The Silent Takeover – Media Capture in the 21st Century

Thursday, November 22nd – Friday, November 23rd
Berlin, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Hiroshimastr. 17

organized by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Reporters Without Borders Germany (RSF Germany) and Media in Cooperation and Transition

NOTE: Please use the free field in the registration mask to indicate whether you would like to participate in the evening reception on 22nd November.


DAY 1 (Thursday 22nd)

08:30 Registration opens

09:00 Welcome
Christiane Kesper, Head of Division for International Cooperation, FES

09:15 Keynote
Anya Schiffrin, Director of Technology, Media & Communications Specialization, Columbia University (School of International & Public Affairs)

10:00 Q&A with Anya Schiffrin
Facilitation: Christopher Forst, FES

10:30 Coffee Break

10:45 Local Flavors and Global Patterns: Can Ownership Concentration and Oligarchization be seen and addressed as a Worldwide Trend?
Facilitation: Olaf Steenfadt, Reporters Without Borders Germany (RSF Germany)

No country and no continent seem to escape the trend of media concentration. The patterns appear similar: more and more precarious, vulnerable media outlets become prey to investors and their interests, connected to politics and backed by historical family bonds. Lack of transparency of financing, including public spending and state advertising, prevails while legislation falls short of addressing the issue. At the same time, media markets differ in both structural and cultural terms, for example regarding the distinct relations between the political class and mass media but also the impact of digital technology in each setting – all this having implications on how media is captured and by whom.This session explores contextual characteristics in order to propose categories of capture that might deepen our understanding of this trend. With the objective to discover and to analyse overarching similarities, our guests will discuss how media ownership and concentration affect their public spheres at home on three different continents –

  • How does the Latin American legacy of colonial land ownership translate to the airwaves in Brazil?
  • Can media literacy and ownership transparency help to combat online disinformation in Sri Lanka?
  • What role does the state play after the liberalization of the Moroccan television and radio market? Do old cliques still play a role?

With: Representatives of RSF‘s partner organisations working together on the Media Ownership Monitor (MOM), an international research project on media ownership transparency

Speakers:
André Pasti, Intervozes, Media Ownership Monitor Brazil
Deepanjalie Abeywardana, Verité Research, Media Ownership Monitor Sri Lanka
Ali Amar, Le Desk, Morocco

Hosted by: RSF Germany / Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung für die Freiheit

12:00 Lunch Break

13:15 Short Presentation: The Community Media Archive

Sebastian Lasinger, Community Media and Human Rights, Community Media Network Sierra Leone (COMNET SL)
Alexander Vojvoda, CBS Radio 95.3 MHz Buea/Cameroon, Cameroon Community Media Network (CCMN)

13:30 Pluralistic Party-Media Landscapes and How to Distinguish Good from Bad Diversity
Facilitation: Aida Kaisy, SOAS University London

In many countries in the MENA region the level of political parallelism in the media sector tends to be very high. In war-torn countries such as Syria and Libya it is mostly conflict parties that use media to impose their narratives on public discourses and hence strengthen their position in the conflict. In transitional countries such as Iraq, Lebanon and Tunisia it is rather political parties that try to influence public opinion in their favor by supporting, owning or running media.
In either case, the media is used to pursue political interest which goes against the concept of democratic media that is supposed to serve public interest. At the same time, parties and movements have helped to spread media pluralism in post-authoritarian countries. Even though withstanding the concept of democratic media and hence challenging established paradigms in media assistance, political parallelism allows for a diversity of political camps, minorities and all strands of society to have a voice in the public sphere.
In the planned session, the media pluralism found in MENA countries such as Tunisia, Libya and Iraq will be compared and discussed in regard to MA relevant questions such as: what impact does polarized media pluralism/political parallelism have on societal cohesion? Does this kind of media pluralism allow for control and critic of powerful political and economic elites? How is the quality of political competition affected by political parallelism?

