <strong>MediaAcT</strong> research<br />

project<br />

9 MEDiA ACCOUnTABiliTY in<br />


The state of media accountability in different<br />

countries<br />

AddITIOnAl<br />

4 EDiTORiAl<br />

40 gUEsT EssAY<br />

42 inTERViEWs<br />

44 lEgAl nOTiCE<br />

44 AUTHORs<br />

OpEnIng ThE<br />

TOOlBOx<br />


Traditional press councils and “readers’ letters”<br />

14 EUROPEAn FlAgsHiPs<br />

Best practice examples of media<br />

accountability<br />

18<br />

20<br />

22<br />


Media accountability tools online<br />

iT’s TRAnsPAREnCY, sTUPiD !<br />

To what extent and how should<br />

journalists engage in audience participation?<br />

ACTiOn!<br />

How media research can have a lasting<br />

impact on journalists and the public<br />

Photograph: Lutz Kampert

ZOOM-In On ThE<br />

nEwsrOOM<br />

24 CRiTiCAl OR HYPOCRiTiCAl<br />

jOURnAlisTs?<br />

Results of a worldwide survey<br />

28 TRAining is A MUsT<br />

Journalism education fosters media<br />

accountability<br />

30 HOW TO inCREAsE MEDiA<br />

ACCOUnTABiliTY<br />

Do journalists need more incentives or<br />

sanctions to use accountability tools?<br />

32 in THE PillARY!<br />

Errors in reasoning by media management<br />

concerning newsroom self-inspection<br />

Photograph: Lutz Kampert<br />

MEdIA<br />

lAndscApEs<br />

34 CUlTURE ClUB: sHARED VAlUEs<br />


Accountability cultures in Europe –<br />

first assumptions<br />

36 MEDiA lAnDsCAPEs in<br />

TRAnsiTiOn i<br />

Focus on central and eastern Europe<br />

38 MEDiA lAnDsCAPEs in<br />

TRAnsiTiOn ii<br />

Perspectives from the Arab world<br />

Photograph: Lutz Kampert<br />

Index | Editorial | Birds-eye view | Opening the toolbox | Zoom-in on the newsroom | Media landscapes<br />


Index | Editorial<br />

| Birds-eye view | Opening the toolbox | Zoom-in on the newsroom | Media landscapes<br />

Who’s watching the<br />

watchdogs?<br />

Do the “Jayson Blair affair”, the<br />

“Stephen Glass affair” or the more<br />

recent “phone hacking affair”<br />

(“Hackgate”) sound familiar to<br />

you? Not a clue? You may vaguely<br />

remember the case of this New<br />

York Times’ journalist accused of<br />

plagiarism, or the movie, Shattered<br />

Glass, about a young journalist who<br />

throws away his brilliant career<br />

when he’s discovered of making<br />

up all his stories… Not yet? Think<br />

of this: the Leveson Inquiry, the<br />

Murdoch name and the closure of<br />

the News of the World magazine. Photograph: Lutz Kampert<br />

If this information makes sense to<br />

you, it’s probably because you already have heard something about<br />

journalistic issues on ethics and deontology – or because you are<br />

either a media professional or a media policy-maker. In any case, feel<br />

very welcome to plunge through a thoughtful analysis on journalistic<br />

concerns: have you ever thought of the fragility of the line which<br />

divides “good” and “bad” journalism? Have you ever thought of<br />

the difficulty we all face when we try to understand if a journalist<br />

or his/her story truly defends the freedom of speech or is simply<br />

overstepping the law?<br />

Which leads us to an essential question: should the media be<br />

regulated? Probably all of us agree that journalistic self-regulation is a<br />

must, some observers have even started to question the effectiveness of<br />

existing self-regulation practices recently. After all, journalists are free<br />

to criticise different forms of power but the question remains of towards<br />

whom are they responsible and held accountable. Besides, journalism is<br />

perceived as powerful. As such it has always been the target of suspicion<br />

and criticism. The continuous progression towards the freedom of the<br />

press, along with the relative diminution of censorship and/or direct<br />

control of political power over the media, gave rise to a growing debate<br />

about media accountability and the question how media accountability<br />

can be assured in a time of growing competition in the media business<br />

worldwide, as well as in a time of rapid technological change.<br />

To start, let’s talk about the word “accountability”. Indeed, in<br />

some countries the word does not even exist. According to different<br />

translations, the state, the markets, the media industry or even the<br />

individual consciousness will be more or less taken into account<br />

– while media accountability foremost means for us ”that journalists<br />

respect their sources and their audiences” (see Mike Jempson’s text, p.<br />

42). In other words: we understand that freedom of speech intrinsically<br />

underpins ethical considerations about the public and the peers from<br />

two different perspectives: transparency and responsiveness. The first<br />

refers to shedding light on the background to news production; the<br />

second is the practice whereby media organisations encourage users to<br />

give feedback.<br />

The <strong>MediaAcT</strong> project lights up the question of media accountability<br />

at a moment of deep renewal, for at least three reasons: the generalisation<br />

of new technologies, the integration of new democracies to traditional<br />

western journalism practices and the questioning of journalism and its<br />

values as we know them. These aspects were taken into account during<br />

our research. The diversity of our sampling concerning countries and<br />

contexts, which includes western and non-western as well as traditional,<br />

new and emerging democracies, gives both an account of the original<br />

jungle of media accountability and of the process of reorganisation<br />

it is going through: The general trend might also replace traditional<br />

instruments and institutions (such as press councils or trade journals)<br />

by audience-oriented participative practices (media blogs, online<br />

comments, etc.) in the long run.<br />

This magazine gives some clues to fundamental questions: What<br />

can be done to hold the media to account? How can we establish an<br />

effective system of media self-regulation especially in countries where<br />

the media is deeply affected by political powers? How can media users<br />

play a much more active role in media criticism? What can be learnt<br />

from the different experiences with media accountability in northern<br />

and southern, western and eastern Europe – as well as the Arab world?<br />

Responsible journalism is our best bet and aim. According to the<br />

<strong>MediaAcT</strong> survey, accountable media are essential for the future of<br />

quality journalism. In this sense, articles in this magazine explore<br />

four main debates: (1) the sometimes very complex line between press<br />

freedom and state regulation, emphasising the outstanding differences<br />

among countries; (2) the belief that new technologies are deeply<br />

changing journalistic practices and accountability instruments, even<br />

though traditional Media Accountability Instruments (MAIs) remain<br />

valid; (3) our proposal for newsrooms to use easy-to-understand-andto-apply<br />

accountability tools; (4) examples and experiences, through<br />

which we are aiming to show you how important it is today to feel<br />

concerned about journalism’s ethical issues.<br />

Indeed, the discussion about media accountability is vital for the<br />

future of quality journalism. The research you’re about to read may be<br />

a starting point for further activity in this field.<br />

Olivier Baisnée, Sandra Vera-Zambrano<br />

and the <strong>MediaAcT</strong> team

A right royal tussle between<br />

press freedom and<br />

state-sanctioned self-regulation<br />

By Mike JeMpSOn<br />

Photograph: photocase/codswollop<br />

Will a new UK model have anything to offer Europe?<br />

As the <strong>MediaAcT</strong> project set about examining the different ways<br />

in which European and Arabic journalism traditions handle issues of<br />

accountability and transparency, an extraordinary saga was playing<br />

out in the United Kingdom which could have global consequences.<br />

Revelations that senior executives in one of the world’s biggest media<br />

companies had allowed or ignored criminal activity in the pursuit<br />

of sensational stories led to more than 100 arrests, mostly of journalists<br />

and some in dawn police raids, and to serious charges being laid<br />

against at least 30, some for multiple alleged offences. Global media<br />

giant News International shut down one of Britain’s oldest and top selling<br />

(circulation of 2.6m) weeklies, the News of the World (established<br />

1843), when the scandal first erupted, only to find that its sister paper<br />

The Sun (circulation of 2.4m) was also implicated.<br />

At 12:33 on 13 July 2011 the UK Prime Minister David Cameron<br />

announced to the House of Commons that he was setting up an<br />

independent inquiry into what had become to be known as ‘the phone<br />

hacking scandal’.<br />

A foretaste of what was to come<br />

Four years earlier Clive Goodman, Royal Editor at the News of the<br />

World, and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire had been gaoled for<br />

illegally intercepting phone messages of members of the Royal household.<br />

At the time the Press Complaints Commission, set up by the newspaper<br />

industry in 1991 as a form of self-regulation, had accepted assurances<br />

that Goodman was ‘one rogue reporter‘ even though the UK’s<br />

Information Commissioner had published two damning reports in<br />

2006 indicating that 305 journalists from 32 newspapers and magazines<br />

had employed the services of another private investigator to obtain<br />

almost 4,000 items of personal information on their behalf. The<br />

investigator was prosecuted but the journalists were not, and proposals<br />

that in future they should face fines or imprisonment for breaking<br />

Data Protection rules were dropped.<br />

Nonetheless numerous prominent figures who discovered that<br />

their phones had been hacked by the Murdoch-owned newspaper<br />

received substantial, and initially undisclosed, compensatory da-<br />

Index | Editorial | Birds-eye view | Opening the toolbox | Zoom-in on the newsroom | | Media landscapes

Index | Editorial | Birds-eye view view|<br />

Opening the toolbox | Zoom-in on the newsroom | Media landscapes<br />

mages. It was common knowledge within the trade that private<br />

personal information was also being obtained by payments to<br />

public servants and by illicit access to bank accounts, health and<br />

telephone records.<br />

Then in July 2011 The Guardian newspaper revealed that News of<br />

the World reporters had intercepted messages on the mobile phone<br />

of 13 year old Milly Dowler, who had been abducted and murdered<br />

in 2002. It caused a public outcry and led directly to Cameron’s<br />

statement during which he spoke of “accusations of widespread<br />

lawbreaking by parts of our press; alleged<br />

corruption by some police officers;<br />

and ... the failure of our political system<br />

over many, many years to tackle a problem<br />

that has been getting worse.“ He<br />

said that the police had 3,870 names,<br />

and around 4,000 mobile and 5,000<br />

landline phone numbers, of people who<br />

may have been the subject of unlawful<br />

interference by journalists, or private<br />

investigators acting on their behalf.<br />

Parliament intervenes<br />

Plainly this was a massive scandal involving<br />

criminal activity and the inquiry<br />

he set up, under a senior high<br />

court judge, Lord Justice Leveson,<br />

was to have two parts. In the first he<br />

would look into the culture, practices<br />

and ethics of the press, its relationship<br />

with the police and politicians, and the failure of the current system<br />

of regulation, and the issue of cross-media ownership. He would<br />

make recommendations for a more effective way of regulating the<br />

press while supporting its freedom, plurality and independence<br />

from Government. A second part would examine the unlawful or<br />

improper conduct at the News of the World and other newspapers,<br />

and examine the management and police failures, which allowed it<br />

to happen.<br />

Cameron would later say on television, BBC1, that he would “absolutely”<br />

abide by Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations, unless<br />

as the interviewer suggested, they were ‘bonkers’. “The status quo is<br />

not an option,” he said. He wanted a system that worked for ordinary<br />

people without the state becoming involved.<br />

An initial compromise using an ancient device called a Royal<br />

Charter, was developed by a government minister in consultation<br />

with the industry, and then revised in a late-night, all-party meeting<br />

with campaigners for media reform who had originally been<br />

reticent about this approach. It would create a Recognition Panel,<br />

independent of the press and parliament, whose sole task would<br />

be to ensure that any self-regulatory body set up by the industry<br />

complied with the criteria proposed by Lord Justice Leveson. But<br />

the deal done was instantly rejected by the industry, who have since<br />

come up with a variant on the same theme, but this time with<br />

the industry rather than the monarch’s advisors in charge. This in<br />

itself posed an constitutional problem since the monarch could not<br />

proceed to approve either Charter while controversy raged. If the<br />

politicians‘ version gets the go ahead most newspapers have said<br />

they will not comply. If the industry’s version is adopted, victims<br />

and critics of the press will remain dissatisfied.<br />

Open season on the press, police and politicans<br />

Before conducting his 11 month long inquiry in the law courts, Leveson<br />

had held a series of briefings for his team and then two days<br />

of seminars with editors, academics and other media experts, to give<br />

them a chance to suggest, which lines of inquiry he should follow.<br />

Opening the Inquiry proper in November 2011 he said: “The<br />

press provides an essential check on all aspects of public life. That<br />

is why any failure within the media affects all of us. At the heart of<br />

this Inquiry, therefore, may be one simple question: who guards the<br />

guardians?”<br />

His purpose was to make ‘recommendations<br />

for a more effective policy<br />

and regulation that supports the integrity<br />

and freedom of the press while<br />

encouraging the highest ethical standards’.<br />

In seeking to determine an answer<br />

to his own question he and his team<br />

of assessors (former journalists, media<br />

executives, a civil rights lawyer, a city<br />

regulator and a former police chief)<br />

heard from some 135 organisations and<br />

474 individuals, in person or in writing.<br />

He conducted a forensic examination of<br />

complaints against the press, as well as<br />

interrogating editors, journalists, police<br />

officers and politicians.<br />

The revelations about the journalistic<br />

culture, and the damage caused<br />

to individuals by intrusive or inaccurate coverage, kept the inquiry<br />

high on the news agenda, and while many positive aspects of the<br />

work of journalists were mentioned, most evidence did damage to<br />

their reputation.<br />

Lord Justice Leveson’s report on the first part of his Inquiry, published<br />

in December 2012, runs to some 2,000 pages. The executive<br />

summary is 46 pages long and contains 92 recommendations relating<br />

to the press, self-regulation and the behaviour of the police and<br />

politicians. The central challenge was to the newspaper industry – to<br />

come up with a new system of self-regulation that would win back<br />

public trust in journalism.<br />

It would need to be led by an independently appointed Chair,<br />

with a board clearly independent of the industry, with no dominance<br />

by editors, and powers to impose heavy fines on those who<br />

seriously transgressed an agreed Code of Practice. Significantly he<br />

proposed the creation of a separate, independent ‘recognition body’<br />

which would ‘guard the guardians’. It’s sole role would be to ensure<br />

that the new system of self-regulation lived up to the required standards.<br />

He suggested that the existing statutory regulator for broadcasting<br />

and communications, Ofcom, might fulfil that role, unless a<br />

new body was created with statutory backing to ensure it had sufficient<br />

authority.<br />

Neither the new self-regulators nor the recognition body could<br />

force publishers to sign up to the new scheme, so Leveson proposed<br />

an incentive. Those that joined a self-regulatory body – and he left<br />

it open to the industry to decide how many such bodies might be<br />

set up – would avoid the risk of exemplary damages being awarded<br />

against them in the event of litigation. This too would require legislation,<br />

following the Irish model.

Leveson’s plan caused an instant rift within the coalition government.<br />

The Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg<br />

welcomed the proposals. ”Lord Justice Leveson has considered these<br />

issues at length,” he told Parliament. “He has found that changing<br />

the law is the only way to guarantee a system of self-regulation which<br />

seeks to cover all of the press. And he explains why the system of sticks<br />

and carrots he proposes has to be recognised in statute in order to be<br />

properly implemented by the courts.“<br />

The Prime Minister took a different line, prompting suggestions<br />

that he had been ‘got at’ by leading media executives. “The issue of<br />

principle is that for the first time we would have crossed the rubicon of<br />

writing elements of press regulation into the law of the land,“ Cameron<br />

told Members of Parliamemts (MPs). “I‘m not convinced at this<br />

stage that statute is necessary.“<br />

The devil is in the detail<br />

Analysis of the ‘Press Barons’ Charter’ by leading campaigners for regulatory<br />

reform (see box below), all suggest that it is a reversion to a system<br />

distinctly similar to the discredited Press Complaints Commission.<br />

Far from being independent of press and parliament, this new proposal<br />

allows industry representation throughout and even makes room for<br />

members of the House of Lords to sit on the Recognition Panel.<br />

“It is further away from what Leveson recommended than<br />

anything that has gone before,” said Claire Enders, founder of the<br />

media research company Enders Analysis. The Press Charter would<br />

neither meet his primary purpose to ensure that self-regulation set up<br />

by the industry was fit for purpose, she explained, nor the second – to<br />

allow an arbitation service which should be included to be recognised<br />

by the courts, in part to protect publishers from high costs.<br />

At a Foundation for Law, Justice and Society workshop on media law<br />

after Leveson held in April at the University of Oxford Law Faculty,<br />

Eric Barendt, Emeritus Professor of Media Law at University College,<br />

concluded that “the media’s objections to Leveson are not so much<br />

philosophical as neurotic”.<br />

Former broadcasting standards regulator Lara Fielden, author of a<br />

recent international study of press councils, said that since the media<br />

are granted special privileges in the public interest and in the interest<br />

of democracy, “in return, we expect those who hold power to account,<br />

to account for the powers granted them.”<br />

Throughout the backroom negotiations about how best to proceed<br />

– entirely against the spirit of transparency envisaged by Leveson<br />

– and despite evident support for Leveson among politicians and the<br />

public, as media lawyer and Hacked Off proponent chair Hugh Tomlinson<br />

QC, told the gathering “the media have managed to conduct a<br />

campaign of outrageous and barely believable misinformation to fight<br />

the opposition forces to a standstill.” A non-stop battery of headlines<br />

and stories vilifying their critics and suggesting that their real aim<br />

was state control of the press was spearheaded by The Daily Mail, the<br />

Telegraph Group and News International titles, leading proponents of<br />

the ‘Press Barons’ Charter’.<br />

A Free Speech Network (www.freespeechnetwork.org.uk) claiming<br />

the support of 25 national and international media organisations,<br />

campaigned with pamphlets and adverts as if those seeking a more<br />

effective regulatory system were in favour of state control of the press.<br />

Indeed <strong>MediaAcT</strong> was characterised as part of an European Union<br />

conspiracy to take control of the press in The Telegraph in April 2013.<br />

Only four, low circulation, national newspapers, The Financial<br />

Times, The Guardian, The Independent and the Morning Star have<br />

stood by Leveson’s<br />

key principles.<br />

Having sought<br />

to present Leveson’s<br />

recommendations<br />

as the end of press<br />

freedom in the UK<br />

after 300 years,<br />

the mainstream<br />

newspaper groups<br />

have now devised a<br />

delaying tactic for<br />

reform which can<br />

“In rETUrn, wE<br />

ExpEcT ThOsE<br />

whO hOld pOwEr<br />

TO AccOUnT, TO<br />

AccOUnT fOr ThE<br />

pOwErs grAnTEd<br />

ThEM.“<br />

only be resolved by negotiation on their terms.<br />

While this may be understandable, since newspapers have a vested<br />

interest in defending their territory, it also highlighted the difficulty<br />

of obtaining any sort of balance or independent critical analysis on a<br />

matter of supreme public interest, when the ‘agenda setters’ have their<br />

own agenda.<br />

Although there was some parliamentary debate, negotiations to<br />

resolve the impasse over Leveson were conducted in secret – at first<br />

amongst editors and proprietors, then between them and government<br />

ministers, and finally between political party leaders and the Hacked<br />

Off campaign. What had begun with one public scandal – the revelations<br />

about the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone – ended with another<br />

– the almost total exclusion of the public from the debate about how<br />

best to improve media accountability.<br />

After one of the most comprehensive public analyses of journalistic<br />

behaviour ever undertaken in the UK, or elsewhere, as we go to press<br />

the UK is no nearer a resolution to the age old and vexed question asked<br />

by Lord Justice Leveson, ‘Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?`<br />

dEclArATIOn Of InTErEsT<br />

Mike Jempson is director of the journalism ethics charity<br />

MediaWise (www.mediawise.org.uk) which assists members<br />

of the public with complaints about media misbehaviour,<br />

and vice-chair of the Ethics Council of the National<br />

Union of Journalism (Uk & Ireland). Both organisations<br />

gave evidence to the leveson Inquiry favouring press<br />

self-regulation but in a significantly strengthened form<br />

underpinned by statute.<br />

lInks<br />

The leveson Inquiry: http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk<br />

Media standards Trust: Analysis: press coverage of leveson,<br />

by gordon neil ramsay, May 2013: http://mediastandardstrust.org/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2013/05/MsTleveson-Analysis-090513-v2.pdf<br />

leading campaigners for regulatory reform in the Uk:<br />

Hacked Off: http://hackinginquiry.org/<br />

The Media Standards Trust: http://mediastandardstrust.org<br />

Media Reform Coalition: http://www.mediareform.org.uk<br />

Media Policy Project, The London School of Economics and Political<br />

Science: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/mediapolicyproject/<br />

Index | Editorial | Birds-eye view | Opening the toolbox | Zoom-in on the newsroom | Media landscapes

Index | Editorial | Birds-eye view view|<br />

Opening the toolbox | Zoom-in on the newsroom | Media landscapes<br />

let‘s talk to the newsroom!<br />

Facts and figures of the <strong>MediaAcT</strong> research project<br />

The international research project “Media Accountability and Transparency<br />

in Europe“ (<strong>MediaAcT</strong>) has studied both media accountability<br />

infrastructures and journalists’ attitudes towards media self-regulation in<br />

