MediaAcT Final Research Report launched in Brussels

The Final Research Report on Media Accountability and Transparency in Europe has been launched on the Final Conference in Brussels on June 6, 2013. The colourful and easy-to-read magazine offers a wide-angle view on the multifold results of the international MediaAcT-Project to citizens. Contributers from all participating countries present their survey findings in a comprehensible and appealing manner.

Starting from basic information on media accountability (Chapter: "Opening the toolbox") up to close-up views on media accountability in newsrooms and accountability cultures in Europe and the Arab World. (Chapters: Zoom-in on the newsrooms; Media landscapes). The magazines' aim is to deliver insights into todays important issue on media credibility and the question: "Who is watching the watchdogs?" You will find the Final Report here and in the section 'Outcomes' of the MediaAcT website.

About the Final Research Report on Media Accountability and Transparency in Europe

Do the “Jayson Blair affair”, the “Stephen Glass affair” or the more recent “phone hacking affair” (“Hackgate”) sound familiar to you? Not a clue? You may vaguely remember the case of this New

York Times’ journalist accused of plagiarism, or the movie, Shattered Glass, about a young journalist who throws away his brilliant career when he’s discovered of making up all his stories… Not yet? Think of this: the Leveson Inquiry, the Murdoch name and the closure of the News of the World magazine. If this information makes sense to you, it’s probably because you already have heard something about journalistic issues on ethics and deontology – or because you are either a media professional or a media policy-maker. In any case, feel very welcome to plunge through a thoughtful analysis on journalistic concerns: have you ever thought of the fragility of the line which divides “good” and “bad” journalism? Have you ever thought of the difficulty we all face when we try to understand if a journalist or his/her story truly defends the freedom of speech or is simply overstepping the law? Which leads us to an essential question: should the media be regulated?

Probably all of us agree that journalistic self-regulation is a must, some observers have even started to question the effectiveness of existing self-regulation practices recently. After all, journalists are free to criticise different forms of power but the question remains of towards whom are they responsible and held accountable. Besides, journalism is perceived as powerful. As such it has always been the target of suspicion and criticism. The continuous progression towards the freedom of the press, along with the relative diminution of censorship and/or direct control of political power over the media, gave rise to a growing debate about media accountability and the question how media accountability can be assured in a time of growing competition in the media business worldwide, as well as in a time of rapid technological change.

To start, let’s talk about the word “accountability". Indeed, in some countries the word does not even exist. According to different translations, the state, the markets, the media industry or even the individual consciousness will be more or less taken into account – while media accountability foremost means for us ”that journalists respect their sources and their audiences” (see Mike Jempson’s text, p. 42). In other words: we understand that freedom of speech intrinsically underpins ethical considerations about the public and the peers from two different perspectives: transparency and responsiveness. The first refers to shedding light on the background to news production; the second is the practice whereby media organisations encourage users to give feedback. The MediaAcT project ights up the question of media accountability at a moment of deep renewal, for at least three reasons: the generalisation of new technologies, the integration of new democracies to traditional western journalism practices and the questioning of journalism and its values as we know them. These aspects were taken into account during our research. The diversity of our sampling concerning countries and contexts, which includes western and non-western as well as traditional, new and emerging democracies, gives both an account of the original jungle of media accountability and of the process of reorganisation it is going through: The general trend might also replace traditional instruments and institutions (such as press councils or trade journals) by audience-oriented participative practices (media blogs, online comments, etc.) in the long run.

This magazine gives some clues to fundamental questions: What can be done to hold the media to account? How can we establish an effective system of media self-regulation especially in countries where the media is deeply affected by political powers? How can media users play a much more active role in media criticism? What can be learnt from the different experiences with media accountability in northern and southern, western and eastern Europe – as well as the Arab world? Responsible journalism is our best bet and aim. According to the MediaAcT survey, accountable media are essential for the future of quality journalism. In this sense, articles in this magazine explore four main debates: (1) the sometimes very complex line between press freedom and state regulation, emphasising the outstanding differences among countries; (2) the belief that new technologies are deeply changing journalistic practices and accountability instruments, even though traditional Media Accountability Instruments (MAIs) remain valid; (3) our proposal for newsrooms to use easy-to-understand-andto- apply accountability tools; (4) examples and experiences, through which we are aiming to show you how important it is today to feel concerned about journalism’s ethical issues. Indeed, the discussion about media accountability is vital for the future of quality journalism. The research you’re about to read may be a starting point for further activity in this field.

You will find the Final Report here and in the section 'Outcomes' of the MediaAcT website.

Text: Olivier Baisnée, Sandra Vera-Zambrano, the MediaAct-Team; Screenshot: Janis Brinkmann

MediaAct News – June 10, 2013


About MediaAcT

MediaAcT is a comparative research project on media accountability systems in EU member states as indicators for media pluralism in Europe.


Funded by the EC

Project funded under the Socio-economic Sciences and Humanties


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