Speakers:
Anja Wollenberg, MiCT
Fatima El-Issawi,
University of Essex
Carola Richter,
Free University Berlin

Hosted by: MiCT

14:45 Coffee Break & Open Space

16:00 Manipulation of Public Opinion in Social Media: Actors, Trends, Counter Strategies
Facilitation: Isabel Rodde, GIZ

The manipulation of public opinion through social media platforms is not only a growing threat to democracy and freedom of expression; it can play a direct role in intensifying conflict. Political leaders and parties are spreading disinformation during elections; government agencies exercise internet censorship and control; artificial intelligence and big data analytics are being used to undermine trust in the media and public institutions. In many countries around the world, divisive social media campaigns heighten ethnic tensions and intensify political conflict and violence. Trolls, fake accounts and political bots amplify hate speech and suppress minority opinions.
What is the scope and impact of social media conflict influencers and computational propaganda in the Global South? How can media development address the challenges? How successful are digital literacy programs that link social media trainings with verification technologies and the setup of independent mobile platforms? The panel brings together researchers, media practitioners and internet activists to discuss current trends and strategies to support the free flow of information and counter incitement to violence using social media platforms.

Speakers:
Lisa-Maria Neudert, Computational Propaganda Project, Oxford Internet Institute
Suzan Kim Otor, #defyhatenow, South Sudan
Amber McIntyre, Tactical Technology Collective

Hosted by: GIZ / icebauhaus / r0g_agency

17:15 Your Opinion Matters! FoME 2018 Opinion Barometer
Facilitation: Anja Wollenberg, MiCT

20:00 Evening Reception at Museum for Communication (optional guided tour at 19:00 included) | Presentation of new CIMA publication
Participation only for registered guests of the FoME symposium, please tell us when registering for the symposium.

 

DAY 2 (Friday 23rd)

09:00 Registration

09:30 Unchain Journalism: A Comparison of Media Capture in the EU
Facilitation: Nora Wehofsits, European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, Andreas Bock, Network for Reporting on Eastern Europe (n-ost)

EU enlargement more than a decade ago has not had the expected positive effects on the media markets and press freedom in post-socialist Europe. Few entrepreneurs with close connections to authorities own a majority of the media outlets and exploit them for political and economic purposes. But also in Western European countries we observe dependencies between politics, economic interests and the media.
Media Capture concerns many EU Member States as well. You do not have to look at the Last Media Pluralism Monitor: examples of media being captured can be found in the journalistic practices in various EU countries lately. This raises the question: How to free media in the EU from political and economic chains?
In this session we highlight European cases and discuss constructive measures against political and private interferences on the media market. How does the “silent takeover” happen in EU countries? What is the impact of media capture across Europe? And what are the best (EU) policy approaches to restore editorial independence and press freedom?

Speakers:
Salla Vuorikoski,
Suomen Kuvalehti (former: YLE), Finland
Matus Kostolny, Dennik N, Slovakia
Marius Dragomir,
CEU/CMDS, Hungary/Romania
Ana Gomes, MEP, Portugal, ME

Hosted by: ECPMF / n-ost

10:45 Strategies against Media Capture: Strengthening Media Viability
Facilitation: Edith Kimani, Deutsche Welle

Media Capture often works along economic mechanisms: control over advertising budgets, ownership concentration or bribes. Governments funnel public ad spending to complaisant media outlets. Oligarchs buy news media in order to avoid critical coverage. And both collude in order to weaken regulation, resulting in less transparency and more ownership concentration. As media outlets face enormous difficulties in delivering quality reporting while staying financially afloat, they become more vulnerable to Media Capture. Strengthening Media Viability means improving their defenses.
This session puts Media Viability in the spotlight: What are the main challenges that weaken the independence and viability of media outlets? Which aspects of Media Viability are key to strengthen media in order to avoid being captured or manipulated? How can information environments be fostered that allow independent, quality news media to thrive?
It is time to look at Media Viability from a broader perspective. DW Akademie uses a model that looks beyond the money aspect. It takes into account five dimensions: economic, political, technology, content and community.
On the panel, DW Akademie brings together experts on Media Viability with different perspectives – a media practitioner, an entrepreneur, and a media development practitioner. They discuss approaches to foster Media Viability in different world regions as possible strategies against Media Capture.