14 countries. Within a 3 ½ year research process a distinguished team<br />

of academics from across Europe has conducted a representative survey<br />

among 1,762 journalists in European countries as well as two exemplary<br />

Arab countries (Tunisia and Jordan). The international research project<br />

has received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme<br />

FP7/2007-2013. The study had three core stages.<br />

> International investigation<br />

In a first stage, national desk studies were conducted to investigate the<br />

status quo of media self-regulation and media accountability structures in<br />

the participating countries.<br />

> Into the field<br />

In a second stage, qualitative interviews with around 90 US, European<br />

and Arab experts in the field of online media accountability were conducted<br />

in order to assess the impact of the Internet and the Social Web on<br />

self-regulation and accountability structures and practices.<br />

> Talk to the newsroom<br />

In a third stage, 1,762 journalists in 14 European and Arab countries<br />

were surveyed online on their attitudes towards and experiences with<br />

media self-regulation and media accountability, making this study the<br />

first comparative journalists’ survey on media self-regulation and media<br />

accountability ever. Therefore, media scholars, media professionals, and<br />

media policy-makers alike may use the data provided in the disseminated<br />

processes in order to finally assess the impact of different Media Accountability<br />

Instruments (MAIs) on media professionals – and show which<br />

restrictions weaken their influence – on a sound empirical basis.<br />

LINK<br />

For further information and research results please visit:<br />

http://www.mediaact.eu<br />

Photograph: photocase/owik2<br />

<strong>MediaAcT</strong> key publications:<br />

Publication 1: The world of media accountability<br />

The <strong>MediaAcT</strong> project‘s state-of-the-art reports on media accoun-tability<br />

and transparency in Europe. It provides pioneer work<br />

in analysing the development of established and emerging Media<br />

Accountability Instruments in 14 countries in eastern and western<br />

Europe as well as the Arab world.<br />

Eberwein, Tobias et al. (eds.) (2011): Mapping Media Accountability<br />

– in Europe and Beyond. Köln: Herbert von Halem Verlag.<br />

Publication 2: Do-it-yourself accountability<br />

This guidebook presents best practice examples in the field of innovative,<br />

web-based media accountability from across Europe. Bichler,<br />

Klaus et al. (2012): Best Practice Guidebook: Media Accountability<br />

and Transparency across Europe.<br />

http://www.mediaact.eu/fileadmin/user_upload/Guidebook/<br />

Best_Practice_Guidebook_new.pdf<br />

Publication 3: Digital Accountability<br />

The Internet offers new opportunities and challenges for the<br />

transparency of journalistic work and the responsiveness to audience<br />

criticism. The working paper analyses how newsrooms and citizens<br />

use the Internet for media accountability all around the globe.<br />

Heikkilä, Heikki et al. (2012): Media Accountability Goes Online:<br />

A Transnational Study of Emerging Practices and Innovations.<br />

<strong>MediaAcT</strong> Working Paper. Dortmund: Media Accountability and<br />

Transparency in Europe.<br />

http://www.mediaact.eu/fileadmin/user_upload/WP4_Outcomes/WP4_Report.pdf<br />

Publication 4: Results of the <strong>MediaAcT</strong> survey<br />

For the latest scientific book “Journalists and Media Accountability.<br />

An International Study of News People in the Digital Age”<br />

edited by Susanne Fengler et al., New York: Peter Lang, published<br />

Summer 2013 (in print), please visit: www.mediaact.eu

Photograph: photocase/pauliestroj<br />

Media accountability in Europe<br />

and beyond<br />

By hAlliki hArrO-lOiT<br />

The state of media accountability in different countries<br />

After reading the first publication of the <strong>MediaAcT</strong> research project<br />

“Mapping Media Accountability – in Europe and Beyond”, an<br />

Estonian journalism student attending a seminar about the future<br />

of journalism in Estonia commented: “It was enlightening to read<br />

such a cross-national study. Previously, I had the feeling that we<br />

have so many problems with media accountability and self-regulation<br />

here, but now I can see that some countries have an even<br />

worse situation, and in some countries the system functions much<br />

better.”<br />

This is certainly one way to think about media accountability:<br />

comparison enables one to better evaluate the known environment.<br />

Estonia is a small country with a very liberal media policy. Unlike<br />

several of the post-communist countries of central and eastern<br />

Europe, media policy does not suffer under political parallelism,<br />

because market forces play the dominant role.<br />

Comparison at the same time enables a broader perspective on<br />

a topic that is hard to pin down easily. The cross-national view<br />

helps us to see the complexity of self-regulatory instruments and<br />

at the same time realise how tightly accountability is linked to<br />

each particular journalism culture, the maturity of civic culture<br />

and the state of the economy. The broader perspective also enables<br />

us to get a clearer understanding about the fact that accountability<br />

instruments exist in most European countries but differ from each<br />

other with regard to their structure and daily practices. There-<br />

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10<br />

fore, the practical hands-on knowledge that is limited to media<br />

accountability practices in each researcher’s or journalist’s country<br />

only provides a limited understanding of the overall context of accountability<br />

and the range and typology of instruments that could<br />

support transparency and responsiveness – in summary: the quality<br />

of journalism as a whole.<br />

Hidden aspects of media accountability<br />

The cross-country analysis, with its transnational view, brings to<br />

light, for example, a hidden aspect of media accountability: that<br />

the differences in the evaluation of accountability instruments and<br />

journalistic values are determined by the type of media organisation.<br />

Hence, journalists who work for public broadcasting companies<br />

in different countries have, in some regards, more common values<br />

than journalists who work, for example, for a public broadcasting<br />

company and a tabloid publication in the same country.<br />

Another way to look at the existing media accountability system<br />

is to focus on the changes that have been taking place as online<br />

media have developed. Many traditional Media Accountability Instruments<br />

(MAIs) in Europe are universal: press and media councils,<br />

codes of ethics, ombudsmen. These instruments have been more or<br />

less adapted to the online world. However, in addition to the traditional<br />

instruments an increasing number of European countries are<br />

using innovative accountability instruments, which are tailor-made<br />

for the digital world, for example, media-critical blogs, correction<br />

buttons and interactive complaint systems. These responsive online<br />

instruments have the potential to increase the dialogue between<br />

journalists and lay members of the public, information sources and<br />

active citizens.<br />

The collapse of the business models of professional journalism<br />

have brought an important question for the future of quality journalism<br />

to the fore: if professional journalism is increasingly of a<br />

poorer quality, who is in charge of the watchdog role in society?<br />

Although the media should be free and autonomous it is necessary<br />

to balance the media industry’s powerful corporate interests with<br />

the public interest.<br />

The corporate interest – from a rational point of view – is to<br />

produce news content as cheaply as possible. Information overload<br />

challenges journalists’ information selection and interpretation abilites;<br />

strong public relations sectors provide new pressures for journalistic<br />

autonomy. At the same time, society demands responsible<br />

media.<br />

However, societal and technological changes in the global political<br />

economy have made balancing these contradicting interests<br />

increasingly difficult. A simple question is this: what makes a news<br />

organisation strong and motivated enough to keep an eye on its<br />

own actions, particularly when the economic interests of the media<br />

industry and other business sectors are inter-related? The answer is a<br />

professional ideology and a developed accountability system. What<br />

is the state of media accountability across Europe and in some Arab<br />

countries at present?<br />

Codes of ethics: easy to recognise<br />

The most visible traditional accountability instruments across<br />

countries are codes of ethics and codes of good conduct (codes of practice).<br />

While ethical standards mostly apply at the national level,<br />

in-house codes or media organisational codes are directed more<br />

towards certain occupations or jobs (e.g. managing editors’ code<br />

Photograph: photocase/Bastographie<br />

of ethics). However, all the codes declare values and principles<br />

that aim to regulate daily practices and protect the interests of<br />

democratic and civic society. As an example, let’s have a look at<br />

the principle of ‘objectivity‘, which is present in most of the codes<br />

of ethics. The principle of ‘objectivity‘ and truth-telling is often<br />

expressed as practical guidance, for example, “In the case of a<br />

conflicting story a journalist should take all different opinions<br />

into consideration,” or “a journalist should carefully check the<br />

facts from various sources...”. In different countries the number<br />

of such codes of standards varies. In Poland, for example, the<br />

four professional organisations have different nationally applicable<br />

codes: The Charter of Media Ethics; The Journalistic Code of<br />

Conduct; The Code of Journalistic Ethics of The Association of Polish<br />

Journalists (SDP) and The Code of Ethics of The Association of<br />

Journalists of the Republic of Poland (SDRP). In contrast, Estonia<br />

and Finland only have one national code of ethics for journalists<br />

and journalism.<br />

In addition to the national differences, many media organisations<br />

across the countries surveyed have their own mission statements<br />

and editorial statutes, and newsroom internal ethics codes<br />

aimed at managing employees’ professional values as well as their<br />

behaviour on social media like Twitter or Facebook (for exam-

ple, in the Netherlands). In Jordan the government adopted its<br />

own code of ethics and many journalists perceived this as another<br />

means of controlling the press. Al-Ghad (which is privately owned<br />

and Jordan’s second largest daily newspaper) uses its own code of<br />

ethics but only uses it for newsroom decisions for those cases that<br />

need justifying. These few examples illustrate the problem: the<br />

code of ethics seems to be such a clear and “basic” instrument for<br />

ensuring media responsibility. However, our cross-national survey<br />

shows that there is such a variety of codes and these differ so much<br />

in importance that one should always ask the critical question: how<br />

and by whom are these codes interpreted?<br />

Press councils: differences in authority and status<br />

Self-regulated press councils, which are groups of representatives<br />

from the media and society who judge media behaviour on the<br />

basis of complaints that are brought to the council, exist in 7 of<br />

the 14 countries surveyed (Austria, Estonia, Finland, Germany,<br />

the Netherlands, Switzerland and the UK). Their authority and<br />

status are very different. The status of the press councils in Finland<br />

and the Netherlands seems to be higher than in other countries.<br />

The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) in the UK seems to have<br />

the widest influence on general media literacy: in addition to dealing<br />

with people’s complaints, the PCC holds public meetings and<br />

hearings, provides in-house training for journalists and advises on<br />

how to make complaints etc.<br />

In addition to these “classical” press councils, some countries<br />

have other types of bodies which interpret codes of conduct<br />

and ethics. The efficiency of these bodies varies. For example,<br />

the Romanian Press Club is one of the most prominent media<br />

federations and it should observe and enforce the code of ethics.<br />

However, members of this club have violated the code and the<br />

Council of Honor did not penalise them. In Germany, in additition<br />

to the press council, several other organisations take care of<br />

the interpretation of quality and ethical principles, for example,<br />

the Voluntary Self-regulation Authority of Cinematic Industry, The<br />

German Advertising Standards Council and The German Council<br />

for Public Relations.<br />

Catalysts for the accountability dialogue<br />

Accountability comprises media responsibility to society as well as<br />

responsiveness. The latter refers to an ongoing dialogue and debate<br />

between the media professionals and their audiences as well as to<br />

their willingness to explain the principles and motives behind editorial<br />

decisions. A variety of forms of responsiveness can be simultaneously<br />

observed in the countries with a high level of journalistic<br />

professionalism. Ombudsmen (for the press, broadcasting or both)<br />

exist in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK. There are<br />

reader’s advisory boards or councils in Austria and Switzerland, and<br />

correction corners or correction boxes in the newspapers in Germany<br />

and the Netherlands. Regular media-critical pages appear<br />

mostly in quality newspapers (in the UK, Germany, Switzerland<br />

and the Netherlands). Nordic countries also have a strong professional<br />

journalism tradition. Finland is a particular case where one<br />

rather strong “instrument” dominates: The National Press Council,<br />

with the powerful professional Union of Journalists, strongly adheres<br />

to the “responsiveness ideology”.<br />

In the countries where freedom of speech and the development<br />

of the journalism culture has been interrupted (Estonia, Poland,<br />

Romania, Jordan and Tunisia) responsiveness is weaker. One of<br />

the reasons for this is that criticism of the media is only occasionally<br />

discussed. Critical scrutiny is often taken as an attack from<br />

a competitor, and admitting and excusing errors is considered to<br />

damage an organisation’s reputation. Another reason is a weaker<br />

professional culture and the dominance of commercial values.<br />

As the Internet has generated many new possibilities for implementing<br />

interactive instruments to strengthen the media’s responsiveness,<br />

it is important to ask: how intensive is the use of<br />

these instruments in various countries? One can find some fine<br />

examples from different countries: journalists blogs, written by<br />

journalists as individual authors; media blogs, written by journalists<br />

as representatives of a media organisation; citizen blogs and<br />

audience blogs; various interactive debates arranged by media<br />

organisations (“readers’ or listeners’ clubs”); and media observatories<br />

(e.g. www.media.cat). In spite of the wide range of responsive<br />

instruments media organisations generally prefer traditional<br />

instruments. “Responsiveness” based on dialogue and communication<br />

with audiences is currently more of an exception than<br />

a rule. Maybe the media managers just need to be encouraged<br />

to use these innovative instruments to foster transparency, even<br />

if their organisations have not developed specific accountability<br />

mechanisms yet.<br />

Responsiveness as journalistic value<br />

Is accountability a luxury or a necessity? We do not yet have clear<br />

answers but going back to the question: “who is watching the watchdog<br />

in a democratic society?” one can imagine that a possible niche<br />

for a media professional could be the role of a “trusted information<br />

interpreter”. How is it possible to be trusted and trustworthy in an<br />

environment where pressures from the public relations sector, as well<br />

as from other interest groups and business interests, are increasing?<br />

Responsiveness and transparency as journalistic values need mechanisms<br />

in order for them to be rooted in daily practices. It would be<br />

the worst solution if the media declared that these values are not<br />

built into their day to day activities.<br />

The results of the <strong>MediaAcT</strong> study provide a wide comparative<br />

overview of how similar instruments function in different cultural<br />

and political contexts. Some instruments are just brilliant ideas:<br />

inexpensive and easy to implement (e.g. correction buttons). Other<br />

instruments could provide journalists with more feedback from<br />

the public or allow the audience to engage in debates about media<br />

ethics. Media criticism seems to be more active in large media markets.<br />

Looking at smaller media markets one could ask: could better<br />

dialogue between academia and industry encourage consideration<br />

of innovative Media Accountability Instruments that would allow<br />

professional journalism to improve its accountability systems while,<br />

at the same time, supporting professional journalists in the present<br />

economically difficult situation?<br />

fUrThEr rEAdIng<br />

harro-loit, halliki (2010): from Media policy to Integrated<br />

communications policy. how to Apply the paradigm shift<br />

on a European and national level. In: klimkiewicz, Beata<br />

(eds.). Media freedom and pluralism. Media policy challenges<br />

in the Enlarged Europe, cEU press, pp. 45 - 58.<br />

11<br />

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| Zoom-in on the newsroom | Media landscapes<br />

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Photograph: photocase/kallejipp<br />

Up-to-date or out of touch?<br />

By SAlVAdOr AlSiuS, MArcel MAuri-de lOS riOS & ruTh rOdrigueZ-MArTineZ<br />

Traditional press councils and “readers’ letters”<br />

It’s time to dip into the media’s laboratory. Let’s open the journalist’s<br />

toolbox and take a closer look at the diverse traditional instruments<br />

that journalists and the media have developed over the years to ensure<br />

that they act within ethical norms and values: press councils and<br />

readers’ letters. Are these traditional instruments already old-fashioned<br />

and out of touch or are they still up-to-date and relevant?<br />

Journalists monitor government action, political decisions and<br />

investigate issues. However, guarding society is only one side of the<br />

coin. Who monitors the media and journalists ensuring that they act<br />

ethically? The government? Who else?<br />

Press freedom in a democracy attracts only low levels of legal<br />

government regulations, but something is out of kilter if the<br />

government sets rules for journalists and narrows press freedom by<br />

sanctioning their daily work. This can be seen in the annual Press<br />

Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders. Neither is it<br />

right that full responsibility should fall on the media companies and<br />

media professionals, who may be tempted to act in line with personal<br />

or corporate interests. In a democracy there is only one answer to this<br />

delicate question: the public.<br />

“Feedback”, an old concept<br />

The term ‘participation‘ – recently replaced by ‘interaction‘ – has, for<br />

decades, been used to overcome the idea of the one directional nature<br />

of communication. In the mid twentieth century communication<br />

theory incorporated the concept of ‘feedback‘ to refer to messages<br />

which sent information back in the opposite direction from usual.<br />

Feedback comprised messages sent to those who normally had the<br />

role of sending out information, messages in which the recipients were<br />

involved to some extent in the active process of communication.<br />

Public feedback: voting with your feet<br />

So, how has the public generally ‘fed back‘ to the communication

media? First, via a message, which while not explicit, is tremendously<br />

effective – consumption. Clearly, it is somewhat dangerous<br />

to make all decisions on the basis of audience figures; but neither<br />

can the response of the public as consumers of media products be<br />

ignored. It should be accepted that the public increasingly sanctions<br />

what it considers to be good or bad quality by voting with its feet. To<br />

ignore this entirely would be foolish.<br />

Readers’ letters: the voice of the audience<br />

There have been and still are specific procedures which allow the<br />

public to express their views on media content. One very longstanding<br />

way is the ‘letter to the editor‘. This letter format, which<br />

has become a distinct journalistic genre in itself, emerged from the<br />

British and American press. Today, given the proliferation of digital<br />

means through which individuals can make their voices heard,<br />

such emphasis on the importance of the ‘Letter to the editor‘ might<br />

ring a little hollow. The fact is that this letter form has endured for<br />

almost two centuries as the most natural way for individuals to<br />

express themselves in the public arena. It is true that the expression<br />

of ideas through this channel was conditioned by many factors:<br />

space limitations, the tendency towards ‘soft‘ topics that permeates<br />

much of the media, and last but not least, the criteria applied to the<br />

selection of material. Despite this, as Brian Thornton, an expert on<br />

readers’ letters, points out, they nonetheless express public feeling,<br />

and especially the feelings of a sector of the public who know how to<br />

express their opinions in writing.<br />

The ‘letter to the editor’ was a mode of communication which<br />

took off in the press in particular. The visual media have on occasion<br />

tried to emulate the possibilities of this pseudo-genre. Sometimes<br />

this is done through simply transposing the concept across media,<br />

for example, when radio presenters read out letters sent in by some of<br />

their listeners. However, radio, and later television, gradually took on<br />

board the idea that listeners could express their feelings live, generally<br />

using the telephone.<br />

‘Letters to the editor‘ and other similar types of contribution have<br />

been lauded by media companies as a way of making their content<br />

more attractive. Without doubt some of the contributions have a<br />

critical edge and, in their own way, these contributions have helped to<br />

influence the quality of media content. A good example of this kind of<br />

the contribution by the users can be found in Spain. Some years ago<br />

the Spanish newspaper El Pais published in its Sunday supplement<br />

only those Letters to the Editor where the readers referred to the<br />

coverage made by the newspaper during the previous week.<br />

Self-regulation as self-defence<br />

The second major channel through which individuals have been able<br />

to express their critical opinions about media content has been the<br />

press councils. The press councils try to ensure that media ethics are<br />

respected. They are entities which receive complaints from individuals<br />

regarding the way in which the media handle the news. They have a<br />

certain moral legitimacy in making judgments on the appropriateness<br />

of how news is dealt with, although they have no actual legal clout to<br />

impose any kind of sanction. Although the press councils are bodies<br />

which are separate from the media companies, in many cases it was<br />

the media companies themselves which promoted the councils as<br />

means of self-regulating the content of their products.<br />

In a number of countries the press councils were born out of<br />

initiatives by media companies to protect themselves from attempts<br />

by government or parliament to impose excessively rigid regulation.<br />

They are the channel by which the media system self-regulates. A<br />

substantial proportion of them are cross-party and are made up of<br />

representatives from among editors and journalists‘ associations.<br />

There are also some (as for example in Sweden, Denmark and<br />

the United Kingdom) which include members of the public as<br />

representatives, who are ultimately those who hold the right to<br />

receive complete, verified information.<br />

Challenges and reformulations<br />

One of the main problems for press councils is incorporating a<br />

reasonable degree of public representation. In a formal democracy<br />

the only thing that truly guarantees such representation is universal<br />

suffrage. However, at the same time, it is true that for public<br />

representation to come via the parliamentary parties would be<br />

problematic. The independence of information, with respect to the<br />

established political powers, would be among those things at risk.<br />

Other problems which have limited the councils‘ ability to act<br />

have been: the lack of power to impose sanctions, as mentioned<br />

earlier, the unwillingness of some companies to recognise the moral<br />

authority of the verdicts, difficulties in obtaining funding, and<br />

a lack of awareness of their role among the general public. The<br />

UK was one of the first countries to have a press council but it<br />

was the UK‘s Press Complaints Commission which had its role<br />

questioned once again following the case of The News of the World<br />

and the recommendation of Judge Leveson regarding the creation<br />

of new laws to govern the press (for details see also the article by<br />

Mike Jempson, page 5-7). This is still under discussion and as an<br />

alternative there is talk of a possible reformulation of the press<br />

council. The tension between regulation and self-regulation is at the<br />

fore yet again. During recent decades many professional journalists<br />

believed self-regulation could act as a palliative to limit the powers<br />

that control media content, and also as a way to guarantee the<br />

public the right to access true, complete and accurate information.<br />

However, lately, many journalists, and also media users, recognise<br />

that the system that gives out penalties to violators is too “soft“ and<br />

cannot stop certain excesses of the tabloid press or garbage TV.<br />

Press councils and readers’ editors still have validity<br />

It is worth considering whether these two prongs of public<br />

participation, letters to the editor and complaints to the press<br />

councils, still have any validity. Based on the answers from the<br />

professionals surveyed in the <strong>MediaAcT</strong> study it is important to<br />

differentiate between the instruments: while the press council was<br />

perceived as an accountability instrument with medium impact<br />

among the professionals from the countries surveyed, it was at<br />

the same time evaluated more positively than other traditional<br />

instruments, such as ombudsmen or readers’ editors (for further<br />

information regarding ombudsmen and other new forms of<br />

“participative instruments” for more openness and transparency,<br />

please see the article by Huub Evers and Harmen Groenhart, page<br />

20-21). The digital age has clearly provided many new channels<br />

which make the interaction between broadcasters and recipients (to<br />

use the classic division of roles) more intense (for digital details<br />

see page 14-17 and page 18-19). If we go back to the journalist<br />

laboratory, basic tools, such as the traditional press council and the<br />

reader‘s letter, continue to have their place in the toolbox, despite<br />

their evident limitations.<br />

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| Zoom-in on the newsroom | Media landscapes

