1. What is MOM?
The “Media Ownership Monitor” (MOM) has been developed as a mapping tool in order to create a publicly available, continuously updated database that lists owners of all relevant mass media outlets (press, radio, television sectors and online media).
MOM aims to shed light on the risks to media pluralism caused by media ownership concentration (for more information: Methodology). In order to grasp the national characteristics and detect risk-enhancing or risk-reducing factors for media concentration, MOM also qualitatively assesses the market conditions and the legal environment
2. Who is behind MOM?
MOM has been proposed and launched by Reporter ohne Grenzen e. V. – the German section of the international human rights organization Reporters without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF), that aims to defend freedom of the press and the right to inform and be informed anywhere in the world.
In each country, RSF cooperates with a local partner organization. In Serbia, RSF worked with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN).
The project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economic Development and Cooperation (BMZ).
3. Why is transparency of media ownership important?
Media pluralism is a key aspect of democratic societies as free, independent, and diverse media reflect divergent viewpoints and allow criticism of people in power. Risks to diversity of ideas are caused by media market concentration, when only a few players exert dominant influence on public opinion and raise entrance barriers for other players and perspectives (media ownership concentration). The lack of transparency of media ownership presents the biggest obstacle in fighting concentration: How can people evaluate the reliability of information, if they don´t know who provides it? How can journalists work properly, if they don´t know who controls the company they work for? And how can media authorities address excessive media concentration, if they don´t know who is behind the media´s steering wheel?
MOM thus aims to create transparency and to answer the question “who eventually controls media content?” in order to raise public awareness, to create a fact base for advocacy to hold political and economic players accountable for the existing conditions.
As we consider ownership transparency as a crucial precondition to enforce media pluralism, we document the openness of media companies/outlets to provide information on their ownership structure. Considering their answers, we distinguish different levels of transparency – which is indicated for each media outlet and media company on their profile.
Media owner’s motivation to remain hidden or even actively disguise their investments can vary from legitimate to illegal and be rooted in personal, legal or business-related reasons – or a mix thereof, in extreme cases even including criminal offenses like tax evasion or breaches of anti-trust laws. Some of those reasons include the following:
• In several countries, media ownership is restricted by law in order to avoid concentration. So if one individual wants to extend his or her media empire beyond these limits, proxy owners and/or shell companies registered abroad, even off-shore, are frequently being used.
• Sometimes, media owners receive personal threats or face other dangers either originating from governments or competing businesses and therefore decide to remain unknown to protect themselves.
• In many cases, media ownership is intertwined with undue political or economic interests, even more so if individuals are involved that hold a public office and who don’t want to disclose such a conflict of interests.
• In rare cases, the disguise of media ownership happens unintentionally because over time and through mergers and acquisitions, corporate structures became so complex that the original beneficial owner is difficult to identify • Last not least, there are ‘normal’ – i. e. non-media-related reasons for owners to hide, such as tax evasion.
4. What kind of concentration regulation does MOM suggest?
MOM doesn’t make normative statements – it doesn’t suggest how to control media ownership. Which form of media concentration control can work depends on the country context, the existing legal and market conditions, the ownership landscape.
MOM provides a transparency tool to enforce a democratic discussion on that issue as well as good governance: decisions are likely to be of higher quality and to better reflect the needs and wishes of the people if they have access to adequate information and broad consultations, with views and opinions freely shared.
5. How is data collected and validated?
Preferably, official data sources, and/or sources with a high level of reliability and trust are used. Whenever not publicly available, information was directly requested from media companies and research institutes. All sources are thoroughly documented and archived in Library. Further information is available upon request at BIRN.
For TV audience data MOM cooperated with Nielsen Serbia. Nielsen globally used a standardised and independent methodology for media consumption data, which they sell to companies. MOM purchased data for a reduced NGO price.
Audience data for Print and Radio were purchased from IPSOS Serbia . Online audience data are provided by Interactive Advertising Bureau Serbia (IAB) which commissioned Gemius to measure online audience, which is available here. For MOM study we have used data from Gemius for March 2017.
6. How is 'most relevant media' defined?
The main question is: which media outlets influence the opinion-forming process? In order to scan all relevant media, we included all traditional media types (Print, Radio, TV, Online).
The media were selected according to the following criteria:
- MOM focused mostly on media with the highest reach, measured by audience share. Basis for selection was audience research data for the most recent period available provided by Nielsen (TV April 2016-March 2017), IPSOS (Print 2017 and Radio 2016-2017) and Gemius (Online, March 2017).