Speakers:
Janine Warner,
Sembra Media
Roula Mihael,
Maharat Foundation Lebanon
Laura Schneider, DW Akademie

Hosted by: DW Akademie

11:45 Coffee Break

12:00 The Sustainability of Local Journalism: A Discussion among an Optimist, Pessimist, and Journalist in the Middle
Facilitation: Mira Milosevic, Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD)

The GFMD Panel will focus on the sustainability/viability side of local journalism, and how it is being captured by governments, businesses and organized crime.
A lack of public access to high-quality information, a loss of diverse voices and viewpoints, and the evisceration of public service journalism is an everyday reality for the majority of local communities around the world. For most commercial news outlets, the basic assumption of the new business model – the subsidy that advertisers have long provided to news content – is now gone. At the same time, government budget allocations are among the leading sources of revenue for local news outlets in many countries. By favoring docile journalism, or by cutting subsidies to critical media voices, many governments are distorting media markets to their advantage. According to a 2014 report on the future of digital journalism by the Open Society Foundations, governments used financial pressure to manipulate news organisations in more than half od the 56 markets examined, and this proportion has only increased over the past four years. This financial squeeze also makes news organizations more financially vulnerable and more prone to capture by corporate backers.
Additionally, the growth of native advertising, the erosion of the barriers between editorials and advertising, and the rise of large digital platforms may all have given rise to new forms of media capture. In a situation where the financial future of journalism is uncertain, the influence and leverage of those in power increase.
GFMD will organize a session on challenges and solutions to media capture, especially with regard to independent sources of financing and sustainable models for local news. We would like to present three case studies on the problems encountered in “less-than democratic states” and best practices to overcome the obstacles in the way of professional journalism. GFMD has a wide range of members from Europe and the Global South, and could draw on organisations from Colombia, Sudan, Lebanon, and/or Serbia.

Speakers:
Fatemah Farag, Welad Elbalad Media Services LTD, Egypt
Vitomir Ognjanović, online portal “Južne vesti”, Serbia
tbd, FNPI, Colombia
tbd, Nuba Reports, Sudan

Hosted by: GFMD

13:00 Lunch Break

14:00 1 out of 3 (Parallel Events)

OPTION 1: Discussion: Can there be ‘good’ Capture? A Reflection on the Line between Support and Capture
Facilitation: Anna Hoffmann, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS)

The economic crisis of journalism i soften argued to be at the core of systems of media ownership concentration and capture through means of marketing expenditure. Based on the call to “save” journalism to also “save” democracy, donors and philanthropists have taken note of the issue. However, it can be argued that such funds are not free from interests and, despite being ‘good’ interests, might be just as distorting to a free media in the long run. The first study so far on philanthropy journalism found a positive overall case, while noting that “donor power and journalistic and donor field logics can interact in both complimentary and contradictory ways” (Scott, Bunce & Wright, 2017). The overall argument can be made that goodwill cannot reliably substitute (financial) independence of journalism. Therefore, this discussion will open a space to reflect on current practices, to question the long-term effects behind good-intentioned interventions and to identify effective guidelines for media support without capture effect.

Speakers:
tbd, Kenya
tbd, South Sudan

Hosted by: KAS

OPTION 2: Measuring Media Ownership and Concentration: Methodological and Conceptual Challenges
Facilitation: Lisa Kretschmer, Reporters Without Borders Germany (RSF Germany)

Short Presentation of the Media Ownership Monitor by Reporter ohne Grenzen followed by an open discussion focusing on issues such as the weighting of cross-media ownership and trending topics such as the connection between (state) advertising and self-censorship.