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Index | Editorial | Birds-eye view | Opening the toolbox<br />

| Zoom-in on the newsroom | Media landscapes<br />

Online Example 2: Actor Transparency II<br />

Another tool to foster actor transparency is a chat<br />

box, as practiced by the Swedish newspaper Norran.<br />

Their eEditor offers users the opportunity to get in<br />

contact with the journalists in a live-chat (every day<br />

from 6am to 9pm). It is featured on the front page<br />

of the paper. Users can suggest topics or ideas<br />

for stories, report mistakes, ask questions or give<br />

feedback. The new tool has increased the number<br />

of unique visitors, acts as an ombudsperson and a<br />

correction button and it is also a way to encourage<br />

user-generated content (http://norran.se/).<br />

European<br />

flagships<br />

By MATThiAS kArMASin, dAnielA krAuS, Andy kAlTenBrunner & klAuS Bichler<br />

Best practice examples of media accountability<br />

After having introduced the “old ladies” of accountability to you – let’s<br />

walk on the wild side and do a little cross-country accountability trip<br />

through European newsrooms. It is astonishing to see the creative ways<br />

in which the need for accountability is interpreted within international<br />

newsrooms: Italian journalists record their editorial meetings for the<br />

public, UK journalists reflect news decisions online in a blog, journalists<br />

from the Netherlands critique their own profession in a weekly TV<br />

show. The responses by journalists worldwide to the strong demand<br />

for responsiveness and media accountability are manifold – online and<br />

offline. A lot of media organisations use traditional offline tools to foster<br />

Online Example 1: Actor Transparency I<br />

Actor transparency includes the disclosure<br />

of ownership, the publishing of company<br />

guidelines and information about the<br />

journalists themselves (contact, job position,<br />

etc.). It reveals to the users those who produce<br />

the news. The relevant information can easily<br />

be published on the medium’s website, as a<br />

byline underneath an article for example, or<br />

via a range of social media tools. Examples can<br />

be found on the Facebook pages of the Polish<br />

news outlet money.pl (https://www.facebook.<br />

com/ciszak.moneypl) or at the Spanish VilaWeb<br />

(http://www.facebook.com/VilaWeb).<br />

Online<br />

Example 3: Production Transparency I<br />

Production transparency deals with transparency of<br />

sources and professional decision making. Journalists’ and<br />

companies’ blogs are tools that can easily be implemented.<br />

For example, in the Editors’ Blog of the BBc news (http://www.<br />

bbc.co.uk/news/blogs/the_editors/) journalists comment<br />

on the news production of the BBC news show. Other such<br />

blogs are operated by single journalists or media managers<br />

reflecting decisions or national journalism discussions. One<br />

example is the Interna-blog of the Swiss local newspaper<br />

Südostschweiz (http://www.suedostschweiz.ch/community/<br />

blogs/interna).<br />

media accountability, like readers’ letters, media journalism, ombudsmen<br />

and codes of ethics. A lot of new possibilities for media accountability have<br />

arisen as a result of the Internet. Ways to interact with the audience have<br />

increased and the time gap has vanished. It’s a fact that accountability has<br />

been and will continue to be transferred to the online world to use digital<br />

possibilities to further media accountability. For example, journalists<br />

create new digital contact points for users with a new interpretation of<br />

the ombudsman. Others try to integrate their users into the process of<br />

news selection and production. These digital instruments offer a couple<br />

of economic advantages. They are easy to implement, cost-efficient

Online<br />

OFFline<br />

Example 4: Production Transparency II<br />

A more expensive production transparency approach<br />

is shown by the Italian newspaper La Repubblica. Their<br />

open newsroom conference reveals news production<br />

processes as the most important editorial meetings<br />

are broadcasted online (not streamed live, but<br />

available online). The users can see how journalists<br />

justify their choices, comment on the news and<br />

discuss the paper’s issues (http://video.repubblica.<br />

it/rubriche/repubblica-domani).<br />

and help in facilitating a trusting relationship with the audience by<br />

creating a dialogue between the public and media organisations. In the<br />

US and in Europe in recent years the media industry was characterised<br />

by the consequences of the economic crisis: cost cuts for journalists and<br />

newspaper deaths. At the same time new tools for discourse emerging<br />

through the advent of the Internet show positive changes in journalism<br />

(e.g. interaction with the users). The <strong>MediaAcT</strong> team collected examples<br />

of accountability tools offline and online and selected and published them<br />

in a “Best Practice Guidebook: Media Accountability and Transparency<br />

across Europe”. This publication details a collection of innovative<br />

Example 6: Production Transparency IV<br />

An important instrument of media accountability<br />

is media journalism. A successful example was the<br />

TV show De Waan van de Dag from the Dutch public<br />

service broadcaster. It was a 29 minute weekly media<br />

journalism programme focusing on production<br />

routines, editorial choices, must-haves and flaws<br />

in journalism. One part of the show was a debate<br />

among journalists, reporters and editors-in-chief<br />

about specific issues moderated by a well-known and<br />

experienced presenter. The show reached a market<br />

share of 5.5%. Another example still being broadcast<br />

is the German TV show Zapp – das Medienmagazin<br />

(http://bit.ly/da9BNs).<br />

Online<br />

Example 5: Production Transparency III<br />

Another major aspect of production<br />

transparency is open error management. Many<br />

tools that foster open and transparent error<br />

management are available and in operation in<br />

online publishing. Correction or error buttons<br />

at the Berliner Morgenpost (“Leider falsch”<br />

http://www.morgenpost.de/berlinaktuell/<br />

article1077710/), the Swiss newspaper<br />

Tagesanzeiger (http://www.tagesanzeiger.<br />

ch) or the Swiss free newspaper 20Minuten<br />

(http://www.20min.ch, http://www.20min.ch/<br />

ro/) are just three examples. Similarly, there<br />

exist correction boxes which make errors<br />

transparent, e.g. at the Dutch public service<br />

broadcaster NOS’ website (www.nos.nl/nos/<br />

herstel/).<br />

instruments dedicated to media accountability and quality assurance<br />

in journalism. It targets media managers, journalists and practitioners<br />

in the field of content production who are interested in high quality<br />

and transparency. The tools in this guidebook include users and media<br />

professionals involved in the processes of media production and media<br />

self-regulation. The following overview is intended to help you to navigate<br />

easily through the diverse world of transparency and media accountability.<br />

By way of guidance, we distinguish between three different types of<br />

transparency and media accountability: actor transparency, production<br />

transparency and responsiveness. Let’s get started.<br />

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OFFine<br />

Example 10: Responsiveness IV<br />

A good way to include the audience in the reflection and<br />

production processes are readers’ advisory boards. Amongst<br />

others, they are practiced by the German boulevard<br />

newspaper BILD (http://bit.ly/MMsYPn), the Austrian local<br />

newspaper Vorarlberger Nachrichten (http://bit.ly/OZ3dwT),<br />

the Swiss boulevard newspaper Sonntagsblick (http://bit.<br />

ly/Oo9MHG) and the Catalan newspaper El Punt (http://<br />

bit.ly/QwmOVg). The advisory councils are composed of<br />

readers representing the diversity of the audience. They<br />

are elected once a year. Their “task” is to attend panels<br />

in the newspaper’s headquarters and discuss their ideas,<br />

share their opinions and give feedback. Such tools ensure<br />

transparency, foster media literacy and have a high impact<br />

on the loyalty of the users.<br />

Online<br />

Example 11: External Tools<br />

Next to these company internal innovations one<br />

can find new tools that empower the audience<br />

in the process of media regulation and selfregulation.<br />

Since the advent of the Internet,<br />

it has been possible for the audience to get its<br />

voice heard easily, inexpensively and with the<br />

possibility of reaching a lot of other interested<br />

people. Users can participate in the process of<br />

media accountability, for example, by writing<br />

their own media watch blogs. Examples can<br />

be found in many countries: MediaBugs, USA<br />

(http://mediabugs.org/), BildBLOG, Germany<br />

(http://www.bildblog.de/), Merkintöjä mediasta,<br />

Finland (http://outi.posterous.com/) or kobuk,<br />

Austria (http://www.kobuk.at/).<br />

Best practice examples online:<br />

Online<br />

Example 8: Responsiveness II<br />

The open newsroom policy of The Guardian<br />

is a remarkable concept. Next to many<br />

other tools, they offer their newslist to all<br />

users. On this website users are able to see<br />

which stories are discussed or produced by<br />

the newspaper’s staff or what the editors<br />

think about their coverage. The readers get<br />

a good idea of how the news is produced.<br />

Furthermore, they can post what they think<br />

of the stories or suggest ideas – all userfriendly<br />

via Twitter or Email. The newslist<br />

is a format which is easy and inexpensive<br />

to establish as it can be an embedded<br />

Google document (http://www.guardian.<br />

co.uk/help/insideguardian/2011/oct/10/<br />

guardian-newslist).<br />

OFFline<br />

Example 14:<br />

Production Transparency IV<br />

An internal offline practice is the<br />

“early paper critique” as is done by<br />

the Swiss Bieler Zeitung (http://www.<br />

quajou.ch/downloads/medienaward/Dokumentation_Medien-<br />

Award_2005.pdf). All articles<br />

produced before 6pm (before<br />

the newspaper goes into print)<br />

are collectively analysed by the<br />

editors involved. The articles are<br />

always presented by the head of<br />

the news division. At least one of<br />

the chief editors, as well as the art<br />

director, have to be present. This<br />

instrument fosters a lively internal<br />

debate on quality, accuracy and<br />


OFFline<br />

Example 12: External Tools<br />

The Register Citizen Newsroom Cafe in Torrington,<br />

Connecticut, USA (http://newsroomcafe.<br />

wordpress.com/) is a combination of coffee<br />

house and local newsroom. The local<br />

newspaper is produced by professionals,<br />

citizen journalists and lay people. People can<br />

give feedback to stories, attend the planning<br />

meetings or use the work space provided. To<br />

date the physical presence in the newsroom<br />

is not as great as the online contributions.<br />

This innovative project strengthens the<br />

error management process, creates actor,<br />

newsroom and production transparency, and<br />

contributes to responsiveness.<br />

Example 9:<br />

Responsiveness III<br />

A sophisticated approach to<br />

include users in the selection and<br />

production processes has been<br />

adopted by the Finnish public<br />

broadcaster YLE2. One third (8<br />

minutes) of their daily prime time<br />

live current affairs programme<br />

is completely focused on the<br />

publics’ perspectives. Everybody<br />

can suggest topics, comment<br />

ideas and act as a contributor and<br />

they use a range of platforms such<br />

as Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and<br />

Skype. The level of contributions<br />

as well as the audience response is<br />

a big success (http://yle.fi/uutiset/<br />

puheenaiheet/).<br />

Online<br />

Online OFFline<br />

Example 7: Responsiveness I<br />

Responsiveness refers to an active and fair dialogue with users. This includes,<br />

first of all, an open newsroom policy. There are many different tools helping<br />

journalists to give insights into news making and news production. For<br />

example, the weekly live chats with editors that are practiced by the French<br />

online paper rue89 (http://www.rue89.com/participez-a-la-conference-deredaction-en-ligne)<br />

are an effective and non-expensive tool. Journalists<br />

and users can discuss current issues, ask for feedback or give insights into<br />

their reporting routine.<br />

Example 13: External Tools<br />

An easy to implement offline tool is an open<br />

critique session, as practiced by the Austrian<br />

monthly magazine Datum (http://bit.ly/<br />

OtaQJA) and by the Spanish El Periodico (http://<br />

entretodos.elperiodico.com). This is an open<br />

forum where the audience can discuss the<br />

latest issue with either or both the editorial<br />

team and an external expert from the media<br />

or the arts. The resources needed are quite<br />

low. These sessions strengthen reader loyalty<br />

towards the medium and give an insight into<br />

the production process.<br />

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Zoom-in on the newsroom | Media landscapes<br />

Preparing<br />

for the future<br />

By heikki heikkilÄ<br />

Media accountability tools online<br />

In recent years, there have not been many innovations in newspaper,<br />

radio or television journalism to report. However, a number of new phenomena<br />

in journalism and public communication have emerged on the<br />

Internet: blogging and microblogging, citizen journalism and user-generated<br />

content, data journalism and data leaks, for example.<br />

Some observers argue that online communication can be instrumental<br />

in democratizing societies in some parts of the world – for instance,<br />

in Arab countries – while in western countries it is assumed that the Internet<br />

is key in pulling the news industry out of its economic difficulties.<br />

In the USA, a recent report on Post-Industrial Journalism predicts that<br />

“journalism in this country will get worse before it gets better”. It will<br />

get better, the report maintains, if news producers and users are able to<br />

“take use of tools and techniques that were not possible ten years ago”.<br />

While some of this optimism may be unwarranted, it is convincingly<br />

pointed out that the online news environment is much more dynamic<br />

than the offline environment.<br />

One of the challenges for media organisations in the future is to<br />

strengthen the public trust in news institutions and the legitimacy of<br />

journalism. Two principles of media accountability are important in<br />

this respect: transparency and responsiveness. Transparency refers to<br />

practices that aim to shed light on the background to news production<br />

by describing who the producers are and explaining what they are<br />

doing. Responsiveness, in turn, refers to practices whereby media organisations<br />

encourage users to give feedback and find ways to take users’<br />

concerns into account.<br />

Digital technologies seem to be well-suited for both purposes. On<br />

the Internet, news organisations can break out from the scarcity of<br />

publishing space and inform the audience at length about their ethical<br />

standards and editorial policies. In addition, the Internet enables direct<br />

interaction between producers and recipients of news. Thus, it is easier<br />

for anyone to participate in the dialogue about the ethics and quality<br />

of news.<br />

In the <strong>MediaAcT</strong> project an explorative study was launched for mapping<br />

the development of media accountability on the Internet in Western,<br />

central and eastern Europe, the USA, and two Arab countries.<br />

The analysis demonstrates that while the Internet tools and instruments<br />

have spread to different parts of the world their prominence and efficacy<br />

vary a great deal. These differences do not merely relate to the varying<br />

standards of the Internet infrastructures. Even more importantly, the<br />

differences suggest that transparency and responsiveness are not among<br />

the top priorities in newsrooms.<br />

Transparency: unless you have something to hide<br />

When politicians refuse to give a statement, a normative argument for<br />

transparency is often voiced by journalists: “If you have nothing to hide,<br />

transparency is for your own good”. Our analysis suggests that journalists<br />

do not always apply the same argument to themselves. This is de-<br />

Photograph: photocase/ohneski<br />

monstrated by the fact that only a few practices promoting transparency<br />

are widespread among online news organisations. Where such practices<br />

are introduced, the news organisations’ motive to implement them is<br />

often commercial rather than ethical.<br />

The simplest model of so called “actor transparency” is to tag news<br />

items with the by-line and the e-mail address of the responsible author.<br />

This is a widespread practice in the USA, western Europe and Poland,<br />

but it is far less common in Bulgaria, Serbia or Arab countries. Even less<br />

common is that online news services provide more detailed profiles of<br />

journalists’ specific expertise on the themes they are reporting.<br />

At the level of the media organisation, actor transparency can mean<br />

shedding light on the ownership structures of media companies. Such<br />

information is generally made available in western Europe and the USA,<br />

but the financial reports and business strategies are separated from the<br />

online news services. A similar separation can be found between news<br />

websites and ethical guidelines. In news cultures where the codes of<br />

ethics are approved collectively by journalists’ unions, the ethical guidelines,<br />

as well as tools for filing a complaint to the press council, exist<br />

outside online news platforms. In news cultures where the emphasis on<br />

ethical conduct is on in-house guidelines, these codes are not always easily<br />

accessible. These examples suggest that transparency is for some reason<br />

toned down by news organisations, which undermines its efficacy.<br />

While actor transparency casts light on practices before the act of<br />

publication, transparency may also be enacted during it. News organisations<br />

may allow users to compare the news items to the original

sources of information by attaching external hyperlinks to the news<br />

story. This practice, however, is far from systematically applied. Instead<br />

of this online news organisations prefer publishing the hyperlinks only<br />

to their previously published news stories. This means that the hyperlinks<br />

do not aim to help users to evaluate the veracity of the news item<br />

in front of them, but rather they are treated as an implicit persuasion for<br />

users to stay a bit longer on the given news website.<br />

Another form of production transparency can be introduced by allowing<br />

users to witness editorial meetings or submit their ideas for editorial<br />

decision-making. Production transparency may also be pursued by<br />

running newsroom blogs to explain editorial decisions or comment on<br />

questions arising from the reporting. At the moment, only a few news<br />

organisations are providing video streams from their editorial meetings<br />

or providing newsroom blogs which systematically consult users about<br />

the items they are covering. Even if some news organisations have run<br />

newsroom blogs for a number of years, the practice in general seems to<br />

be losing prominence.<br />

Newsroom blogs may be regarded as outdated, as online news organisations<br />

are interested in getting a foothold on social networking<br />

sites. While Facebook users, groups and networks may be harnessed in<br />

gathering sources and information, for online newsrooms Facebook is<br />

predominantly a tool for promoting news stories and a promising strategy<br />

for maximising incoming web traffic to their news service. While<br />

this objective is legitimate, it is based on economic interests rather than<br />

ethical principles.<br />

Responsiveness: “Tell us where we went wrong”<br />

News organisations depend on their audiences. This idea is very notice-able<br />

in the variety of ways that newsrooms open themselves up<br />

to users’ tip-offs and comments. Facebook and Twitter are clearly<br />

gaining importance over discussion boards, news comments and<br />

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) sections. Despite the fact that social<br />

media enables more direct interaction with users, it seems that<br />

journalists continue to keep their audiences at arm’s length. At the<br />

end of 2010, only two editors-in-chief in th United Kingdom were<br />

tweeting regularly, and their mode of communication was mainly<br />

one-directional.<br />

The area which online newsrooms have taken more seriously is<br />

error management. Not only are news desks better prepared to receive<br />

notification of errors; they are also proactively making error<br />

management more transparent. One of the online tools, which is<br />

gradually becoming more widespread, is the correction button. The<br />

efficacy of error management needs contributions from active and<br />

interested users. Some of this activity may not be directed back to<br />

the news organisations through correction buttons, but it may give<br />

rise to citizen-based media monitoring. These sorts of citizen blogs<br />

can be found in different types of media and political cultures, such<br />

as Germany, the USA and pre-revolutionary Tunisia.<br />

New environment – new dynamics?<br />

The development of online media accountability practices does not<br />

depend so much on technology but on economic and commercial<br />

interests within news organisations. At the moment, transparency<br />

and responsiveness are not among the primary strategies in media<br />

companies; many newsrooms are still experimenting with the idea.<br />

Through experiments, new journalistic practices – and perhaps innovations<br />

in media accountability – may emerge.<br />

The flow of ideas about new online practices does not spread in<br />

the same way as technologies. In journalism new influences traditionally<br />

flow top-down and from the centre to the periphery. This<br />

pattern highlights the role of western news cultures and national<br />

flagship media corporations in each country.<br />

While actors such as the New York Times, BBC and The Guardian<br />

continue to be influential in the online environment, new practices<br />

may emerge from elsewhere, too. Due to new online start-up organisations<br />

in the USA, media bloggers in Europe, and online activism<br />

in Arab countries, the news environment today is much more decentralised<br />

and transnational than it used to be ten years ago.<br />

fUrThEr rEAdIng<br />

Anderson, wright; Bell, Emily; shirky, clay (2012): post-Industrial<br />

Journalism: Adapting to the present. new york:<br />

Tow center for digital Journalism, columbia Journalism<br />

school. http://towcenter.org/research/post-industrialjournalism/<br />

domingo, david et al. (2012): Media Accountability goes<br />

Online: A Transnational study of Emerging practices<br />

and Innovations. <strong>MediaAcT</strong> working paper. Available at:<br />

http://www.mediaact.eu/fileadmin/user_upload/wp4_<br />

Outcomes/wp4_report.pdf<br />

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0<br />

it’s transparency, stupid!<br />

Journalism is increasingly faced with calls for more public accountability.<br />

