Television remains the primary source of information for most people in Europe, despite the dynamic progress of new information technologies. But the pivotal role of television in supporting democracy in Europe is under threat. Public service broadcasters are compromising quality to compete with commercial channels, and many of them depend on Governments or political parties. Meanwhile, ever-larger concentrations are developing in the commercial sector, often with clear political affiliations. These developments jeopardize broadcasting pluralism and diversity, with the new democracies of Central and Eastern Europe most at risk.
While there are nearly 4,000 television channels in Europe, the report reveals that the television market is in reality highly concentrated in terms of both ownership and audience shares. In most countries, a handful of channels attract the vast majority of viewers. Ownership structures are controlled by a few companies and often shrouded in secrecy. Political pressure on regulators and public service broadcasters is widespread.
In Europe, universally available high quality programmes are scarce. Investigative journalism and minority programming are hard to find in both public service and commercial broadcasting. Newscasts are often tabloid, particularly on commercial channels. As a result, viewers often do not receive the information necessary to make informed democratic choices.
Whether the switchover to digital broadcasting will benefit the public remains to be seen. Digitalisation may instead enable leading commercial players to further erode public service broadcasting, undermining pluralism and diversity, as well as high quality content.
The report contains a series of recommendations for national governments, the European Union (EU), the Council of Europe (CoE), the Organisation for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE), and other interested parties
The report "Television across Europe: regulation, policy and independence" was prepared and published by EUMAP, the Open Society Institute’s EU Monitoring and Advocacy Program, in cooperation with OSI’s Network Media Program.
The report includes a regional overview and twenty individual country reports covering: Albania; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Bulgaria; Croatia; Czech Republic; Estonia; France; Germany; Hungary; Italy; Latvia; Lithuania; Poland; Republic of Macedonia; Romania; Serbia; Slovakia; Slovenia; Turkey; the United Kingdom.
The report is in English. Country reports and the general overview are also available in the national language of the monitored country. Each country report contains specific policy recommendations. All are available on www.eumap.org. For more information on the Open Society Institute see www.soros.org.*****************************************************************
The full text of the report is available at: http://www.eumap.org/topics/media/television_europe
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