Hosted by: RSF Germany

OPTION 3: Simulation Game: Digital Participation
Facilitation: Julius Endert and Lena Nitsche, DW Akademie

Digital Participation is a precondition for  freedom of speech and freedom of information in a digital age because the Internet has become a worldwide universal platform for communication and information. However, negative interventions in free digital communication are common: Internet shutdowns, censorship and digital attacks against journalists exist in many countries around the world. People are excluded and cannot exercise their rights to freedom of expression and free access to information. Within this context the goal of the presentation is to make the concept and relevance of digital participation more tangible by letting participants discuss within the realm of a simulation game. We want to invite participants to a fictional country where they will be slipping into the role of a stakeholders within our digital ecosystem, for example “government”, “journalist” or “citizen”. By confronting them with disruptions such as internet shutdowns, new laws or the silencing of critical voices, participants are confronted with the repercussions of these challenges.

Hosted by: DW Akademie

15:00 1 out of 2 (Parallel Events)

OPTION 1: The Future of Public Broadcasting: How to win our Hearts back? (Fish Bowl Discussion)
Facilitation: Eva-Maria Lemke, RBB Abendschau (tbc)

Donald Trump does it. The Alternative for Germany does it. Italy’s new government does it. Austria, Switzerland and many other countries face similar debates. Public Broadcasters are criticized by many.
Financing models are central to this discourse, but they are by far not the only issue that we are dealing with. The German case may not be a picture-perfect example in every regard, but – since German public broadcasting has a long and successful tradition – the discourse in Germany digs comparably deep into the matter. From Hamburg over Mainz to Cologne new arguments against publicly-financed broadcasting are put on the table every day: it all follows a political agenda and is nothing but “state broadcasting” anyway is one; transparency issues, low-quality entertainment programmes that cannot compete with private competitors and a failure to actually contribute to the population’s education are other accusations. Digitization poses a further challenge.
For years, European media development organizations have considered public broadcasting as a system worth sharing and spreading, since they have considered it to be a feasible way to avoid media capture and secure a (at least to a considerable extent) free media. Transforming state broadcasters in the Global South into truly public broadcasters has been a particular challenge from the very beginning. Not only the lack of political will and capacity issues speak against a proper transformation, but so do postcolonial transformation processes and the dominating neoliberal market-orientation of the communications industry in the Global South.
Still, many experts consider Public Broadcasting to be a, theoretically, effective counter measure to media capture. Thus, the concept is very relevant in the framework of the FoME Symposium 2018. But in order to live up to their potential and to inspire other countries – even those with much more difficult preconditions – to transform broadcasting in a similar way suiting to their specific needs, existing public broadcasters may have to adjust to the challenges of the 21st century and find ways to “win our hearts back”.
How can we make public broadcasting attractive again? Where are accusations false and we simply need to expose the populist agenda? What steps need to be taken to make public broadcasting more attractive and increase both its outreach and its quality? What can we learn from the status quo? Where do we need to adjust solutions to specific country cases? Can Public Broadcasting truly contribute to avoiding Media Capture? What can be the role of FoME members in all this?
Our experts will exchange their views on such questions with the audience in a Fish Bowl Discussion.

Speakers:
Des Freedman, Goldsmith University of London
Frauke Gerlach, Grimme Institute (tbc)
Viola Milton, University of South Africa

Hosted by: FES

OPTION 2: The Military Media
Facilitation: Friederike von Franqué

In national or multinational military deployments, the information and communication space is gaining in importance. The activities of military actors in this area are no longer limited to informing their own troops or the families at home, but increasingly include activities that can be described as media development. As a result, the military with its own goals and strategies is competing with other actors as a media provider and promoter. Of what nature is the relationship with civilian local and international providers and what are the consequences for media development? Together with a leading expert and responsible communications actor of the German Federal Armed Forces, we describe the details and objectives of its media work and discuss scenarios for future cooperations.

Speaker:
Lieutenant Colonel Christian Bell,
Bundeswehr

Hosted by: Friederike von Franqué (IDEM Institute) / Kefa Hamidi (IfKMW)

16:00 All eyes on us: Messages from our Rapporteurs 

16:15 Conclusion
Facilitation: Christian Mihr, Reporters Without Borders Germany (RSF Germany)