Empowerment of citizens, digitalisation, commercialisation<br />

and increasing information flows pose new demands for journalistic<br />

quality and professional legitimacy. Consequently, professional<br />

organisations increasingly state the importance of being transparent<br />

and responsive towards the audience. While both audience<br />

interaction and transparency are indispensable in their own right,<br />

we suggest that transparency deserves extra attention. Not only is<br />

transparency believed to improve news media credibility, it also supports<br />

audience interaction and, not insignificantly, it is relatively<br />

easy to realise.<br />

Serveral ways of transparency<br />

Journalists and newsrooms can be transparent in several ways. In<br />

the first place, journalists can be clear about their sources. Referring<br />

to sources is a common journalistic practice; by attributing assertions<br />

to others, a journalist explains how their claims are underpinned.<br />

Increasingly, this ‘source transparency’ is provided by links to<br />

original documents and raw material. It is less common, however,<br />

to explain the authority, the expertise and the interests of a source.<br />

Few journalists mention the specific conditions of news people<br />

before appearing as a source. In the second place, journalists can<br />

be transparent by sharing thoughts and decisions during the journalistic<br />

process. Some call this ‘process journalism’, to emphasise<br />

By huuB eVerS & hArMen grOenhArT<br />

Photograph: photocase/MMchen<br />

To what extent and how should journalists engage in audience participation?<br />

that journalistic claims are never definitive, but constantly developing.<br />

Admitting and correcting mistakes is part of the same deal.<br />

Third, journalists can be transparent about themselves and their<br />

organisations by means of mission statements, ethical standards,<br />

responsibilities and backgrounds. A common practice is the use of<br />

credit lines or the publication of short journalists’ biographies on<br />

the news medium’s website. Apart from this, many journalists create<br />

their own individual profile. They have their own website, or use<br />

Twitter to express their thoughts or to ask followers for help. This<br />

makes it easier for potential sources to find a journalist when they<br />

want to provide them with information. In addition, many journalists<br />

perceive transparency in terms of the accessibility of the news<br />

organisation by means of a contact for complaints. Publication of<br />

any form of audience interaction, like user comments, social media,<br />

or participatory journalism may be called ‘interaction transparency’,<br />

which symbolises the responsiveness of journalists.<br />

Nevertheless, journalists have good reasons for secrecy as well. As<br />

journalism is a discipline of verification, it is hazardous to publish<br />

news that still needs to be checked. Unless journalists have doubtful<br />

motives, they do not want to publish obvious inaccuracies. More<br />

strategically, journalists may need to keep their projects secret from<br />

their object of inquiry or from competing news media. The most<br />

fundamental reason for secrecy, however, lies in source protection.<br />

Absolute transparency silences criticism, and as such it functions

against freedom of information. Therefore, journalistic transparency<br />

may be wise, but should be handled with great care.<br />

Do you practice what you preach?<br />

Notwithstanding these important considerations, newsrooms do not<br />

seem to practice what they preach about transparency and audience<br />

interaction. The <strong>MediaAcT</strong> research shows a clear difference between<br />

what journalists think their newsroom should do and what they think<br />

their newsroom actually does. Considerable parts of the journalistic<br />

process do not require secrecy, so something else is going on. Part of<br />

the explanation, as we found, lies in a tendency to shift the responsibility<br />

for transparency and audience interaction to others. As may be<br />

the case in any other organisation or profession, journalists seem to<br />

believe particularly that their colleagues need to make more effort.<br />

For instance, journalists working for the dailies do not attach the<br />

highest values to employing an ombudsman, the news agency journalists<br />

do. This is remarkable because ombudsmen have no traditional<br />

role for news agencies. Because we do not expect news agencies<br />

to hire ombudsmen in the near future themselves, we suggest that<br />

these results show a ‘telling others what to do-effect’: news agency<br />

journalists – possibly evaluating themselves as a gateway to the news<br />

media – consider that it is a good idea if their print colleagues employ<br />

an ombudsman or public editor.<br />

Telling others what to do also comes to the fore between job positions.<br />

Journalists with managerial job positions differ from operational<br />

journalists in their attitudes towards transparency and audience<br />

interaction. Editors-in-chief attached the highest values and freelancers<br />

the lowest values to providing a contact for complaints about<br />

content. Although all respondents were rather positive about employing<br />

an ombudsman, editors-in-chief are more positive than reporters.<br />

In addition, compared to media managers, both reporters and<br />

freelancers seem to shy away from audience interaction. This may be<br />

due to assumptions about accountable organisations, which is more<br />

the editor-in-chief’s problem, and the seemingly unfeasible interference<br />

with journalistic production, which is more the reporter’s<br />

problem. In the end, reporters have to deal with the audience on a<br />

daily basis, not the editors-in-chief, who merely deal with end-ofthe-line<br />

audience interaction.<br />

Also, age groups account for a few, but meaningful differences.<br />

Junior journalists appreciate direct communication on social media<br />

and online participatory news production significantly more than<br />

senior journalists. This does not mean that senior journalists attach<br />

no value to audience ties in general. Senior journalists show no significant<br />

differences on the importance of responding to users’ comments<br />

and suggestions, and moreover, senior journalists appreciate<br />

the more traditional means of communication, like a central contact<br />

for complaints or an ombudsman.<br />

Finally, the journalists’ nationalities also seem to matter. Although<br />

it seems that European journalists share a common belief<br />

that transparency and audience interaction is important, we found<br />

significant differences between different countries. For instance,<br />

Jordanian journalists show high belief in citizens’ contributions to<br />

journalism. Contrasting with journalists from other countries, they<br />

strongly believe in co-production and in direct communication via<br />

social media. Moreover, Jordanian and Tunisian journalists estimate<br />

that their audiences’ interest in media accountability issues is high.<br />

The Arab spring may offer an explanation for this, as very recently<br />

the citizen’s voice had significant impact on governmental regimes<br />

in these countries. Regarding ombudsmen – as a way to offer transparent<br />

communication with the reader – we found interesting differences<br />

as well. On the one hand, French and Spanish journalists<br />

clearly attach most value to employing an ombudsman. This may be<br />

related to the relatively long tradition of having ombudsmen, who<br />

are seen as icons of quality journalism for prestigious news media,<br />

such as Le Monde, El País and several broadcasting organisations.<br />

On the other hand, Finland and Estonia have no tradition of ombudsmen,<br />

which clearly resonates in the low support given to this by<br />

both Finnish and Estonian journalists. Moreover, in the case of Finland,<br />

this low score emphasises that journalists seem quite satisfied<br />

with the existing culture of audience interaction.<br />

In summary, we found significant differences between how<br />

groups of journalists perceive the importance and actual practices of<br />

transparency and audience interaction. Managers think journalists<br />

should interact more with the audience, while journalists think managers<br />

should invest more in organisational transparency. Although,<br />

to a certain extent, European journalists share a common ideology<br />

on transparency and interaction with the audience, the historical<br />

and political context of individual countries also clearly affects journalists’<br />

faith in transparency and audience interaction. This suggests<br />

that, if feasible, any journalistic quality management should be defined<br />

at the national level and only in terms of improving self-regulation.<br />

The profession itself knows best what improves quality in the<br />

newsroom and what does not. Transparency and audience interaction<br />

seem to be promising tools in that respect, as there still seems to<br />

be considerable room for improvement.<br />

And what about the audience itself?<br />

Journalists often reject pleas for transparency claiming that the general<br />

public is not interested in the processes behind the scenes.<br />

This seems to be only partly true. On the one hand, Dutch research,<br />

by Schönbach and Van der Wurff, showed that the audience is not<br />

very keen to get in touch with journalists. The interactive character<br />

of public accountability suggests a certain amount of reciprocity<br />

which is certainly not the case for all news consumers. Usually the<br />

accountability process only gets going where mistakes have been<br />

made or in cases of public indignation. Factors further hampering<br />

the process are the weak media literacy of the public and the poor<br />

transparency and accessibility of news organisations. On the other<br />

hand, other recent research by Groenhart in the Netherlands contradicts<br />

the supposition of disinterest among news users. A group<br />

of news users is intrinsically interested in newsroom processes, and<br />

many like to observe what’s going on in the newsrooms more passively.<br />

When it comes to quality management, the audience expects<br />

a certain level of transparency in journalism. This high or low level<br />

of interest does not depend so much on a certain medium type or<br />

age group, but rather on media literacy. Therefore, proactive transparency<br />

and media literacy may have more potential for public accountability<br />

than passively waiting for the audience to correct journalism<br />

quality. The <strong>MediaAcT</strong> project has therefore developed an<br />

online platform for citizens and bloggers, aiming to increase media<br />

literacy (see page 22-23). Instead of expecting the public to proactively<br />

engage with the news process, journalists should make the<br />

effort of making their trade more transparent. They should do so by<br />

stating the professional intentions of news media, by revealing the<br />

struggles behind the scenes, and above all by showing off their own<br />

successful efforts.<br />

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| Zoom-in on the newsroom | Media landscapes<br />

Photograph: photocase/hannesleitlein

Action!<br />

By TOBiAS eBerwein<br />

how media research can have a lasting<br />

impact on journalists and the public<br />

How can media research have a lasting impact on the behaviour of journalists<br />

and other social actors? Why is it that so many newsrooms have<br />

no discernible interest in any kind of academic analyses, while for many<br />

researchers their main motivation is in initiating a wide social debate on<br />

the quality of the media, thus contributing to journalism’s advancement?<br />

There have been countless discussions on the question of the relevance of<br />

academic research – and media studies in particular (see Fengler, Eberwein<br />

and Jorch, 2012). Despite many attempts to bridge the gap between journalism<br />

and academia, at best, the relationship between them still seems to<br />

be ambivalent in most European countries. As the comparative survey by<br />

the multinational <strong>MediaAcT</strong> consortium demonstrates, media research<br />

hardly receives any attention from journalists across Europe (and the Arab<br />

world). When asked what impact journalistic practitioners give to the academic<br />

analysis of journalism, as compared to other Instruments of Media<br />

Accountability (MAIs), such as press councils, ombudspersons or media<br />

criticism on the social web, a mere 19% of respondents claimed that it had<br />

at least some influence on their behaviour. Only few other MAIs received<br />

worse ratings (for more details see Fengler, Eberwein, Mazzoleni, Porlezza<br />

and Russ-Mohl, forthcoming). Do most initiatives by media scholars to<br />

launch a public debate on media performance and correcting journalistic<br />

mistakes simply vanish into thin air?<br />

Transgress the academic boundaries<br />

In order to cope with this problem, the <strong>MediaAcT</strong> project devised a way<br />

to change this: major research results that have been generated over the<br />

project’s life, the past 31/2 years, are not only being published in the traditional<br />

form of academic papers, but also in other media formats that<br />

can help to address all stakeholder groups with an interest in a free and<br />

pluralistic media landscape – most notably media practitioners and the<br />

public. The collection of articles and essays in this journal may serve as<br />

one example – summarising the project’s findings and presenting them<br />

in an easily accessible form, not the conventional mode of academic writing.<br />

To illustrate the benefit of well-functioning Media Accountability<br />

Instruments, the project also identified many international best-practice<br />

examples and these are presented in a guidebook for journalists and newsrooms<br />

(see box below).<br />

Let’s start! Online and offline training<br />

Moreover the project participants developed two online platforms that are<br />

intended to highlight the societal relevance of the discussion about media<br />

accountability and transparency: one of them, a web-based training tool<br />

for journalists, is integrated in the project’s homepage on the web (http://<br />

www.mediaact.eu); the other, a dynamic website for bloggers and other<br />

interested citizens, is accessible under http://www.mediaspeak.org.<br />

For the journalist’s training tool, the <strong>MediaAcT</strong> consortium developed<br />

a seminar series on media accountability. It consists of 14 separate sessions<br />

on topics ranging from theoretical perspectives and insights into the concepts<br />

of media self-regulation and co-regulation, to a practical introduc-<br />

tion to the functionality of different MAIs, such as press councils, codes of<br />

ethics, ombudspersons, media journalism and the particular potential of<br />

web-based accountability processes. Each session is accompanied by a set<br />

of Powerpoint slides, ready to use in a classroom setting. In addition, the<br />

training tool also includes a variety of flash cards for key terms, suggested<br />

reading assignments, a collection of case studies on characteristic ethical<br />

dilemmas in journalistic practice and multimedia elements (e.g. video interviews<br />

with international experts in the field). All materials draw on the<br />

research from the <strong>MediaAcT</strong> project, communicating key findings from<br />

its studies that directly relate to everyday work in the newsroom.<br />

The <strong>MediaAcT</strong> citizens’ platform is dynamic and interactive. It collects<br />

critical blog posts by media users about journalistic misbehaviour<br />

and offers room for public discussion. The site also presents different codes<br />

of conduct for media professionals and provides simple instructions about<br />

how to make complaints if these codes are disobeyed. Moreover, it also<br />

works as a forum to connect other decentralised citizen initiatives on media<br />

criticism and accountability.<br />

Both the citizen platform and the training tool are unconventional<br />

ways of presenting the findings of an academic survey. Nonetheless, they<br />

not only serve their audiences in professional journalism and civil society<br />

– but also media researchers in their long struggle to bridge the gap between<br />

themselves and their objects of study.<br />

lInks<br />

website of the <strong>MediaAcT</strong> project: http://www.mediaact.eu<br />

<strong>MediaAcT</strong>’s online platform for journalists and citizens:<br />

http://www.mediaspeak.org<br />

fUrThEr rEAdIng<br />

Bichler, klaus; harro-loit, halliki; karmasin, Matthias; kraus,<br />

daniela; lauk, Epp; loit, Urmas; fengler, susanne; schneider-<br />

Mombaur, laura (2012): Best practice guidebook: Media<br />

Accountability and Transparency across Europe. Url: http://<br />

www.mediaact.eu/fileadmin/user_upload/guidebook/<br />

Best_practice_guidebook_new.pdf<br />

fengler, susanne; Eberwein, Tobias; Jorch, Julia (eds.)<br />

(2012): Theoretisch praktisch!? Anwendungsoptionen<br />

und gesellschaftliche relevanz der kommunikations- und<br />

Medienforschung. konstanz: Uvk.<br />

fengler, susanne; Eberwein, Tobias; Mazzoleni, gianpietro;<br />

porlezza; colin; russ-Mohl, stephan (eds.) (forthcoming):<br />

Journalists and Media Accountability. An International study<br />

of news people in the digital Age. new york etc.: peter lang.<br />

Index | Editorial | Birds-eye view | Opening the toolbox<br />

| Zoom-in on the newsroom | Media landscapes

Index | Editorial | Birds-eye view | Opening the toolbox | Zoom-in on on the the newsroom newsroom | Media landscapes<br />

Photograph: photocase/spudnique

Critical or hypocritical<br />

journalists?<br />

By SuSAnne Fengler, TOBiAS eBerwein, JudiTh pieS, JuliA lönnendOnker &<br />

lAurA Schneider-MOMBAur<br />

results of a worldwide survey<br />

How can we ensure a free and responsible press across Europe?<br />

This question is currently debated heatedly, even aggressively, by<br />

journalists, industry representatives, media policy-makers and<br />

scholars across Europe. In late 2012, Lord Justice Leveson recommended<br />

a fundamental reform of the traditional model of media<br />

self-regulation in Britain – which has dominated other western<br />

European journalism cultures since the 1950s. As a consequence<br />

of the News of the World scandal, Leveson suggests a new, statutory<br />

regulatory system. Obviously, the current self-regulation system<br />

was not able to restrict the unethical and unlawful methods<br />

of the Murdoch-owned tabloid.<br />

Leveson has prompted an outcry among British news outlets.<br />

Many of them consider such a form of state intervention to be<br />

the end of press freedom. A similarly fierce response was given<br />

by industry representatives and lobbyists across Europe to the<br />

2013 report of the EU High-Level Group on Media Freedom<br />

and Pluralism (HLG) (see also page 40). The committee was<br />

set up by EU commissioner, Neelie Kroes, in 2011; at that time<br />

the European parliament was concerned about a tightening of<br />

media law in Hungary under the Orbán government. Among<br />

other recommendations, the High-Level Group suggests drastically<br />

expanding the sanctioning potential of existing press<br />

councils. They also demand mandatory media councils in EU<br />

states which, like France and Romania, do not have a press<br />

council yet.<br />

Journalists’ attitudes towards media self-regulation<br />

The key question behind both the Leveson recommendations and<br />

the High-Level Group report is obvious: does the traditional model<br />

of media self-regulation dating back to the 1950s, with press<br />

councils as its core institution, still suffice for today’s converging<br />

media world – which is so much more competitive? Can new accountability<br />

instruments emerging online – like newsroom blogs,<br />

online ombudsmen and media criticism via the Web – successfully<br />

support, or even replace these traditional instruments of media<br />

self-regulation? Aren’t participative models of media accountability<br />

a more promising and “healthy” option than co-regulation<br />

models which foresee a greater role for the state?<br />

These are also the key questions of the research project “Media<br />

Accountability and Transparency in Europe“ (<strong>MediaAcT</strong>).<br />

Our survey of 1,762 journalists in European as well as two Arab<br />

countries (Tunisia and Jordan) reveals sharp contradictions: even<br />

though journalists across countries unanimously support the<br />

statement “Journalistic responsibility is a prerequisite for press<br />

freedom”, journalists’ actual support for the concept of media<br />

self-regulation is, at best, mediocre in most countries.<br />

Lip service to media accountability?<br />

Journalists only attribute a medium or even rather weak impact to press<br />

councils, media criticism in the mass media, ombudsmen, media blogs,<br />

and the other Media Accountability Instruments (MAIs). Obviously,<br />

European journalists in many countries question the effectiveness of<br />

the existing media self-regulation practices. The survey results also<br />

reveal another telling fact: journalists perceive those MAIs that have<br />

the potential to endanger their personal professional lives as much<br />

more powerful than all of the instruments at the professional level.<br />

In almost all of the 14 countries involved in the study, journalists see<br />

ethical guidelines given out by their newsroom and media laws as the<br />

most influential instruments of media accountability. In comparison,<br />

traditional instruments of media self-control, such as press councils<br />

and press codes, are perceived as considerably less influential. In most<br />

countries journalists also attribute rather little impact to ombudsmen,<br />

trade journals and media criticism in the mass media – let alone<br />

external critics, such as media Non-governmental Organisations<br />

(NGOs) or media scholars. Thus, from an empirical point of view,<br />

it seems understandable that the European Union raises the question<br />

of whether the current potential of sanctions that European press<br />

councils have at their disposal is sufficient.<br />

Journalists observe more audience criticism online<br />

In the past few years, many new MAIs have emerged online – like blogs<br />

run by journalists, online ombudsmen, media users’ blogs, and media<br />

criticism via Twitter and Facebook. Obviously, these new instruments<br />

already have some impact on the journalists. Many media professionals<br />

across countries said in our study that they observe a notable increase of<br />

critical audience feedback online. Younger journalists especially, and<br />

those journalists who work for online media, are open-minded about<br />

these innovative instruments. Among the new digital possibilities,<br />

social media platforms are rated as the most important MAI: the<br />

surveyed journalists state that they have received an increasing amount<br />

of feedback and critique from their audiences via Facebook and Twitter.<br />

Especially for journalists in the two Arab countries - affected by their<br />

experiences with governmental censorship – the social media dialogue<br />

with their audience is important. However, while digital MAIs have<br />

obviously gained prominence, they still lag behind the – limited –<br />

relevance of the traditional Media Accountability Instruments.<br />

Criticism of colleagues is not common<br />

In many countries there is hardly any culture of criticism within newsrooms:<br />

just a third of all surveyed journalists stated that they criticise<br />

their colleagues often or frequently. Only in a few countries, like Finland,<br />

where newsrooms are less hierarchically organised (see further<br />

down), are journalists criticised more often by their colleagues.<br />

Index | Editorial | Birds-eye view | Opening the toolbox | Zoom-in on the newsroom<br />

| Media landscapes

Index | Editorial | Birds-eye view | Opening the toolbox | Zoom-in on the newsroom newsroom|<br />

