13th February 2019
By Tom Law

Ensuring the financial sustainability of quality journalism

The Ethical Journalism Network’s Tom Law is a member of the Council of Europe’s Committee of experts on quality journalism in the digital age. On 13 February the 47 member states of Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers adopted a declaration drafted by the committee, which encourages “states to put in place a regulatory and policy framework that facilitates the operation of quality journalism”. 

Council of Europe Press Release

13 February 2019

The Council of Europe has called on its 47 member states to ensure the financial sustainability of quality journalism taking into account that it is a public good and plays an essential role for individuals to be able to form and express their opinions and make informed choices about government and society.

In a Declaration adopted today, the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers encourages states to put in place a regulatory and policy framework that facilitates the operation of quality journalism, while not constraining media outlets’ editorial and operational independence. Recommended measures include a beneficial tax regime, financial support schemes and the possibility of media outlets to operate as not-for-profit organisations and receive donations from philanthropic programmes.

The Declaration has been adopted due to the concern that the sustainability of quality journalism is at great risk. This situation – witnessed across the continent – is largely due to the digitisation of the media sector which has compromised the traditional business models based on advertising. The consequences range from reduced news coverage, job loses, and the deterioration of journalists´ working conditions, to greater concentration of media ownership.

Whilst highlighting that the digital environment provides new opportunities for free expression and diversity of opinions, the Declaration also stresses that it creates risks of manipulation, disinformation and spread of hate messages.

With regard to online platforms, the Committee of Ministers expresses concern about the lack of transparency in the way that they select and rank news and stresses the need to consider their responsibilities as main gateways for news dissemination, also by promoting credible and diverse information over disinformation and other malicious or blatantly false content.

Finally, the Declaration stresses the importance of ensuring a fair financial reward for the production of news and other media content. Where necessary, that may include redistribution of revenues from online platforms to news content providers.

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