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Journalists and Media Accountability

An International Study of News People in the Digital Age


Edited By Susanne Fengler, Tobias Eberwein, Gianpietro Mazzoleni and Colin Porlezza

Media accountability is back on the political agenda. Debates about the phone-hacking scandal at Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World have shown that the need for free and responsible journalism is more pressing than ever. Opinions, however, differ on the measures that need to be taken. Do existing structures of media accountability – such as press councils, codes of ethics, and ombudspersons – suffice, or do we urgently need new instruments and initiatives in today’s converging media world?
These questions were tackled in an international survey of 1,800 journalists in twelve European and two Arab states conducted by the EU-funded research project, «Media Accountability and Transparency in Europe» (MediaAcT). The results provide a solid empirical basis for the discussions taking place. This book advances research on media accountability and transparency, and also offers innovative perspectives for newsrooms, media policy-makers, and journalism educators. Its systematic comparative design makes it an unprecedented venture in international journalism studies.
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1. Introduction: Media Accountability—Basic Concepts and Theoretical Foundations: Susanne Fengler, Tobias Eberwein, Tanja Leppik-Bork, Julia Lönnendonker & Judith Pies

Media Accountability, Media Pluralism and Media Freedom


Chapter 1

Introduction: Media Accountability—Basic Concepts and Theoretical Foundations

Susanne Fengler, Tobias Eberwein, Tanja Leppik-Bork,Julia Lönnendonker & Judith Pies1

Media accountability is back on the political agenda. Early in 2013 a high-ranking group of experts, initiated by EU commissioner Neelie Kroes, presented a list of media policy recommendations to ensure media freedom and pluralism in a media world going through fundamental technological and economic changes. The experts demanded that the EU and its member states make more pro-active use of competition laws to reduce the influence of ‘media barons’ in several Southern as well as Central and Eastern European countries. They also demanded that the issue of media self-regulation be tackled. Their report “A free and pluralistic media to sustain European democracy” (see Vike-Freiberga, Däubler-Gmelin, Hammersley and Maduro 2013, 21, 36) states: “All EU countries should have independent media councils.” Pointing to the example of the United Kingdom, where a press council widely considered as a rather innovative model of media self-regulation was obviously unable to properly handle, let alone prevent, the journalistic scandals associated with the News of the World case, the report envisions that future media councils will have “competences to investigate complaints” and “real enforcement powers, such as the imposition of fines, orders for printed or broadcast apologies, or removal of journalistic status.” Furthermore, the report demands more transparency from European media organizations: “To ensure that all media organisations follow clearly identifiable codes of con ← 7 | 8...

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