Media landscapes<br />

External criticism by politicians, scientists or media users is even<br />

less appreciated – and often perceived as unfair by journalists. Does<br />

this attitude still fit in this day and age, where influential institutions<br />

call for more media transparency? When journalism fails to initiate a<br />

critical debate about its weaknesses and problems, it also misses the<br />

chance to point out its strength and its essential role for an efficient<br />

democracy in the era of Google & Co.<br />

Not very welcome: the audience as media critic<br />

In the digital age, it has become much easier for media users to become<br />

media critics. They can get back to journalists and news outlets<br />

via Facebook and Twitter, or use social media to network with other<br />

citizen media critics. Many news websites offer comment functions<br />

and a few are already experimenting with correction buttons. Is the<br />

time ripe for a participatory approach towards media accountability?<br />

Are journalists ready to give the public a significant role in holding<br />

the media to account? Not yet, according to our data. Journalists<br />

across countries observe increasing audience criticism online, but<br />

they still do not take their public as seriously as they should. Even<br />

though the future of quality journalism, at least, more than ever<br />

depends on a stable trust relationship with the audience, journalists<br />

seem to cling to their traditional gatekeeper role: they do not<br />

consider the impact of user comments – be they offline and online<br />

– on journalism as important. Less than half of the journalists across<br />

countries support the statement that journalists are concerned about<br />

audience criticism. While journalists strongly favour transparency<br />

about media ownership and also support the idea of publishing a<br />

journalistic code of ethics online, they are much less enthusiastic<br />

about explaining everyday news decisions in a newsroom blog. They<br />

also want to provide a contact for users’ complaints – but support<br />

for ombudsmen, and the opportunity to communicate directly with<br />

journalists, is considerably less intensive. Journalists are also quite<br />

sceptical about allowing users to participate in the production of<br />

stories online or provide links to original sources. Even though journalism<br />

is a public service, the public is held in rather low esteem by<br />

journalists.<br />

Another item in our survey questionnaire may provide an explanation:<br />

when we asked journalists who they feel responsible to,<br />

journalists cited their own conscience and professional values in first<br />

place. Moreover, the majority of journalists feel more responsible<br />

to their sources than to their target audience or the public. To sum<br />

up: even though the audience makes increasing use of online feedback<br />

mechanisms, journalists are still reluctant to acknowledge the<br />

public’s role in holding the media to account. Thus, participatory accountability<br />

models cannot replace a strong organisational commitment<br />

and a sophisticated system of incentives at all levels to promote<br />

media accountability.<br />

Scepticism in Spain, Italy, Romania and Poland<br />

In central and eastern as well as southern Europe journalists are even<br />

more sceptical about the concept of media transparency: many Spanish<br />

and Italian journalists, as well as their colleagues from Romania and Poland,<br />

believe that publishing corrections or making newsroom processes<br />

transparent online will damage the bond of trust between journalism<br />

and the audience. Journalists from these four countries as well as from<br />

Jordan and Tunisia told us with higher than average frequency that they<br />

worked for distinctly political media, and therefore felt constrained to a<br />

specific political idea or pressured by the government.<br />

Promoting media accountability – stick or carrot?<br />

Given these rather sobering results – what can be done to promote media<br />

accountability? Our data clearly show that journalists don’t want state<br />

intervention – the statement “formal systems of media regulation are<br />

open to political abuse” was widely supported by the 1,762 journalists<br />

who responded to our survey. However, they view the existing instruments<br />

as insufficient as well – in sharp contrast to the industry representatives<br />

who, in reaction to the High-Level Group report, claimed that<br />

the existing systems of media self-regulation work properly and well. For<br />

example, while UK industry representatives were extremely against any<br />

form of co-regulation, journalists in the UK gave highest support to the<br />

statement “to be effective media self-regulation needs more sanctions.”<br />

Towards a culture of accountability<br />

Our survey shows that the newsroom makes the difference. Journalists<br />

from news outlets who report being praised when they uphold standards<br />

even under difficult circumstances, and who report that they would be<br />

called in by their supervisors when media users challenge the integrity<br />

of their work, value the impact of the different MAIs higher than their<br />

peers who work in newsrooms without such a culture of accountability.<br />

This means that the newsroom management plays a considerable<br />

role when it comes to the ethical awareness of journalists. A series of<br />

additional 100 interviews with international experts on media accountability<br />

conducted by <strong>MediaAcT</strong> has confirmed this: “Only enacting<br />

the instruments through practices, media accountability actually exists.<br />

Instruments, therefore, cannot be taken for granted, and for them to<br />

become established practices depends on actors‘ attitudes and positions<br />

in the field” (Domingo & Heikkilä, 2011, p. 10).<br />

We can also observe the strong influence of the organisation<br />

on other issues: journalists from public broadcasting stations rate<br />

the impact of MAIs higher than their colleagues from commercial<br />

TV and radio. Across hierarchies, freelancers are most reluctant to<br />

support the MAIs. Media organisations which have pushed towards<br />

outsourcing in many European countries now carry a huge responsibility:<br />

for their own interest they have to make sure that they do not<br />

grow a ‘journalistic underclass’ without ethical awareness. There is<br />

a second lesson here: it takes a pro-active media management to establish<br />

a culture of accountability in the newsrooms – but it also requires<br />

a certain amount of financial stability, both on the individual<br />

and on the organisational level, to be able to ‘afford’ accountable<br />

behaviour. This is quite a challenge in a time where journalists from<br />

all <strong>MediaAcT</strong> survey countries consider economic pressure to be the<br />

greatest threat to standards in journalism.<br />

However, in the digital age, it is no longer costly to install accountability<br />

and transparency mechanisms in the newsroom. Our survey<br />

data also show that web-based MAIs are gaining prominence: albeit<br />

at a low level of significance. Media blogs written by journalists are<br />

already considered more influential than the traditional journalistic<br />

trade magazines, and newsroom blogs – which can foster transparency<br />

about newsroom-internal discussions about journalistic standards<br />

– almost equal the significance of the ‘classic’ ombudsman.<br />

The responsibility of media companies is even greater in southern<br />

and central Europe, where journalists’ unions and federations are less<br />

influential than in western and northern Europe. Here, journalists rate<br />

the (potential) impact of a company code especially highly. If media<br />

managers actively implement accountability and transparency mechanisms,<br />

they clearly demonstrate that they care for media accountability,<br />

and thus make any form of state intervention superfluous. Should

the High-Level Group – even though it is so sharply criticised<br />

– succeed in increasing the pressure on media organisations to<br />

pro-actively install MAIs, the report will already have served its<br />

purpose.<br />

A media policy perspective: incentives<br />

Media policy-makers could encourage such activities by creating<br />

strong incentives for media companies to become involved<br />

in media accountability activities at both levels. The <strong>MediaAcT</strong><br />

project has applied an economic perspective to the study of media<br />

accountability practices. Thus, we argue that reminding journalists<br />

and media companies of their norma-tive duties ‘to behave<br />

well’ may be less successful than offering concrete rewards for<br />

accountability activities. These rewards can be both material and<br />

immaterial, as the example of the Irish press council shows – here,<br />

media companies enjoy legal advantages when they become<br />

members of the press council and actively apply the Irish press<br />

code in their newsrooms.<br />

Lessons from Finland<br />

While support for most MAIs is rather low across our survey<br />

countries, some countries stick out as positive examples. Finnish<br />

journalists, along with their colleagues from Switzerland, showed<br />

the highest support for almost all MAIs. They also show considerably<br />

more support for many other MAIs. These results contrast<br />

notably even with neighbouring countries like Germany. What<br />

is different in Finland, and also Switzerland, where the press<br />

council is held in very high esteem as compared to many other<br />

countries?<br />

First of all, both are countries with a high level of education<br />

and a high degree of media literacy. Also, a vivid civic engagement<br />

fosters public surveillance of media institutions. We also find a<br />

clue when we take a look at the responses interviewees provided to<br />

the questions about how often they criticise colleagues, or how often<br />

they are criticised by their peers. In both instances, journalists<br />

Photograph: photocase/Mr. Nico<br />

from these two countries reported criticising fellow journalists frequently,<br />

and being frequently criticised by other journalists or supervisors as<br />

well. The results stand in sharp contrast to countries like Germany,<br />

where peer criticism is the exception rather than the rule. Obviously,<br />

newsroom structures are an explanation, and they are rather flat and<br />

informal in Finland, allowing constructive criticism. However, Finland<br />

and Switzerland are also two countries which still have a relatively affluent<br />

media industry, receiving considerable state subsidies – and thus<br />

they might be in a better position to afford accountability, compared<br />

to countries with stiff media competition. Finally, both countries have<br />

small journalistic populations of 9,000 (Switzerland) respectively 8,000<br />

(Finland). This might make peer surveillance and naming-and-shaming<br />

in the journalistic community more effective than in large media systems<br />

like Germany or the UK with journalistic populations of 50,000<br />

to 70,000. Here, many more ethical dilemmas may occur, but simply<br />

vanish from the professional radar without debate.<br />

Education matters<br />

Finally, our survey data also point out the crucial role that journalism<br />

education plays in responsible journalism. Journalists across countries<br />

consider journalism education as more relevant for upholding standards<br />

in journalism than any MAIs. Thus, investing in journalism education<br />

itself is an investment in a responsible press – this is also a message for<br />

industry representatives, who are rather unwilling these days to finance<br />

mid-career training. Our data show that journalists in central and eastern<br />

Europe and the Arab countries in particular lament the inadequate<br />

journalism education in their country. It would be a worthy investment<br />

to provide long-term support to modernise journalism curricula in these<br />

countries. The <strong>MediaAcT</strong> survey also shows that journalists who received<br />

training in media ethics during their journalism education display a<br />

somewhat greater sensitivity towards issues of media accountability (for<br />

details see the following article). With our <strong>MediaAcT</strong> interactive online<br />

training tool (see article page 22-23), we hope to encourage journalism<br />

educators and their students to discuss journalistic responsibility – and<br />

at the same time to teach journalists to deal with criticism.<br />

Index | Editorial | Birds-eye view | Opening the toolbox | Zoom-in on the newsroom<br />

| Media landscapes

Index | Editorial | Birds-eye view | Opening the toolbox | Zoom-in on the newsroom newsroom|<br />

Media landscapes<br />

Raluca Radu<br />

at a <strong>MediaAcT</strong><br />

workshop in<br />

Dortmund,<br />

germany<br />

photograph: EBI<br />

"Training is a must"<br />

By dAnielA pOpA & rAlucA rAdu<br />

Journalism education fosters media accountability<br />

Education has a particular importance in the demarcation of a profession<br />

from a simple vocation. The more diverse the education provided<br />

for a particular sector and the more specificity it implies, the easier it<br />

is for professionals to acquire autonomy and recognition. Professional<br />

autonomy means responsibility and accountability towards the public<br />

and towards other stakeholders in society. This also holds true for journalism.<br />

In most democratic and liberal systems, access into journalism is<br />

free, as it is implied by the principles of freedom of speech and right to<br />

information. “Press has been ‘free‘ for several centuries in UK. There is<br />

no absolute pre-entry or post-entry requirement for a journalist to have<br />

a journalism qualification in the UK. Being a journalist is an aspect of<br />

freedom of expression”, explains Mike Jempson, <strong>MediaAcT</strong> UK expert.<br />

Professional journalists’ status does not depend on a degree or on a type<br />

of training, but on the simple exercise of the activity. Anyone can become<br />

a journalist, if they meet the requirements of the editors.<br />

Judith Pies, the <strong>MediaAcT</strong> expert on the Arab world offers a insight<br />

into the Middle East: “In Jordan, there is an official restriction<br />

concerning the right to practice journalism. The press laws say that only<br />

journalists who are members of the Jordan Press Association are allowed<br />

to work as journalists”.<br />

Training in journalism is, nevertheless, a must, as the <strong>MediaAcT</strong><br />

study in 14 countries demonstrates. Education is an important factor<br />

in the process of professionalisation of journalists. Through education,<br />

journalists learn the practical skills of the job, along with the norms and<br />

the values that derive from the public service mass-media renders to society.<br />

As the age of the <strong>MediaAcT</strong> respondents decreases, the probability<br />

that they have followed journalism at university level increases, in all<br />

<strong>MediaAcT</strong> countries.<br />

The educational offer in the <strong>MediaAcT</strong> countries<br />

The way journalistic education is organised depends, in some regards,<br />

on the period of undisturbed development, which the journalistic world<br />

enjoyed under different national circumstances. The countries in the<br />

<strong>MediaAcT</strong> panel can be grouped into three clusters: countries that did<br />

not experience an authoritarian regime after World War II (western Europe),<br />

countries that followed a transitional period towards democracy<br />

in the last 20 to 40 years (Spain and central and eastern Europe) and<br />

countries that have recently entered the democratic path (Tunisia and<br />

Jordan).<br />

The curriculum of the journalistic courses and the practical relevance<br />

of these courses for a practising journalist also depend on the<br />

degree of democratisation and liberalisation in each country. Moreover,<br />

the way journalistic education is organised depends on the size<br />

of the market (and the existence of public and commercial news organisations,<br />

which have the capacity to hire the graduates) and on the<br />

incentives future journalists are provided in following a journalistic<br />

training or a university program.<br />

Let’s have a look at the United Kingdom. Here the market is so<br />

large, the employers demand course certificates to have a proof of<br />

whether a candidate is suitable for the job. Complex accreditation<br />

systems, accepted by the state, for recognised courses and programs<br />

in journalism, have been developed since the 1950s. In the United<br />

Kingdom, just as in the Netherlands, Germany or France, there are<br />

several offers of training programs for journalists. In France, the oldest<br />

vocational schools appeared at the beginning of the 20th century, according<br />

to Olivier Baisnée, the French <strong>MediaAcT</strong> expert.<br />

The educational offer at university level is, in some of these countries,<br />

like Italy, less than 30 years old. A noticeable exception

according to Jari Väliverronen, the Finnish <strong>MediaAcT</strong> expert, is<br />

Finland, which has had a journalism program at the state university<br />

and an accreditation system since 1925. On the other side of the time<br />

scale, one may find Austria, where journalistic programs started only<br />

in 2002 (beforehand universities offered programs only in communication<br />

studies). In Spain, the three former central and eastern European<br />

countries of Estonia, Poland and Romania, in Tunisia and Jordan<br />

the main journalism trainings are coordinated by universities.<br />

In addition, organisations, foundations and associations in nearly<br />

all countries offer a broad range of courses, internships and other kind<br />

of actions, designed to increase journalists’ awareness towards accountability<br />

issues.<br />

Media accountability is linked to journalism education<br />

Journalism education is ranked the fourth most important factor influencing<br />

journalistic behaviour, after company editorial guidelines,<br />

laws regulating the media and professional codes of ethics – this is one<br />

of the most interesting results of the <strong>MediaAcT</strong> study.<br />

The first group of countries, those that did not experience a totalitarian<br />

regime after the Second World War, tend to have a smaller population<br />

of journalists that followed university level courses, but more<br />

journalists with a vocational diploma, as is the case of Germany, Austria<br />

and Switzerland. In the countries that experienced a totalitarian<br />

regime more recently, the main training is organised by universities,<br />

and consequently, the percentage of journalists with university training<br />

is, in some cases, several times higher, than the other countries<br />

(see, for example, the Netherlands and Spain, in Fig. 1).<br />

Fig. 1. The choice of “University training”, “Vocational diploma” and “In-house<br />

training” for the question “What formal training have you had in journalism?”,<br />

country by country. Formal university training is aggregated for: journalism<br />

school, university degree in journalism and journalism-related postgraduate<br />

degree.<br />

Depending on the national educational offer in journalism and on<br />

the age of the respondents, formal university training was followed by<br />

more than half of the journalists in the Arab countries (Jordan and<br />

Tunisia), in the former Communist countries (Poland, Estonia, and<br />

Romania), but also in Finland, France, and Spain. More than 30%<br />

identified vocational training as part of their journalism education<br />

in the Netherlands, Switzerland, United Kingdom and Austria. Also,<br />

more than 50% of the journalists recognised in-house training as a<br />

form of socialisation with the norms of journalism in Poland, Germany,<br />

Jordan and Italy (see Fig. 1).<br />

Ethics courses are not compulsory in all journalistic programs.<br />

When asked a specific question, on training in journalism ethics,<br />

more than 80% of the respondents followed ethics courses in Italy<br />

and Jordan, but less that 50% in Austria and Germany (see Fig. 2).<br />

Fig. 2. The answer to the question “My training/education included instruc-<br />

tion in journalism ethics”, country by country.<br />

The subgroups of respondents, based on formal training in media<br />

ethics, has different answers to questions related to interaction<br />

with stakeholders, indicating that media ethics training fosters accountability.<br />

Thus, 61.46% of the journalists trained in journalism<br />

ethics (Group 1) agree and strongly agree with the idea of communicating<br />

with the public through social media, as compared with<br />

52.15% of journalists without such training (Group 2). Nevertheless,<br />

a significant 6% more of Group 1 (67.98%) believe that media<br />

institutions “Should respond to user comments and suggestions“.<br />

Media ethics training explains the differences between the<br />

journalists that consider that company editorial guidelines have a<br />

strong impact on journalistic behaviour (Group 1: 62.97% versus<br />

Group 2: 53.32%), just like the professional code of ethics (Group<br />

1: 51.99% versus Group 2: 44.68%) or journalism trade journals,<br />

in countries where these exist (Group 1: 59.86% versus Group 2:<br />

51.75%).<br />

Journalistic education in the future<br />

The academic offer of journalism courses is a necessary issue, but<br />

is insufficient to transform journalism into a profession, indicates<br />

Mihai Coman, <strong>MediaAcT</strong> expert for Romania. Other necessary<br />

aspects include: codes of ethics, imposed and implemented by a<br />

designated body, a common journalists’ identity and a common<br />

professional culture.<br />

The <strong>MediaAcT</strong> study indicates that traditional Media Acountability<br />

Instruments, like press councils and professional trade publications,<br />

do not exist in all <strong>MediaAcT</strong> countries. At the same time,<br />

innovative Media Accountability Instruments, based on the new<br />

media (digital), appear all over the world. Journalists trained in<br />

media ethics are more inclined to use them, in making their work<br />

more transparent to the scrutiny of the stakeholders. Journalism<br />

education has to acknowledge these transformations and to encourage<br />

students to study and to understand them. Finally, this paves<br />

the way for the future of accountable journalism.<br />

fUrThEr rEAdIng<br />

Josephi, Beate (2010): Journalism Education in countries<br />

with limited Media freedom, peter lang: new york, ny.<br />

EJTA - European Journalism Training Association<br />

http://www.ejta.com<br />

World Journalism Education Council<br />

http://www.wjec.ou.edu<br />

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| Media landscapes

Index | Editorial | Birds-eye view | Opening the toolbox | Zoom-in on the newsroom newsroom|<br />

Media landscapes<br />

0<br />

How to increase media accountability<br />

By MATThiAS kArMASin, dAnielA krAuS, Andy kAlTenBrunner & klAuS Bichler<br />

do journalists need more incentives or sanctions to use accountability tools?<br />

Media accountability, defined as any non-state means of making<br />

media responsible towards the public, is one key indicator for media<br />

pluralism and media freedom in a country. Therefore, investments in<br />

better media accountability systems mean investment in the quality<br />

of democracy. The <strong>MediaAcT</strong> team, as part of its research, tried to<br />

find ways to foster such investments. Two main target groups for<br />

such measures are journalists and media companies. Especially today<br />

in times of crisis (media, financial sectors, etc.) there should be<br />

incentives for journalists and media companies to have fair and balanced<br />

reporting. However, state intervention is out of the question.<br />

The relevant standards should be developed in a joint process by the<br />

media industry and its managers, journalists, the audience, NGOs,<br />

media scholars etc.<br />

Research shows that regulated self-regulation, also termed co-regulation,<br />

is the best way to meet high media accountability standards.<br />

This means that the state provides a framework that offers the media<br />

incentives for self-regulation. The juggling act between guaranteeing<br />

freedom of expression as well as media freedom on the one side and<br />

censorship on the other side can be handled best by such measures.<br />

High standards in media accountability guarantee a high level of<br />

freedom of expression. Furthermore they raise the quality of discussion<br />

within the public sphere.<br />

The international <strong>MediaAcT</strong> research group has collected interesting<br />

results within the research processes. One result of the Media-AcT<br />

project consists of policy recommendations. Based on the<br />

research outcomes, the team can recommend three major measures<br />

to foster media accountability in the future at the supranational level:<br />

1. Monitoring (EU focus on fundamental rights in the member<br />

states).<br />

2. A clear framework for subsidies (EU focus on fair competition).<br />

3. Encouraging media literacy (EU focus on European public<br />

sphere).<br />

1. The first needs researchers’ actions: Continuous monitoring<br />

helps to evaluate the state-of-the-art of media accountability in the<br />

EU member states. The monitoring includes a regularly produced<br />

(annual, bi-annual) and openly published index, which has been developed<br />

by the <strong>MediaAcT</strong> project, which monitors the activities of<br />

media professionals and media organisations in EU member states.<br />

Such an index creates a ranking in order to find country-specific deficits.<br />

Furthermore, it enables media policy makers to set incentives<br />

to improve the situation. Moreover, the highlighted best practice<br />

countries can act as benchmarks. In the long term, the monitoring<br />

will apply important data to media and journalism and thereby raise<br />

the quality of democracy. Therefore it strengthens fundamental<br />

rights.<br />

2. The second requires the involvement of politics: The media sector<br />

is no longer simply a national issue, as concentration processes in<br />

ownership in the EU accelerate. For the European Commission, the<br />

protection of competition policies and the free movement provision<br />

should also apply to the media industry. As a consequence, any kind<br />

of subsidies should only be granted under clear premises. Transparent<br />

frameworks should apply to direct subsidies (e.g. press subsidies<br />

or public service broadcaster fees) as well as to indirect subsidies (e.g.<br />

public advertising money).<br />

Regarding direct subsidies, the national public broadcaster

services should play a major role in accountability processes.<br />

Their major stakeholder is the audience. As they are (partly) financed<br />

by public money or taxes, they should act as benchmarks in<br />

balanced and high quality reporting or entertaining. Consequently,<br />

public broadcasters should stick to clearly defined standards and<br />

act as a reference point in internal media accountability systems.<br />

This can be achieved by having an adapted internal code of ethics, a<br />

fixed complaints procedure or by making news production processes<br />

transparent.<br />

Regarding indirect subsidies, clear rules are also needed. Government<br />

departments, public bodies and institutions spend a huge amount of money<br />

on advertising in all kinds of media. These institutions should oblige<br />

themselves to spend advertising money only in a medium that maintains<br />

certain accountability standards. These standards have to be defined in<br />

advance and can range from membership in a (local) press council, accepting<br />

the national code of conduct, having an ombudsman or having fixed<br />

accountability procedures.<br />

3. The third needs an informed public: Europe requires more initiatives<br />

to promote and support media literacy in EU member states. The European<br />

Commission already provides direct support to a number of media<br />

organisations or media projects, e.g. EURANET, support for Euronews<br />

and for the European Journalism Centre. As a consequence, the Commission<br />

should also initiate and financially support a programme for media<br />

literacy. Such a programme will raise the quality of discussion within the<br />

European public sphere.<br />

These three suggestions are based on the scientific results of the <strong>MediaAcT</strong><br />

project. They address three levels of media accountability, each<br />

involving multiple stakeholders mutually developing media accountability<br />

standards.<br />

lInk<br />

The <strong>MediaAcT</strong> policy recommendations can be<br />

downloaded here: www.mediaact.eu/outcomes.html<br />

Photograph: Lutz Kampert<br />

1<br />

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| Media landscapes

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Media landscapes<br />

in the pillary!<br />

By STephAn ruSS-MOhl<br />

errors in reasoning by media<br />

management concerning newsroom<br />

self-inspection<br />

Media executives and journalists have a difficult time dealing with criticism.<br />

