New Commissioner-designate for Education, Culture & Youth

Following extensive discussion about the assignment of Citizenship issues to Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner-designate for Education, Culture & Youth (and the afore mentioned citizenship), Jean-Claude Juncker decided to reassign (several) parts of portfolios: Please find the list here: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_SPEECH-14-705_en.htm

Let’s be cautious to the actions taken by the newly built commission and follow closely the developments – specifically in the relevant parts for Community Media, like civil society / citizenship, multilingualism (which is no longer explicitly mentioned in a portfolio), net neutrality and technological changes.

Find below a documentation of the discussions / hearing around M. Navracsics:

Listen here to the Recording of the first Hearing  (1st of October, 6pm): http://www.elections2014.eu/en/new-commission/hearing/20140918HEA65207, and this is the link to the transcription of the hearing (pdf)

While stating his commitment to European values, questions regarding civil society organizations in Hungary were answered rather vaguely. After the re-amendments of the media law in 2010 (after EU interventions), now the commissioner-designate can not see any points of disagreement between Hungary and the EU. Apparently this was not convincing to the committee.

2nd October 2014: Letter from Pieter de Wit
Dear Ms Trüpel,
Thank you for your question: “Will you, as Commissioner, defend media pluralism in the European Union, when in your country you prompted many actions defying those values?”
Mr Tibor Navracsics, the Commissioner-designate for Education, Culture, Youth & Citizenship, answered:
“Any problems that emerged with the plurality of the media from the point of view of legislation we settled with the Council of Europe and with the European Commission. And we amended the media law where it was necessary.”

This answer was not really satisfying and convincing, many media organizations, community media activists and citizens in Hungary will tell exactly the opposite… But the questions from the parliamentarians show that the new commission, with or without Mr Tibor Navracsics, will be critically monitored.

We wish you success with this monitoring and hope the Community Media sector will continue to be included and respected in media policy discussions in the new five year period. CMFE will monitor that.

Best regards,
Pieter de Wit

September 2014: CMFE’s Pieter de Wit wrote a letter to Ms. Helga Trüpel, member of the European Parliament, to express concerns regarding the new Commissioner-designate’s opinion on Community media and media pluralism:

Dear Ms Trüpel,
Next Wednesday, 1 October, the CULT Committee will hear Mr Tibor Navracsics, the Commissioner-designate for Education, Culture, Youth & Citizenship.

We know you as a member of the European Parliament with great concerns for media policy items as media pluralism, independence and concentration issues. So we hope you are prepared to share our concerns with the Commissioner-designate Mr Navracsics, who was also responsible for the Hungarian media policy in where media pluralism and media independence is
under threat and where community media have to stop their activities.

Education, culture and civic participation, while locally and nationally rooted, are perceived by EU citizens as a key component of our shared European identity and values. They contribute to individuals’ capacities for self-expression, creativity and entrepreneurship, as well as to the social cohesion and dynamism of our society. This is particularly true for the community media sector. In this sector, with in Europe more then two thousand community radio stations and around 500 community TV stations, an estimated few hundred thousand active citizens contribute to local culture, politics, news, minority and other programs. Community media offers platforms for exchange of ideas, media literacy and intercultural awareness.

In Hungary, the homeland of Mr Navracsics, this sector is under threat. More and more Community Media lose their licenses and access to funding. Recently, we received a mail from Civil Szfera Alapitvany (Civil Sphere Foundation):
“Unfortunately, the situation of community radio stations in Hungary can be considered catastrophic.”

May be it is possible to ask Mr Navracsics to clarify his position regarding Community Media, referring to the bad experience in his home country for which he was also responsible as former Minister of Public Administration and Justice in the Hungarian government. Will his policy the next five years be based on these European texts on Community Media policy or on the ‘bad practice’ of the Hungarian government ?

Europe on Community Media:

– The European Parliament passed a motion in favor of Community Media in 2008 (http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=TA&reference=P6-TA-2008-0456&language=EN&ring=A6-2008-0263) in which the Commission and members states where called, among others, to:

“15. Advises Member States, without causing detriment to traditional media, to give legal recognition to community media as  a distinct group alongside commercial and public media where such recognition is still lacking;

16. Calls on the Commission to take into account community media as an alternative, bottom-up solution for increasing media pluralism when designing indicators for media pluralism;

17. Calls on Member States to support community media more actively in order to ensure media pluralism, provided that such support is not to the detriment of public media;”

– In 2009, the Hungarian government was one of the signatories of the Declaration of the Committee of Ministers on the role of community media in promoting social cohesion and intercultural dialogue (https://wcd.coe.int/ViewDoc.jsp?id=1409919). This Declaration, among others, stresses the desirability of:

a. recognising the social value of community media and examining the possibility of committing funds at national, regional and local level to support the sector, directly and indirectly, while duly taking into account competition aspects;

b. encouraging studies of good practice in community media, and facilitating co-operation and the exchange of good practice, including exchanges with such media in other regions of the world, as well as between community media and other interested media, for example by exchanging programmes and content or by developing joint projects;

c. facilitating capacity building and training of community media staff, for example via training schemes within the framework of lifelong learning and media literacy, as well as staff and volunteer exchanges with other media and internship arrangements, which could enhance the quality of community media programmes;

d. encouraging the media’s contribution to intercultural dialogue through initiatives such as the setting up of a network to exchange information and support and facilitate initiatives which exist in this field in Europe;”

Thanks in advance,
Best regards,
Pieter de Wit / CMFE Board of Directors