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Journalists and Media Accountability

An International Study of News People in the Digital Age

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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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16. Summary: Perspectives for Newsrooms, Policy-Makers and Journalism Educators: Susanne Fengler, Tobias Eberwein, Gianpietro Mazzoleni, Colin Porlezza & Stephan Russ-Mohl

Towards a ‘Culture of Accountability’:Newsrooms Make the Difference

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Chapter 16

Summary: Perspectives for Newsrooms, Policy-Makers and Journalism Educators

Susanne Fengler, Tobias Eberwein, Gianpietro Mazzoleni, Colin Porlezza & Stephan Russ-Mohl1

How can we ensure a free and responsible press across Europe? This question is currently being debated heatedly, even aggressively, among journalists, industry representatives, media policy-makers and scholars across Europe. In late 2012, Lord Justice Leveson recommended a fundamental reform of the traditional model of media self-regulation in the United Kingdom—which has also dominated other Western European journalism cultures since the 1950s. As a consequence of the News of the World scandal, Leveson suggested a new system of self-regulation, underpinned by statute. Obviously, the current self-regulation system was not able to control the unethical and unlawful methods of the Murdoch-owned tabloid.

Leveson has prompted an outcry among British news outlets. Many of them consider such a form of state intervention to be the end of press freedom. A similarly fierce response came from industry representatives and lobbyists across Europe to the 2013 report of the EU High-Level Group on Media Freedom and Pluralism.2 The committee was set up by EU commissioner Neelie Kroes in 2011. At that time, the European Parliament was concerned about a tightening of the media law in Hungary under the Orbán government. Among other recommendations, the High-Level Group suggested drastically expanding the sanctioning potential of existing press councils. ← 264 | 265 → They also demanded mandatory media councils in EU states which do not have press councils...

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