Recent media scandals in the United Kingdom and the subsequent<br />

discussion about media regulation in the British media have done<br />

a fine job illustrating this point, as have large Swiss media conglomerates<br />

like Tamedia or Ringier with the way they handle journalistic coverage<br />

of media and media research. Despite the insistence with which they<br />

demand accountability and transparency from others, they care little for<br />

transparency when it comes to revealing their own procedures.<br />

Let us assume that the media is powerful, and that power in democracy<br />

needs to be controlled and counterbalanced. Let us suppose as<br />

well that press freedom is a basic prerequisite to facilitate democracy<br />

and to adequately inform citizens. The Leveson Report’s catalogue of<br />

the News of the World transgressions (which includes hacking the private<br />

phone messages of a murder victim and bribing the police) and<br />

the BBC’s maneuvering to veil the pedophilic misconduct of one of<br />

its most prominent TV moderators both exemplify a distinct lack of<br />

media accountability. At the core, there are three highly interrelated<br />

areas of media accountability to be mentioned. They are the “three Cs”:<br />

corrections policies, complaints management and coverage of journalism<br />

and media by the media.<br />

Focusing on the US, the UK, Germany, Switzerland and Italy, we<br />

will try to explain the extent to which “rational economic” behavior<br />

can be found in this specific field of self-inspection, how “predictably<br />

irrational” media owners, media managers and journalists make decisions,<br />

and how cultural norms and behavior patterns influence media<br />

accountability and the processing of “unethical” or unprofessional behavior.<br />

As the Swiss partner within the framework of the large, EU-funded<br />

<strong>MediaAcT</strong> project, we’ve spent more than three years analysing how<br />

the media handles accountability. Recently, a booklet outlining ‘best<br />

practice‘ examples has been published, and further empirical results<br />

are in the process of evaluation. It can be stated in advance that media<br />

owners, media managers and editors in chief pay little attention to the<br />

“three Cs” – indeed such scant attention that it is worth probing why<br />

this might be the case.<br />

From a precursory business perspective, media executives should<br />

invest in media accountability. Media accountability is not at all costly<br />

– in fact, it is rather cheap. Corrections columns require the dedication<br />

of a newsroom, but they don’t cost “real” money. Costs for press<br />

councils usually are shared by many media companies, and they are<br />

negligible in budgets. In most media outlets an ombudsman will hold<br />

a part-time position, which might even be an honorary, unsalaried role.<br />

Only media journalists are expensive. However, they need not necessarily<br />

be added to an existing newsroom. Costs for media journalism<br />

can be kept down if the beat is created by shifting resources within the<br />

newsroom. Top editors might dedicate existing space, reporters and<br />

editors to such a beat – thus reporting somewhat less about politics or<br />

sports, for example.<br />

Photograph: photocase/mr. QM<br />

Media accountability also pays off, in that it promises returns:<br />

Ombudsmen and press councils can be considered an excellent insurance<br />

policy against more costly, time absorbing risks, reducing the<br />

costs for legal advice and legal battles. If they communicate effectively<br />

with the public, this should foster relationships with readers,<br />

increase journalism’s credibility, and educate journalists and the<br />

public about the media. With improved media literacy and quality<br />

consciousness, recipients should therefore increase their willingness<br />

to pay for high journalistic quality.<br />

The upper and the lower quality segment<br />

To understand why media executives don’t engage in more media accountability<br />

a second glance is needed. We may have to differentiate<br />

and add to the assumption that each media system can be divided into<br />

a lower and an upper quality segment, concerning the journalism being<br />

offered. Concerning media accountability, there exists a built-in conflict<br />

of interest between the lower and the upper market segments: The<br />

lower segment will serve audiences with low levels of education and<br />

media literacy. It will be more advertiser-driven and less dependent on<br />

generating revenues from the audience. By contrast, business success in<br />

the upper segment depends on the public’s willingness to pay and on<br />

increasing the share of the audience interested in credible, high quality<br />

journalism.<br />

As such, we may have to modify the initial statement: If media executives<br />

in the upper quality segment were rational, self-interested actors<br />

primarily concerned with the economic well-being of the media institutions<br />

and newsrooms they are responsible for, they would “invest” considerably<br />

more in media accountability than they have done so far. Still,<br />

there remains the puzzling question of why such investments remain<br />

rare. The following four answers may help solve the puzzle.

First, there is a second and potentially more intriguing conflict<br />

of interest between the institutional and the personal self-interests of<br />

media executives. For media companies, more accountability and<br />

transparency may be essential, but top managers are frightened to be<br />

put in the pillory by press councils, ombudsmen, and media journalists.<br />

Media executives are certainly aware of what they are doing to<br />

others when they scandalise politicians, CEOs and other members<br />

of the celebrities’ club – and they simply may not want to become<br />

victims of the same tortures.<br />

Top managers and editors therefore mistrust press councils, ombudsmen,<br />

and media journalists – it is the typical case of a principalagent<br />

relationship. As “principals”, media executives depend on the<br />

mediating skills and the expertise of ombudsmen, press councils or<br />

media journalists serving the industry as “agents” but they never<br />

know whether the agents might abuse their positions, power and<br />

knowledge for bumbledom or self-serving interests.<br />

Media executives also find themselves in a prisoner’s dilemma.<br />

If they remain the only ones implementing the “three Cs“ because<br />

competitors don’t follow suit, they risk compromising themselves.<br />

The costs will be due immediately, while the full benefits of the more<br />

costly accountability policies (ombudsmen, media journalists) will<br />

only materialise if they are shared among other media operating in<br />

the upper market segment. In particular, media journalism has a credibility<br />

problem, if a journalist is dealing with his own employer or<br />

immediate competitor. This is why it would be so important that all<br />

media in the upper quality segment report fairly and continuously<br />

about media and journalism.<br />

Similarly, corrections policies fail due to the prisoners’ dilemma:<br />

No journalist wants to find himself in the pillory – particularly not<br />

if colleagues might successfully hide their errors and thus avoid such<br />

treatment. This is why editors-in-chief must work hard to persuade<br />

staffs that corrections columns are an important means to regain<br />

credibility. Usually, they shy away from such efforts.<br />

Most frequently, the sheer power of large media conglomerates<br />

hinders media accountability. In many cases, the cash cows of these<br />

companies are in the lower segment, perhaps even subsidising the<br />

flagships in the upper market segment. The overarching institutional<br />

interests of the conglomerate will outweigh the institutional<br />

interests of the media in the upper market segment. Under such<br />

conditions, it becomes difficult for the flagships to “independently”<br />

support policies of media accountability.<br />

Predictably irrational decisions<br />

All these are plausible arguments and do partially explain the underinvestment<br />

in media accountability. By rationalising indecisiveness<br />

and underinvestment, media executives may also become victims of<br />

errors in reasoning. According to insights from behavioral economics,<br />

some of them are “predictably irrational,” as Dan Ariely points<br />

out. Bestselling author Rolf Dobelli also describes these errors in a<br />

most entertaining way.<br />

In particular, selective perception and cognitive dissonance may be<br />

the cause if the work of press councils or ombudsmen is impeded<br />

or if media sections are abolished and if there are no longer specialised<br />

media journalists in the newsrooms (as occurred at the Tages-<br />

Anzeiger in Switzerland, Die Zeit in Germany and Il Sole-24 ore in<br />

Italy). Media executives fear negative coverage and scandalisation,<br />

and such anxieties are possibly based on neglect of probability: Very<br />

few media magnates are as powerful as Rupert Murdoch or Silvio<br />

Berlusconi – thus the risk of becoming the target of scandalisation<br />

by well-functioning media journalism is drastically overrated.<br />

The zero cost craze is another trap, into which media executives<br />

may also fall prey – just like the rest of us. As behavioral economist<br />

Dan Ariely points out, we all tend to behave irrationally if we can<br />

get hold of a “freebie.” This is why marketing experts, as well as publishers,<br />

seduce us again and again with “free” bargains or free newspapers.<br />

This is also why media executives are lured into not investing<br />

in media accountability, as this seemingly implies “zero cost.” Yet<br />

there are hidden costs occurring in tandem with freebies, which only<br />

become visible later – often in the form of expensive lawsuits and<br />

long-term losses of credibility which can be difficult to measure, but<br />

reduce the willingness of publics to pay for journalism.<br />

If top editors resist the institutionalisation of ombudsmen and<br />

press councils, they will also probably become victims of the overconfidence<br />

effect. This infers that editors are unaware of their own<br />

limits in handling errors and conflicts adequately and with a certain<br />

“distance”, and that they underestimate the time needed for mediating<br />

and problem solving instances of conflict about media coverage,<br />

but also in coaching their own staff. Media executives may become<br />

very lonely at the top of the hierarchy and become victims of the socalled<br />

control illusion.<br />

Cultural differences<br />

Last but not least, media executives in journalism and in the media<br />

industries can be caught in herd behavior. This may help explain significant<br />

cultural differences existing even among highly developed<br />

western countries in handling media accountability. For example,<br />

the strongly institutionalised ombudsmen and the appearance of<br />

corrections columns in the US may be explained in part by the New<br />

York Times serving as a trailblazing cheerleader in the Anglo-Saxon<br />

world.<br />

Similarly, the negligible interest in media accountability in Italy<br />

and in eastern and southeastern European countries needs to be seen<br />

in a larger context: Wherever the legal system is rotten, where mafialike<br />

activities surpass the government and penetrate the economic<br />

system, where you find little appreciation for the public interest and<br />

even less conscientiousness for public space, it is unlikely that media<br />

executives will discover the benefits of media accountability.<br />

Under the conditions of media convergence, with a wide array of<br />

blogs and social media flaunting increased interactivity and linking<br />

options, traditional mainstream media lost their “monopoly” over<br />

news distribution and agenda setting, and are rapidly losing control<br />

over media accountability procedures. Susanne Fengler, director<br />

of the <strong>MediaAcT</strong> project, recently coined the term “crowd-sourced<br />

media accountability.” As traditional mainstream media have stubbornly<br />

failed to provide transparency, she believes that the Internet,<br />

blogs and social networks will provide the necessary transparency.<br />

Media executives working in high quality media are therefore well<br />

advised to take care of media accountability before they lose complete<br />

control over it.<br />

fUrThEr rEAdIng<br />

fengler, susanne; russ-Mohl, stephan (2008): Journalists<br />

and Information-Attention-Markets. In: Journalism vol. 9<br />

(6), pp. 667 - 690.<br />

Index | Editorial | Birds-eye view | Opening the toolbox | Zoom-in on the newsroom<br />

| Media landscapes

Index | Editorial | Birds-eye view | Opening the toolbox | Zoom-in on the newsroom | Media landscapes<br />

Photograph: photocase/12frames<br />

Culture club: shared values and<br />

divergent practices<br />

By giAnpieTrO MAZZOleni & SergiO SplendOre<br />

Accountability cultures in europe – first assumptions<br />

Why do reporters from Finland and Portugal, for eaxample, have<br />

conflicting outlooks on the newsworthiness of a given event? Why<br />

do reporters from Spain and Germany evaluate the importance<br />

of social media for journalism differently? It is evident, that a<br />

country’s history, religion, art, political traditions, and folk culture<br />

are likely to be crucial explanatory factors for the ways in which<br />

journalism is organised and acknowledged as a profession and the<br />

ways in which journalists are trained to fulfil their informative<br />

function and to relate to the public.<br />

Journalism has often been investigated by comparative research,<br />

that has had a clear preference for perspectives that focused on<br />

journalism’s relations to media or political systems, to education<br />

and training methods, to levels and the nature of professionalisation,<br />

to employment issues and the like. What has been missing in<br />

most studies is the “culturalist” approach.<br />

The <strong>MediaAcT</strong> research intended to fill this gap by trying to<br />

understand the evident dissimilarities between several European<br />

countries and considered introducing some explaining factors that<br />

are based on cultural determinants. The common output of this<br />

research was mapping differences and similarities between countries.<br />

The concept of accountability<br />

Let’s start from the concept of accountability. Although it’s surely<br />

the backbone of the Anglo-American philosophy of “media performance”,<br />

it barely exists in most countries around the globe. The<br />

word “accountability” is absent from many national vocabularies.<br />

So, how can we explain why the journalists of our survey show<br />

different attitudes regarding what we nicknamed the MAIs (Media<br />

Accountability Instruments), i.e. the ombudsman, press council or<br />

code of ethics?<br />

We think that how they either or both perceive and espouse<br />

these instruments closely depends on (and is to a certain extent<br />

affected by) the dominant cultural forms of the social environment<br />

where the journalists grew up, were educated and entered the<br />

news profession. Our survey measured the journalists’ support for<br />

available and unavailable instruments aimed enabling media to be<br />

accountable and transparent towards their public.<br />

Positive attitudes<br />

Figure 1 shows how the journalists score country by country on<br />

the first two factors, that is those referring to the perceived influence<br />

of and to the support for the traditional MAIs, such as the<br />

publication of codes of ethics, the disclosure of ownership and the<br />

employment of an ombudsman.<br />

Figure 1. Perceived impact of and support for traditional MAIs

What we see is that although there is a quite evident and positive<br />

attitude among journalists in all countries favouring (supporting)<br />

traditional MAIs (scores between .6 and .8) they differentiate significantly<br />

from country to country in the extent of how they perceive<br />

the possible impact (of MAIs) on their professional conduct. Some of<br />

the countries rank particularly low: Italy is the lowest, followed by<br />

Austria, Spain and Poland. We can envisage a broad “lip service” by<br />

Europe’s journalists to the value of accountability; but when they<br />

assess what principles of accountability guide their daily work, they<br />

are split according to national idiosyncrasies found in the dominating<br />

journalistic cultures.<br />

Low enthusiasm for online instruments<br />

Beside looking at the way journalists evaluate traditional MAIs,<br />

the project revealed it was worthwhile investigating how journalists<br />

considered the instruments that online technologies provide to increase<br />

the accountability of the news profession. These instruments<br />

are providing links to the original sources of a journalistic piece,<br />

allowing users opportunities to participate in the production of news<br />

stories, responding to users’ comments/suggestions or providing online<br />

opportunities to communicate directly with journalists, for example<br />

via Facebook and Twitter. The overall result from the data is<br />

that the journalists don’t show much enthusiasm (perceived impact<br />

or support) for these additional instruments (Figure 2), compared to<br />

the amount of enthusiasm for the traditional instruments. Yet, if we<br />

look more closely at the Figures we notice a “reverse behaviour” in a<br />

group of countries: the lower the perceived impact the higher is the<br />

support in Italy, Romania, Poland and France.<br />

Figure 2. Perceived impact of and support for online MAIs<br />

How to explain this? In some cases journalists were asked to assess<br />

instruments that did not exist in their countries. For example, unsuccessful<br />

or non-existent experiences with traditional instruments,<br />

like that of the ombudsman, tend to negatively affect the attitudes<br />

of the journalists towards these new opportunities to display more<br />

accountable news production routines.<br />

Even though the actual support for these accountability principles<br />

and instruments varies from country to country, journalists<br />

appear to acknowledge and share the recommendations to achieve<br />

them. We went further in exploring our findings. Our assumption<br />

was that the ways journalists react are rooted in the cultural environment<br />

that surrounds them. To measure cultural factors with<br />

statistical methods is still mostly wishful thinking. Here we do not<br />

offer a conclusive cause-effect explanation, but simply suggest which<br />

journalistic cultural aspects may partially explain our findings.<br />

From the organisational (i.e. relationships with colleagues and<br />

more senior staff) and professional perspectives, the survey provided<br />

interesting evidence concerning the dimensions of the accountability<br />

culture in different countries and the degree to which ethical<br />

standards of the profession are influential.<br />

Figure 3. Orientation toward professional values vs. orientation<br />

toward the organisation<br />

Figure 3 shows that journalists in Italy, Austria, Romania and<br />

Po-land appear to be more affected by their organisational environment<br />

than by professional values. This remarkable evidence shows<br />

that these countries share a weaker connection to the principles (and<br />

practice) of accountability culture and display lower levels of professionalisation.<br />

In conclusion, in an ideal world accountability is a standard well<br />

anchored in the value system that enlightens the journalistic profession<br />

in democracies. However, our analysis indicates that, in many<br />

cases, the cultural environment and the nature of the relationships<br />

within organisational contexts can curtail the attainment of the accountability<br />

that journalists say they aspire to.<br />

Thus we can see the differences in journalistic accountability cultures.<br />

Italy, Spain, Austria, Poland and Romania are countries where<br />

this culture appears to be less well founded. Journalists who work<br />

in these countries are more committed to their organisational employers<br />

(i.e. loyalty and responsibility toward fellow journalists and<br />

editors) than to issues of transparency.<br />

Our glimpse of journalism relies on first-hand personal views of<br />

hundreds of journalists, so some caution is needed. However, we<br />

hold to the conviction that the idea of accountability is a culturally<br />

charged concept and its use and implementation can be seen as<br />

functions of a particular professional outlook enmeshed with the<br />

dominating national culture. For example, it is hardly a coincidence<br />

that the accountability of public officials, politicians and institutions<br />

offering public services is written into the laws regulating these domains<br />

in countries with a protestant socio-political historical background,<br />

while it is only loosely present in the legislations of catholic<br />

countries. Italy, Austria, Poland, Spain and Romania happen to be<br />

countries with strong catholic or orthodox influence on their social<br />

institutions.<br />

We cannot pursue this interpretive line further as we do not<br />

have appropriate survey data to establish clear correlations. Nevertheless,<br />

we believe that to implement a “culturalist” approach,<br />

that draws on historical, religious and anthropological determinants<br />

of social behaviour – like that of journalists – can advance<br />

the understanding of similarities and differences, proximities and<br />

distances, in the journalism profession in our European countries<br />

and beyond.<br />

Index | Editorial | Birds-eye view | Opening the toolbox | Zoom-in on the newsroom | Media landscapes

Index | Editorial | Birds-eye view | Opening the toolbox | Zoom-in on the newsroom | Media landscapes<br />

Media landscapes in transition:<br />

Focus on central and eastern Europe<br />

By BOguSłAwA dOBek-OSTrOwSkA<br />

The collapse of communism at<br />

the end of the 1980s opened<br />

a new chapter in a history of<br />

central and eastern European<br />

countries, which were previously<br />

a part of the ‘Soviet bloc’.<br />

After 40 years of censorship<br />

and strong political control<br />

over media content, the “Round<br />

Table” in Poland with the participation<br />

of representatives of<br />

both the Solidarity movement<br />

and the communist government<br />

in the Spring of 1989<br />

made a strong impact on the<br />

process of democratisation in<br />

the whole region. The “Velvet<br />

Photograph: Imago/Sven Simon<br />

revolution” in Czechoslovakia,<br />

peaceful changes of regime in<br />

Hungary and Slovenia, the collapse of the symbolic Berlin Wall<br />

further contributed to political and social transformations. More<br />

dramatic ways towards democracy were observed in Romania –<br />

the execution of Nicolae Ceausescu in December 1989 – and in<br />

Bulgaria – the resignation of the Communist Party leader, Todor<br />

Zhivkov, who was absolutely loyal to Moscow, in November 1989.<br />

The dramatic events in Lithuania (the attack of the Soviet army<br />

on the TV station in Vilnius which resulted in 15 victims in January<br />

1991) and as a consequence of the “Singing Revolution” in<br />

three Baltic states between 1987 and 1991 led to the restorations of<br />

their independence. There is no doubt that the transition towards<br />

democracy and installation of democracy in central and eastern<br />

Europe had a huge impact on the journalism culture in this region,<br />

where “press freedom replaced the Communist policy control and<br />

censorship”, as the two experts on media accountability in Poland<br />

Michał Głowacki and and Paweł Urbaniak recently stated. But the<br />

main question is: Has media freedom helped to install a Media<br />

Accountability Instruments (MAIs) and developed it? The answer<br />

is not crystal clear.<br />

Media Accountability Instruments and democracy<br />

In 1993, Attila Agh presented four possible development scenarios<br />

for the countries in Europe: Sleeping Beauty (easy westernisation),<br />

Deepfreeze (return to the past), Latin Americanisation (falling back<br />

to the Third World), and Fair Weather (central Europe joins the<br />

European integration). The last of these is now becoming factual.<br />

East Germany was welcomed into the European Union as part of<br />

a reunited Germany in 1990. Eight countries – Estonia, Latvia,<br />

Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and<br />

Slovenia – joined in the ‘big bang’ enlargement on 1 May 2004<br />

symbolising the unification of eastern and western Europe. Bulgaria<br />

and Romania joined the European Union in 2007. Croatia will<br />

be member of EU in July 2013. However, there are still some countries<br />

in central and eastern Europe that remain outside the European<br />

Union. This includes the Balkans countries such as Serbia,<br />

Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, FYR Macedonia, and Albania,<br />

as well as some post-soviet republics such as Moldova, Ukraine,<br />

Russia and Belarus.<br />

A way towards consolidated and mature democracy is not easy.<br />

The process of the consolidation of democracy is linked not only<br />

with political transformation, which includes political reforms and<br />

the introduction of democratic institutions. Parts of this process<br />

are, on the one hand, economic transformation with economic reforms<br />

and free market conditions, as well as social changes and<br />

civil society development, on the other.<br />

The Democracy Index, which is based on the analysis of five fundamental<br />

democracy indicators: electoral process and pluralism;<br />

functioning of government; political participation; political culture;<br />

and civil liberties, is a very useful tool which helps to evaluate<br />

the condition of democracy in the world. The index published in<br />

2011 indicates the erosion of democracy. Stagnation was noted in<br />

the period 2006-2008 and from the 2010 onwards world wide recession.<br />

Without doubt, the global financial crisis that started in<br />

2008 also provoked some negative trends in political development<br />

in central and eastern Europe. The region was classified in the fifth<br />

position in the world (see Table 1).

Table 1: Democracy index average by region 2011<br />

region 2006 2008 2010 2011<br />

northern America 8.64 8.64 8.63 8.59<br />

western Europe 8.60 8.61 8.45 8.40<br />

latin America & carribean 6.37 6.43 6.37 6.35<br />

Asia & Australasia 5.44 5.58 5.53 5.51<br />

Central and Eastern Europe 5.76 5.67 5.55 5.50<br />

sub-saharan Africa 4.24 4.28 4.23 4.32<br />

Middle East & north Africa 3.53 3.54 3.43 3.62<br />

Total 5.52 5.55 5.46 5.49<br />

Source: Democracy index 2011 http://www.sida.se/Global/<br />

About%20Sida/Så%20arbetar%20vi/EIU_Democracy_Index_Dec2011.pdf<br />

What do these political, economic and social developments<br />

mean for the media? For accountability?<br />

The consolidation of democracy in central and eastern European<br />

member states of the EU is a crucial factor in a context of press<br />

freedom and the development of media systems. Figure 1 shows the<br />

dramatic situation of press freedom in Bulgaria (87th position in<br />

2013) and Hungary (56th position in 2013). The situation in Romania<br />

(42nd position in 2013) is not satisfactory but better than<br />

in the 2000s. Quite negative conditions of the media are noted in<br />

Latvia (39th position in 2013), Slovenia (35th position in 2013) and<br />

Lithuania (33rd position in 2013). Some positive trends are observed<br />

in 2013 in the Czech Republic (16th position), Poland (22nd position),<br />

and Slovakia (23rd position). Estonia (11th in 2013) still has<br />

the highest position in the region. However, its rank is worse than in<br />

comparison to the 3rd position in 2012.<br />

Nowadays, after 24 years of the media system transformation<br />

in ten countries – as members of the EU, we can observe some<br />

common processes and similar features such as political and economic<br />

instrumentalisation. Political instrumentalisation is present<br />

in public media services everywhere. Party logic is observed with a<br />

different intensification in each state of the region. It results in the<br />

processes of public radio and television politicisation; and sometimes<br />

journalism is a political profession. In the case of economic<br />

instrumentalisation, profit is more important than quality, media<br />

logic leads towards commercialisation and tabloidisation. In consequence<br />

media look for scandals and sensation. They prefer a ‘horse<br />

race’ coverage of politics, and escape from the political sphere.<br />

Both instumentalisations are enemies of media accountability in<br />

central and eastern Europe. A commentary-oriented journalism,<br />

a weak journalistic culture and the limited role of the audience<br />

are common features in the region and hinder the development of<br />

MAIs. Hence, we can select four levels of media professionalism<br />

and Media Accountability Instruments (MAIs) implementation in<br />

the region. Estonia and the Czech Republic are leaders in the region,<br />

they have the best position in many rankings (including Democracy<br />

Index, Press Freedom Index). The second consists of Poland<br />

and Slovakia which have eliminated many negative consequences<br />

of instrumentalisation during recent years. Slovenia, Latvia and<br />

Lithuania share some troubles, where the media feel the pressure<br />

from political actors. The worst situation of media accountability<br />

is traditionally observed in Bulgaria, Romania, and – from 2011<br />

– also in Hungary.<br />

Insufficient space for Media Accountability Instruments<br />

The quality of democracy is a very important factor which determines<br />

press freedom. Press freedom stimulates the development<br />

of MAIs. Today we know that there is insufficient space<br />

for MAIs in central and eastern Europe and that significant differences<br />

between the countries might be observed. In general, all<br />

the states, all EU members, introduced most of the traditional<br />

MAIs as journalistic associations, codes of professional conduct,<br />

charters of media ethics, etc. Moreover, many private media accepted<br />

ethical standards, codes of ethics in advertising and public<br />

relations. Unfortunately, traditional MAIs do not function<br />

well or their role is limited as in Poland and Romania. Generally,<br />

in some countries journalistic associations seem to be divided in<br />

line with political ties (Poland and Serbia) and codes of journalistic<br />

conduct have a rather low impact on journalism in practice.<br />

In Estonia, “the collision of the different vision of functions<br />

and implementation of self-regulation have effected two parallel<br />

press councils”. Estonian scholars claim that the crucial issue is<br />

not “the existence” of MAIs but “the efficiency” in their state.<br />

We observe the same problem throughout the region, not only<br />

in Estonia.<br />

Hence, it is still difficult to estimate the impact on new media<br />

and technologies on MAIs in central in eastern Europe. Innovative<br />

MAIs do not exist at all or their influence is perceived as<br />

very weak. Self-regulation in online media has begun to develop<br />

slowly in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic,<br />

and Slovakia. Romanian scholars underline the role of<br />

blogs, and state that the blogger community is extremely critical<br />

towards journalists. Furthermore, Internet users’ comments on<br />

online news articles in Poland are increasingly visible in practice,<br />

but are rarely dedicated to issues related to media performance.<br />

Overall, MAIs in central and eastern Europe lack research<br />

and publications dedicated to journalism ethics in the digital<br />

age, as well as the role of managers and the public. The international<br />

research project on media accountability can be seen as<br />

an important first step. But the future of Media Accountability<br />

Instruments in central and eastern Europe is still unclear. It is<br />

difficult to predict their future development.<br />

fUrThEr rEAdIng<br />

dobek-Ostrowska, Boguslawa; glowacki, Michal; Jakubowicz,<br />

karol; sükösd, Miklós (2010): comparative Media<br />

systems. European and global perspectives. central<br />

European Univ press, Budapest.<br />

Index | Editorial | Birds-eye view | Opening the toolbox | Zoom-in on the newsroom | Media landscapes

Index | Editorial | Birds-eye view | Opening the toolbox | Zoom-in on the newsroom | Media landscapes<br />

Media landscapes in transition:<br />

Perspectives from the Arab world<br />

By JudiTh pieS & AMirOuche nedJAA<br />

A taxi journey in Amman can introduce<br />

you to the challenges and chances of media<br />

accountability in Jordan and other<br />

transitional Arab countries. Assume you<br />

are traveling with Mohammed Abu Safieh,<br />

a taxi driver and chairman of Balad<br />

Radio’s listeners’ club. Balad Radio is the<br />

first community radio station in Jordan. It<br />

wants to include the audience in its daily<br />

work and the listeners’ club is part of how<br />

Balad Radio aims to do that. Originally,<br />

Mr. Abu Safieh’s task was to collect listeners’<br />

complaints and ideas and pass them<br />

on to the journalists in the newsroom who<br />

would then use them to improve their performance.<br />

In reality, his job has become Photograph: Imago/Xihua<br />

much more complex: journalists in the<br />

newsrooms don’t necessarily want taxi drivers<br />

to interfere in their work; citizens contributing to news gathering expression “phone calls from the mukhabarat” almost interchangeably<br />

don’t reveal their sources to the radio staff; the mukhabarat (the secret with “soft containment”.<br />

service) wants to make sure that Balad Radio is not too critical of the In Tunisia, any criticism of the government or the president was<br />

local head of police.<br />

subject to systematic censorship until the end of the Ben Ali regime in<br />

While driving his taxi through Amman, Mohammed Abu Safieh 2011. The Tunisian Internet Agency, which was controlled by the go-<br />

receives phone calls from officials, citizens and journalists. His five vernment, imposed heavy content filtering. Oppositional and regime<br />

years of experience working with the listeners’ club has equipped him critical websites were blocked and even media outlets operating from<br />

with the necessary tools to moderate between the differing claims: “The abroad, like Radio Kalima, were hacked. Journalists were constantly in<br />

club has helped me to understand decision making mechanisms by the fear of being imprisoned. Even though a lot of reform initiatives have<br />

state, members of parliament and media outlets. It has also helped me taken place since the revolution (see infobox), pressure from politicians,<br />

to understand how credible or transparent they all are.” His represen- judges, media owners and security services remain. One example is the<br />

tative role as chairman of the listeners’ club has shifted to a mediating arrest of Attounissia newspaper journalists for publishing a photograph<br />

position, and the challenge is to answer some of the basic questions for showing the German-Tunisian football player Sami Khedira hugging<br />

journalism in Jordan and other countries in transition: how can journa- a naked top model.<br />

lism become more independent of regimes? Can audience involvement Long standing practices of control and pressure do not change within a<br />

make journalism more responsible towards the needs of society? How few years and journalists need to learn to live up to their new freedoms<br />

much transparency is needed to evaluate the quality and independence and growth in independence. In theory, journalists strongly reject “soft<br />

of journalists’ work?<br />

containment” and state interference, but how can they get rid of it in<br />

practice?<br />

Regimes still hold journalists to account<br />

A big challenge is the remaining impact of the regime’s various means<br />

for directing journalists to act in the regime’s own interest. In Jordan,<br />

censorship was banned from print journalism in 1989, when martial<br />

law was also lifted. However, direct content control through radio and<br />

TV licensing procedures, and less explicit forms of control, so-called<br />

“soft containment”, are still present. Politicians, businessmen, religious<br />

leaders and others, who want to influence journalists’ reporting, threaten<br />

journalists with prison or offer them money. In a survey by the Jordanian<br />

Al-Quds Research Center, 43% of the Jordanian journalists surveyed<br />

said that they had been exposed to such attempts, mostly because<br />

they were reporting on security issues. So, journalists in Jordan use the<br />

Journalists are skeptical about self-regulation<br />

Journalistic codes of ethics are the oldest form of journalistic self-regulation<br />

and have been adopted in countries all over the world. However,<br />

many authoritarian regimes have misused them, using them as another<br />

means of state control. In the case of Jordan, the code of ethics, issued<br />

by the Jordanian Press Association in 2003, became a legally binding part<br />

of the press and publications law, completely contradicting the idea of<br />

voluntary and independent journalistic self-regulation. This cynically<br />

explains why, in the <strong>MediaAcT</strong> survey, Jordanian journalists consider<br />

codes of ethics as highly influential for their journalistic performance.<br />

In many European countries, professional organisations have been

playing an active role in fighting for journalists’ interests and their<br />

independence from the state. However, in Tunisia and Jordan, they<br />

have not been of great help over the last thirty years because the regimes<br />

had tightly controlled them. Only recently have they started to struggle<br />

for independence, as in the case of the National Syndicate of Tunisian<br />

Journalists (SNJT), which has rejected plans to exclude journalists from<br />

the future regulatory body for radio and television (HAICA).<br />

Independent press or media councils, which might also help to keep<br />

the state out of the profession, have not yet been established in Tunisia<br />

or Jordan. Journalists from these countries still hesitate to support initiatives<br />

to form press councils and other bodies regulating the media for<br />

fear of being co-opted by the regimes again. The majority of Jordanian<br />

and Tunisian journalists in the <strong>MediaAcT</strong> survey say that such “formal<br />

systems of media regulation are open to abuse for political purposes.”<br />

Nevertheless, according to the same survey, they are convinced that<br />

“responsible media are a pre-condition for independent media”.<br />

The audience as a potential ally for more independence<br />

The audience seems to agree with the journalists’ conviction and has<br />

become active in holding the media to account. They criticise articles<br />

in their comments on news websites, upload their own content in special<br />

sections and contribute to news gathering via Facebook and the<br />

telephone. Some projects outside newsrooms encourage journalists and<br />

the public to produce their own news. Their aim is “to hold the media<br />

to account for what they don’t cover” as expressed by Lina Ejeilat, cofounder<br />

of the Jordanian project 7iber.com. In Tunisia, the organisation<br />

Nawaat has founded a news website, to which bloggers and journalists<br />

contribute in order to adjust the news agenda to the real needs of society.<br />

Due to the late liberation of a strictly censored online environment<br />

under Ben Ali, such practices are not yet as well established in<br />

Tunisia as in Jordan. However, journalists in both countries are equally<br />

willing to accept audience involvement, to a greater extent than most<br />

of their European colleagues, as the results of the <strong>MediaAcT</strong> survey<br />

demonstrate. It seems that they have found support for their fight for<br />

independence in the audience: listeners and readers provide newsrooms<br />

with information that journalists would not otherwise get due to lack<br />

of access to official information; the audience addresses social problems<br />

better than the minister of development; criticism from the audience is<br />

not as threatening as from the secret service.<br />

Transparency is still a controversial issue<br />

Internet technology helps to strengthen the relationship between newsrooms<br />

and the audience, but it also helps politicians to spread their<br />

viewpoints or false information more efficiently through Facebook accounts<br />

and comments. Therefore, it becomes even more important for<br />

journalists to be transparent about their work and their networks. A<br />

recent – yet unpublished – study by one of the authors on transparency<br />

in Tunisian news websites found that only 40% display their chief<br />

editor’s name. Giving information on media owners is even less common.<br />

During the dictatorship journalists were forced by law to clearly<br />

publish their names on articles. Now, they have the freedom to refrain<br />

from that practice of transparency. Naming sources and giving clear<br />

references or links to information could have been dangerous for them<br />

and their sources: that is why they preferred to stay vague and still often<br />

stick to that habit today. Because of these authoritarian experiences<br />

Tunisian and Jordanian journalists are still hesitant about transparency<br />

though this is changing. Today, the majority of Jordanian journalists<br />

support the disclosure of ownership of media organisations, the pu-<br />

blication of mission statements, the provision of links to sources and explanations<br />

about news decisions to the audience. For their part, Tunisian<br />

journalists do not agree amongst themselves about these practices<br />

because they have only recently started to consider and introduce more<br />

radical changes. In addition, a growing number of organisations and<br />

projects are trying to shed light behind the scenes of news production,<br />

by critically observing the media’s performance. One of them is the<br />

Arab Working Group for Media Monitoring (AWGMM). Its main activity<br />

is the monitoring of media coverage in order to determine whether<br />

fair and balanced reporting is taking place. Extended monitoring and<br />

greater transparency would not only give a clearer picture of the media’s<br />

performance during important transitions, but might also improve the<br />

audience’s ability to judge media quality and independence.<br />

Hard job, but promising<br />

The described attitudes, initiatives and developments prove that Mohammed<br />

Abu Safieh’s job is a hard, but promising one. If he managed<br />

to convince the citizen contributors to reveal their sources to the newsroom<br />

journalists; if the journalists double checked the information and<br />

agreed to withhold the source’s name in return; if he was then able to<br />

silence the mukhabarat with bulletproof facts; Mohammed Abu Safieh<br />

would probably call it a successful day for media independence.<br />

BAckgrOUnd<br />

legal and regulatory steps for (partly)<br />

liberalizing the media<br />

jordan since King Abdallah ii (1999-2013)<br />

- 2001 Abolishing the Ministry of Information<br />

- 2003 Implementing the audio-visual law allowing private<br />

radio and television stations<br />

- 2003 Establishing two regulatory bodies for radio and television,<br />

Avc & Tcr<br />

- 2007 passing of an access to information law<br />

- 2007 & 2010 passing revisions of the press and publications<br />

law<br />

Post-revolutionary Tunisia (2011-2013)<br />

- 2011 Abolishing the Ministry of Information<br />

- 2011 freezing of the two main censor institutions, ATcE and<br />

ATI<br />

- 2011 creation of a national body for information and communication<br />

reform, InrIc<br />

- 2011 passing revisions of the press and media law<br />

- 2011 licensing twelve new radio and five Tv channels<br />

- 2011 passing a law for access to information<br />

- 2012 drafting regulations for an audiovisual regulatory<br />

body, hAIcA<br />

lInks<br />

Jordanian Balad Radio: http://www.balad.fm<br />

Jordanian citizen journalism website: http://www.7iber.com<br />

Tunisian Bloggers’ platform Nawaat: http://www.nawaat.org<br />

Arab Working Group for Media Monitoring: http://www.awgmm.<br />

org<br />

fUrThEr rEAdIng<br />

Judith pies (2013): Media Accountability in Transition: survey<br />

results from Jordan and Tunisia. Journalists and Media<br />

Accountability. An International study of news people in the<br />

digital Age” edited by susanne fengler et al., new york: peter<br />

lang, published summer 2013 (in print)<br />

Index | Editorial | Birds-eye view | Opening the toolbox | Zoom-in on the newsroom | Media landscapes

Index | Editorial | Birds-eye view | Opening the toolbox | Zoom-in on the newsroom | Media landscapes<br />

0<br />

Hot debate: who controls the med<br />

The involvement of the EU −<br />

highly disputed, highly praised<br />

gueST eSSAy By herTA dÄuBler-gMelin<br />

From the outset, the Report on Freedom and Plurality of Media in the<br />

EU by the High-Level Expert Group (HLG) – installed by EU-Commissioner<br />

Neelie Kroes, published in January 2013 after hearings and<br />

conferences with media houses, journalists and lots of media and legal<br />

university experts – was and is the object of discussions and disputes.<br />

This is exactly what the EU-Commissioner and the HLG intended.<br />

The current discussions show just how necessary are the report and<br />

its 30 recommendations, addressed to the EU’s member states, parliaments,<br />

media enterprises and journalists.<br />

Most of the member states and especially the Irish presidency<br />

highly praised the broad concept of the report and the recommendations,<br />

emphazising that media are more than economic services under<br />

EU competence to set and monitor competition laws. The Presidency<br />

underlined the paramount importance of free and pluralistic media<br />

as a basic right to every European citizen, guaranteed in the European<br />

Convention of Human Rights and in the EU Charter of Fundamental<br />

Rights. Accordingly the EU includes the principle of free and pluralistic<br />

media, as pillars of the EU’s free and democratic society, as an<br />

important element into the EU’s foreign policy and into the EU ‘aquis<br />

communitaire‘ to be accepted by countries wishing to join the EU as<br />

member states. Furthermore, these values commit the EU to monitor<br />

the freedom and plurality of media as preconditions to free and fair<br />

European Parliament elections.<br />

The report addresses concerns on free and pluralistic quality journalism<br />

that exist in most of EU member states. A quite widespread<br />

problem is that of mostly print media in the era of increasing Internet<br />

use, which leads to economic problems and threats the quality journalism<br />

by poor pay and bad working conditions, especially less time for<br />

thorough research and mature editorial comments. Throughout the<br />

EU there is increasing concern that the exponential growth of individual<br />

use of the Internet may confer additional importance on free and<br />

pluralistic media (private or public interest, print or digital) as the sole<br />

platform enabling collective information on important issues as well<br />

The report of the high-level group (hlg) on Media Freedom and pluralism was published<br />

on January 21, 2013, by the european commission. The report presents recommendations<br />

on media freedom, pluralism and the role of the eu. The group was established<br />

in October 2011 by neelie kroes, the Vice-president of the european commission,<br />

and is chaired by professor Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, the former president of latvia.<br />

Members of the consortium are professor herta däubler-gmelin, former german Federal<br />

Minister of Justice, luís Miguel poiares pessoa Maduro, professor of european<br />

law at the european university institute and Ben hammersley, Journalist and editor at<br />

large at Wired uk.<br />

as open discussions, between the interests and opinions of individuals<br />

and groups constituting society.<br />

The report additionally mentions the variety of dangerous threats<br />

to media freedom and pluralism that exists in some member states (e.g.<br />

political or economic interference by the state, interference by powerful<br />

advertising customers and companies, misuse of journalism by the<br />

media). Consequently, depending on each state’s degree of interest in<br />

guaranteeing the freedom and plurality of media, the EU involvement<br />

is either highly disputed or highly praised. A key issue is the question<br />

of media self-regulation vs. intervention of legal instruments. Media<br />

companies claiming real or imaginary capabilities of self-correction,<br />

under the pretext of undue political influence (state censorship) fight<br />

against the imposition of national laws, European regulation or public<br />

‘watchdog’ institutions.<br />

The report and the recommendations by the HLG emphasise selfregulation<br />

as the most important guarantor of free media, but insist<br />

that constitutional state laws are important to preserve the standards<br />

when self-regulation does not work. That is why member states and<br />

the EU are bound to monitor and, if necessary, intervene if standards<br />

required are not adequately met. The report recommends the use of<br />

soft law: media oriented self-regulation instruments, such as transparent<br />

codes of ethics and independent media councils (comprising<br />

representatives of media enterprises, journalists, ombudsmen and citizens)<br />

with sanctioning powers.<br />

The report doesn’t dictate instruments but further suggests that national<br />

parliaments should, as prerequisites for making public subsidies<br />

(EU or national) to media and grants to journalists, publicly discuss<br />

annual reports on the situation of freedom and plurality of media,<br />

which would in turn be monitored by EU institutions, mainly the<br />

European Parliament, in a regular overview.<br />

In the near future, the European Parliament will publish its own<br />

report, including the HLG recommendations. Both aim to secure, by<br />

European law, the freedom and pluralism of media in the EU.

ia? Self-regulation vs. co-regulation<br />

not appropriate<br />

we are concerned by some aspects of the report dealing with an increased role of media councils<br />

which could ‘impose fines, order apologies and remove journalistic status’ following complaints<br />

by citizens. The right of reply could be obtained by ‘simple request of citizens [and] published with<br />

the same relevance as the original coverage’. we are surprised by such a proposal because it is an<br />

unclear extension of the competence of the media councils. As you know, there is no single ‘journalistic<br />

status’ in the EU, so how could it be removed? furthermore, media councils are a matter of<br />

self-regulation: they do not exist in all European countries and we wonder how and why the European<br />

commission would ‘monitor’ such bodies ‘to ensure that they comply with European values’<br />

– which need to be better defined anyway. such a strong stand may have been generated by the<br />

cases of spectacular misbehavior of a small group of journalists in the Uk last year, however we do<br />

not find appropriate to make the ‘leveson’ issue an EU issue because there is no ground for it. The<br />

report’s wording on the role of media councils makes us think of the hungarian Media Authority,<br />

which is – in the mind of EfJ – an authoritarian system set up to serve the government in fighting<br />

freedom of the media. These are sensitive and controversial points that are not accepted by many<br />

journalists‘ organisations in Europe.<br />

Arne König, President, European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) http://europe.ifj.org/en<br />

From left to right: Herta Däubler-Gmelin, former German Federal Minister<br />

for Justice and Member of the High-Level Group on Media Freedom and<br />

Pluralism, Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the EC in charge of the Digital<br />

Agenda, and Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, former President of Latvia and Chair of<br />

the High-Level Group on Media Freedom and Pluralism .<br />

The report and its recommendations on media and journalism were<br />

discussed controversially in blogs, by journalists’ federations and in international<br />

media. As quoted on the website of the Commission, “The<br />

mandate of the group was to draw up a report for the Commission with<br />

recommendations for the respect, protection, support and promotion of<br />

pluralism and freedom of the media in Europe.”<br />

(Photo: EC)<br />

Report of the High-Level Group: https://ec.europa.eu/digital-agenda/<br />

sites/digital-agenda/files/HLG%20Final%20Report.pdf<br />

We don’t need new media regulation<br />

The high-level group has missed a<br />

golden opportunity to address the real<br />

challenges and to support an independent<br />

press that promotes democracy and<br />

cultural diversity throughout the world.<br />

we are quite taken aback by the report’s<br />

recommendations. The EU does not have<br />

legal competence under the treaties to<br />

harmonise substantive media laws such<br />

as defamation. Any notion of harmonised<br />

rules of the game, monitored by the EU,<br />

is anathema to press freedom – the very<br />

thing the group was to protect.<br />

Independent press councils and self-regulatory<br />

bodies or press ombudsmen exist<br />

already in most EU countries and operate<br />

according to national cultural and social<br />

mores. Journalists follow codes of ethics<br />

and high professional standards are already<br />

adapted to the digital environment.<br />

we don’t need new media regulation,<br />

however; what we need are the right conditions<br />

for the long term viability of quality<br />

journalism and professional media.<br />

Angela Mills Wade, Executive Director, European<br />

Publishers Council (EPC) http://epceurope.eu/<br />

1<br />

Index | Editorial | Birds-eye view | Opening the toolbox | Zoom-in on the newsroom | Media landscapes

Index | Editorial | Birds-eye view | Opening the toolbox | Zoom-in on the newsroom tewsroom | | Media Media landscapes<br />

landscapes<br />

Huub Evers, netherlands<br />

What is media accountability for you?<br />

Media do play an important role in the daily<br />

life of most people. They have a lot of influence<br />

and therefore responsibility. The audience<br />

wants journalists to legitimate their choices and<br />

decisions. People want to learn how media work<br />

and why journalists write or broadcast things in a<br />

certain way. They want journalists to react to their<br />

remarks and complaints. Because: if journalists<br />

call everything and everybody to account, they<br />

must be able to practice openness and transparency themselves.<br />

Why is it so important to do research on media accountability?<br />

Media accountability is one of the leading topics in journalism studies. Editorial<br />

staffs need to be pushed to get in touch with their audience. Journalists can use<br />

‘best practices‘ from all over the world for their own newsroom. Exploration of<br />

accountability and transparency examples is useful for journalists and audience.<br />

What was the funniest/most interesting moment in the project?<br />

The funniest moment was our mosquito meeting in Tartu, Estonia. We had<br />

Mike jempson, UK<br />

What is media accountability<br />

for you?<br />

It means that journalists<br />

respect their sources and their audiences. They cannot always get at the<br />

whole truth, so the humility to acknowledge mistakes adds to rather than<br />

diminishes credibility, in my view. My team and I at the MediaWise Trust<br />

believe that Press Freedom is a responsibility exercised by journalists on<br />

behalf of the public. That says it all for me.<br />

Why is it so important to do research on media accountability?<br />

Changing technology, the changing political economy of the media, and the<br />

varieties of journalistic traditions mean that different systems may be required<br />

under different circumstances. As always we must be alert to change, and<br />

adapt accordingly. The value of research (if it is not too long drawn out, and<br />

the results can be translated into normal language) is that it helps everyone<br />

to understand the landscape and their place in it, and how best to respond to<br />

the consequences of changes that research has identified.<br />

What was the biggest task in the international project?<br />

Trying to get working journalists in the UK to complete a complex<br />

questionnaire.<br />

What was the funniest/most interesting moment in the project?<br />

Funniest (after the event) trying to enjoy a mean al fresco in Tartu without<br />

being bitten alive by forty million mosquitoes.<br />

What did you learn from the <strong>MediaAcT</strong> project?<br />

That it is really interesting to learn about the complexities of different<br />

journalistic traditions. That devising questionnaires by committee is a<br />

nightmare. That we still have a long way to go before journalists and<br />

academics can find the right way to communicate with each other effectively.<br />

That despite all our different cultural influences, preferences and constraints,<br />

we all share a desire for accurate, responsible and responsive journalism<br />

that holds power to account and is free from corporate or governmental<br />

interference.<br />

our <strong>MediaAcT</strong> conference there in the hot summer of 2010. During the<br />

conference we had to take great pains to keep the mosquitoes at arm‘s<br />

length. Every few minutes a hard blow was to be heard in the small and<br />

broiling conference room. It influenced the decision taking processes and<br />

caused laughter.<br />

There were a lot of interesting moments: meeting colleagues from<br />

abroad, listening to presentations and discussing new developments in the<br />

conference rooms and outside. A very important consequence of the project<br />

is the international network each participant built.<br />

What did you learn from the <strong>MediaAcT</strong> project?<br />

The most important thing I learned from the project is about the important<br />

role media watchblogs and social media play in media criticism. In my<br />

opinion, modern mediawatch and criticism will come from blogs and social<br />

media (Facebook and Twitter). Every journalist should be aware of this<br />

development and go along with it.<br />

Do you think international media is on the right track?<br />

Difficult to answer. Depends on where you live and what your experience<br />

about it is. Press freedom is not everywhere an established asset. A debate<br />

on topics like responsibility, accountability and transparency presupposes a<br />

certain level of freedom.<br />

Accountability and<br />

mosquito meetings in Tartu<br />

personal views on <strong>MediaAcT</strong> by the international research team<br />

Raluca Radu, Romania<br />

Why is it so important to do research on<br />

media accountability?<br />

Research on media accountability may<br />

help journalists, media managers and<br />

journalism educators to understand the<br />

phenomenon better, identify strategic<br />

actors, key resources and key processes, in<br />

the short term, and ensure the survival of<br />

media companies, alongside other fields<br />

of media research, in the long term.<br />

What was the funniest/ most interesting<br />

moment in the project?<br />

The most interesting moment for me was to discover that the Romanian<br />

journalistic sample is the youngest and one of the most religious. It is now an<br />

intellectual challenge for the team of the University of Bucharest to find out the<br />

reasons and the effects of these facts.<br />

What did you learn from the <strong>MediaAcT</strong> project?<br />

I was motivated by the excellent <strong>MediaAcT</strong> team to overcome my fears related<br />

to quantitative research and to statistical analysis.<br />

Do you think international media is on the right track?<br />

At the moment, in my opinion, media companies are trying to find new<br />

business models and new revenue models. Different media stakeholders<br />

pressure the industry to use a cleaner line of conduct, and to stand up against<br />

political and maybe against economic pressures. There are multiple roads<br />

international media may take from this point.

Boguslawa Dobek-Ostrowska, Poland<br />

What is media accountability for<br />

you?<br />

Media accountability is a must<br />

– not a luxury – for contemporary<br />

media organisations, it is a challenge,<br />

an important way to look at<br />

contemporary media.<br />

What was the biggest task in the<br />

international project?<br />

The biggest task was to understand<br />

media accountability processes<br />

in new media and extend, reorganise, redefine traditional<br />

conceptualisations of media accountability in the digital age.<br />

What was the funniest/most interesting moment in the project?<br />

The most interesting moments were discussions amongst<br />

<strong>MediaAcT</strong> people, especially those in which we discovered, that<br />

despite cultural and linguistic differences we share the same<br />

values, ideas and academic ethos.<br />

What did you learn from the <strong>MediaAcT</strong> project?<br />

We learnt that in modern academic life, administration and<br />

logistics and research are almost of the same importance.<br />

Do you think international media is on the right track?<br />

For the moment, we don‘t think so, but there is a place for<br />

improvement, because many interesting ideas are growing.<br />

stephan Russ-Mohl, switzerland<br />

What is media accountability for you?<br />

The willingness of journalists and newsrooms,<br />

to behave in an accountable and<br />

transparent way, for example to express<br />

doubts if they are unsure about their<br />

reporting, and to correct errors.<br />

Why is it so important to do research on<br />

media accountability?<br />

Because journalists might learn from<br />

each other and from ‘best practices‘ elsewhere. However, firstly, somebody<br />

has to identify and systematically analyse existing accountability – and make<br />

newsrooms aware that they demand daily accountability from others. They have<br />

to apply similar rules to their own work!<br />

What was the biggest task in the international project?<br />

I assume to assure that the participating researchers apply the same methodology<br />

and the same standards to our common research. We are fully aware that not only<br />

do journalism cultures differ in Europe – research cultures differ, too!<br />

What was the funniest/most interesting moment in the project?<br />

Difficult to recall. There were many such moments, as Susanne Fengler created<br />

from the very first moment a “working climate” which was based on mutual<br />

friendship, trust and all of us shared a certain sense of humour. Possibly a summer<br />

evening in Estonia when all of us wanted to enjoy some beers outside and an<br />

invasion of mosquitoes forced all of us to “donate” our blood and to escape…<br />

What did you learn from the <strong>MediaAcT</strong> project?<br />

Much about the different journalism and research cultures in Europe – and how<br />

important it is that journalists and media researchers get to know each other<br />

across cultural and language barriers.<br />

Do you think international media is on the right track?<br />

We definitely need more “international” or even “European” media. By the way,<br />

the EU might also invest some more money in training for journalists.<br />

dear reader,<br />

this magazine is about media responsibility<br />

– at a time when the future of quality<br />

journalism is probably less clear than<br />

ever before. Many new sources of information<br />

compete for people’s attention in<br />

the web. More than ever, the trademark<br />

of professional journalism will be transparency about the way<br />

stories are being made – and accountability for what is being<br />

published in today’s media societies.<br />

we hope that this magazine has inspired you to become<br />

involved in media accountability: As a journalist, our research<br />

shows that there are so many easy and cost-effective new ways<br />

for the media to demonstrate accountability and transparency<br />

online. As a media user, we want to encourage you to make<br />

yourself heard – and to make an informed choice. we want<br />

you to encourage those newsrooms that do pay attention to<br />

ethical standards, and do take the risk to be transparent and<br />

to admit mistakes. As a policy-maker, we encourage you to<br />

put the issue of media accountability on the political agenda.<br />

we, as a research consortium, pledge for a media policy that<br />

promotes accountability in journalism – by setting clear<br />

incentives, not by sanctions and interventions. It is the ultimate<br />

goal of the more than 30 international researchers involved<br />

in the <strong>MediaAcT</strong> project to preserve media independence in<br />

a time of rapid change. lively democracies need a free and<br />

responsible press.<br />

finally, we hope we can encourage fellow scholars and journalism<br />

educators to be aware of our crucial role in the creation<br />

of a ‘culture of media accountability’. Journalists everywhere<br />

consider journalism education as one of the most relevant factors<br />

for upholding standards in journalism. Investing in journalism<br />

education is an investment in a responsible press – this<br />

is a message also for industry representatives, who are rather<br />

unwilling these days to finance mid-career trainings.<br />

The <strong>MediaAcT</strong> survey shows that journalists who received<br />

training in media ethics during their journalistic education<br />

are more sensitive towards issues of media accountability. we<br />

hope that journalism educators will make use of this magazine<br />

(and our accompanying online tool, see www.mediaact.eu) to<br />

promote seminars and lectures on media accountability. sensitising<br />

aspiring journalists about what they owe to the public<br />

is surely a task as important as any professional technique to<br />

be taught in journalism schools and journalism programs.<br />

Our survey data show that this is a prevalent need: Even today,<br />

journalists still feel more responsible towards their sources<br />

than either their target audience or the public. In order to fill<br />

the concept of media accountability with life – and open the<br />

door for a participative approach to holding the media to account,<br />

journalists need to be more aware than they are now<br />

that the public is the prime stakeholder of the “fourth estate”.<br />

It needs a joint effort from all of us to ensure quality journalism<br />

in the future.<br />

yours<br />

prof. dr. susanne fengler<br />

director of the <strong>MediaAcT</strong> research project<br />

Index | Editorial | Birds-eye view | Opening the toolbox | Zoom-in on the newsroom | Media landscapes

Index | Editorial | Birds-eye view | Opening the toolbox | Zoom-in on the newsroom | Media landscapes<br />

Authors<br />

Salvador Alsius, PhD,<br />

Head of Journalism Studies<br />

at Universitat Pompeu Fabra<br />

(UPF) and senior researcher<br />

of GRP (Journalism Research<br />

Group), Spain.<br />

Olivier Baisnée, PhD,<br />

works as an associate<br />

professor in political science<br />

at the Institut d’Etudes<br />

Politiques de Toulouse,<br />

France.<br />

Photgraph: Walter Henisch<br />

klaus Bichler, MMag.,<br />

researcher at Medienhaus<br />

Wien, lecturer at the<br />

University of Vienna and<br />

at the University of Krems,<br />

Austria.<br />

prof. dr. herta däublergmelin<br />

is a former German<br />

Minister of Justice and is<br />

member of the Consortium<br />

of the High-Level Group<br />

on Media Freedom and<br />

Pluralism (HLG).<br />

Bogusława dobek-<br />

Ostrowska, PhD, she is<br />

professor at the University<br />

of Wroclaw, Poland and the<br />

head of the Department of<br />

Journalism and Communication.<br />

Tobias eberwein, PhD,<br />

professor at the Institute<br />

of Journalism and acting<br />

academic director, Erich<br />

Brost Institute, TU Dortmund.<br />

Scientific coordinator<br />

of the <strong>MediaAcT</strong> project.<br />

huub evers, PhD, is a<br />

freelance media ethics<br />

expert. Till 2011, he was a<br />

professor of media, ethics<br />

and diversity at Fontys<br />

University of Applied<br />

Sciences, Tilburg, NL.<br />

Susanne Fengler, PhD,<br />

professor of international<br />

journalism, director of the<br />

Erich Brost Institute for int.<br />

Journalism, TU Dortmund<br />

University. Director of the<br />

<strong>MediaAcT</strong> project.<br />

drs. harmen p. groenhart<br />

is lecturer for Journalism<br />

Studies at the School<br />

of Journalism, Fontys<br />

University of Applied<br />

Sciences, Tilburg, NL.<br />

heikki heikkilä, PhD, is<br />

senior research fellow, University<br />

of Tampere, Finland.<br />

He is the <strong>MediaAcT</strong><br />

Work Package leader focusing<br />

on innovations in online<br />

media accountability.<br />

halliki harro-loit, PhD,<br />

professor of journalism,Institute<br />

of Journalism and Communication,<br />

University of<br />

Tartu, Estonia. Research<br />

group leader, Centre of Excellence<br />

in Cultural Theory.<br />

Mike Jempson, PhD, Senior<br />

Lecturer in Journalism at<br />

the University of the West<br />

of England. He has been<br />

Director of the journalism<br />

ethics charity The Media<br />

Wise Trust since 1996.<br />

Photgraph: Walter Henisch<br />

Andy kaltenbrunner, PhD,<br />

media consultant and<br />

lecturer (Austria, Spain,<br />

Germany), executive<br />

director of Medienhaus<br />

Wien, Austria.<br />

Photgraph: Walter Henisch<br />

Matthias karmasin, PhD,<br />

full professor at the Department<br />

of Media and Communication<br />

Sciences, University<br />

of Klagenfurt, ombudsman<br />

of the <strong>MediaAcT</strong><br />

project.<br />

Photgraph: Walter Henisch<br />

daniela kraus, PhD,<br />

executive director of<br />

fjum_forum for journalism<br />

and media Vienna, Austria.<br />

Her research interests are<br />

journalism research, journalism<br />

education, web 2.0.<br />

Julia lönnendonker, M.A.<br />

(USA), Dipl.-Geogr., is<br />

a senior researcher at the<br />

Erich Brost Institute for<br />

international journalism and<br />

coordination officer of<br />

the <strong>MediaAcT</strong> project.<br />

Marcel Mauri, PhD,<br />

Lecturer in Journalism<br />

History and Media Ethics<br />

at the Communication<br />

Department, Universitat<br />

Pompeu Fabra (UPF), Spain.<br />

prof. gianpietro Mazzoleni<br />

Professor of Sociology of<br />

Communication and Director<br />

of the Master‘s Program<br />

in Public & Corporate Communication<br />

at the Università<br />

degli Studi di Milano, Italy.<br />

Amirouche nedjaa, executive<br />

director of the “Arab<br />

Working Group for Media<br />

Monitoring”. He has specialised<br />

in monitoring the<br />

media coverage during<br />

electoral campaigns.<br />

Judith pies is a lecturer and<br />

research assistant at the<br />

Erich Brost Institute for<br />

International Journalism<br />

and the Institute for<br />

Journalism, TU Dortmund<br />

University, Germany.<br />

daniela popa, PhD student,<br />

teaching assistant at the<br />

Faculty of Communication<br />

and International Studies,<br />

Danubius University of<br />

Galati, Romania.<br />

raluca-nicoleta radu, PhD,<br />

is an associate professor at<br />

the Journalism Department,<br />

Faculty of Journalism and<br />

Communication Studies,<br />

University of Bucharest,<br />

Romania.<br />

ruth rodríguez-Martínez,<br />

has a PhD in Journalism<br />

from the Universidad<br />

Complutense in Madrid.<br />

Her main research interests<br />

are specialised journalism<br />

and cultural journalism.<br />

Stephan russ-Mohl, PhD,<br />

professor of journalism and<br />

media management, Università<br />

della Svizzera italiana,<br />

Lugano, Switzerland and<br />

director of EJO, European<br />

Journalism Observatory.<br />

laura Schneider-Mombaur,<br />

Dipl. Journ., is scientific<br />

assistant at the Erich Brost<br />

Institute for int. journalism<br />

and works as administrative<br />

officer at the <strong>MediaAcT</strong><br />

project. Freelance journalist.<br />

Sergio Splendore, PhD in<br />

sociology at the “Graduate<br />

School in Social, Economic<br />

and Political Sciences”,<br />

Department of Social and<br />

Political Science, University<br />

of Milan. Italy.<br />

Sandra Vera-Zambrano,<br />

PhD, currently works as<br />

research assistant for the<br />

Institut d‘Etudes Politiques<br />

in Toulouse, France.<br />

lEgAl nOTIcE<br />

<strong>MediaAcT</strong> - Final Report<br />

Publisher<br />

Erich Brost Institute for<br />

International Journalism<br />

Technische Universität dortmund<br />

germany<br />

prof. dr. susanne fengler<br />

dr. Tobias Eberwein<br />

Editors<br />

Tobias Eberwein, laura schneider-<br />

Mombaur<br />

Editorial assistance: Mariella Trilling &<br />

Johannes hoffmann<br />

Circulation<br />

10.000<br />

layout and Production<br />

susanne Janecke<br />

language Editing<br />

Marcus denton, Alison Ansell<br />

Print<br />

griebsch & rochol druck gmbh &<br />

co kg<br />

gabelsberger straße 1<br />

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germany<br />

Contact<br />

Erich Brost Institute<br />

Otto-hahn-straße 2<br />

d-44227 dortmund<br />

germany<br />

Tel. +49 (0)234-755-6976<br />

E-Mail: info@brost.org<br />

Title<br />

photographer: photocase/jUliE:p<br />

The research leading to these<br />

results has received funding from<br />

the european union Seventh<br />

Framework programme (Fp7/2007-<br />

2013) under grant agreement n°<br />

244147. The information in this<br />

document is the outcome of the<br />

eu project “Media Accountability<br />

and Transparency in europe“<br />

(<strong>MediaAcT</strong>). The research reflects<br />

only the authors’ views and the<br />

european union is not liable for<br />

any use that may be made of the<br />

information contained therein. The<br />

user thereof uses the information at<br />

their sole risk and liability.

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