- The news worthiness and opinion content. The study focuses on general information with a national focus. As such, media with specific thematic focus (music, sport), social networks, search engines and advertisement were excluded.
- The selection based on these criteria initially consisted of around 10 media outlets per media type (TV, radio, print, Online). Shedding light on these most relevant media outlets already allows revealing tendencies in media concentration. More media outlets were and will be added – if they prove to be relevant in terms of their owner or of their influence on public opinion (read more - “How are the Media Outlets selected?”).
7. How are the media outlets selected?
TV stations were selected according to their audience reach nationwide, based on Nielsen’s TV Audience Measurement (1 April 2016 – 31 March 2017), which use electronic metering technology. MOM Serbia sample includes top 11 TV outlets with national and regional frequencies, which include cable channels. In Serbia only 5 Media companies have licenses with national frequencies.
Radio stations were selected on the basis of IPSOS Radio Audience Measurement, which lists top 10 radio stations by average weekly auditorium regardless of their geographic coverage.
MOM Serbia print sample includes all national dailies with informative content (8 outlets), six weeklies and one monthly. Audience share was provided by IPSOS for the period of January-March 2017.
For the online market, primarily news websites were looked at as they build up public opinion. Social networks, online stores and advertisement websites were excluded, as they are not relevant when it comes to the editorial content and ownership. Online audience measurement was provided by IAB, Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) which commissioned Gemius to measure online audience, which is available here (http://www.audience.rs). Gemius provides audience measurements in the number of visits and excludes access from mobile devices.
8. Why Serbia?
Serbia ranked the 66th out of 180 countries in the 2017’s World Press Freedom Index published by Reporter without Borders, which ranks nations on indicators such as media independence, self-censorship, rule of law, transparency, and abuses. This result points at the problems that Serbia is facing related to press freedom, which includes a problematic relation to media pluralism, media independence and transparency. It highlights Serbia as a country being worth looking in depth into the risk of media ownership concentration. In addition, Serbia is a candidate country for accession into the EU and has in February 2017 opened chapters on 20 and 26 of the accession negotiation which include provisions relevant to media regulation and pluralism.
Moreover, availability of a competent partner organization in a country is critical for effective implementation of MOM. MOM would not have been possible without the commitment and passion shown by the local team convened by BIRN.
9. Does MOM only exist for Serbia?
MOM was developed as a generic methodology that can be universally applied – and potentially will be. Notwithstanding that media concentration trends are observable worldwide; implementation and analysis will first take place in developing countries. MOM has been implemented in around 20 countries over the course of three years. All country projects can be found on the global website.
10. What are the limitations of the study?
- Market concentration based on market share could not be calculated since complete and credible numbers were not available publicly. Financial data was available only for companies and not media outlet-specific.
- Official audience measurement data is not publicly available apart from online measurements; it is being sold by research companies. Online measurements provided by Gemius exclude readership from mobile devices, which doesn’t reflect the full picture for online audience and furthermore because audience data was provided in number of visits it was impossible to calculate audience concentration for online market.
- No public information or studies are available on advertising market for Serbia.
- Some investigations, particularly into the diverse local markets as well as into more hidden ownership structures would require more time and resources.
11. Who do we target?
The data base
- allows each citizen to get informed on the media system in general;
- creates a fact base for civil society’s advocacy efforts to further promote public consciousness on media ownership and concentration;
- is a point of reference for consulting competition authorities or governmental bodies when establishing suitable regulatory measures to safeguard media pluralism.
12. What happens next?
The database is a snapshot of the current situation, contextualized by historical facts. It will be updated regularly by BIRN.
13. Are there similar projects?
The Media Ownership Monitor is mainly inspired by two similar projects. Especially the indicators for a later ranking rely heavily on the EU-funded Media Pluralism Monitor of the Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom (CMPF) at the European University Institute (EUI, Florence). Moreover, Media Pedia, an ownership database developed by investigative journalists in Macedonia served as inspiration for the Media Ownership Monitor. An overview over other similar projects can be found in the table below.
A Spanish NGO that works in the field of media ownership transparency in several European countries.
An NGO which works in the field of press freedom. It implements media concentration projects.
The Media Freedom Navigator of Deutsche Welle provides an overview of different media freedom indices.
A database of television and audiovisual services in Europe.
The Website provides a summary and analysis of the state of the media in Europe and neighbouring countries.
The Media Pluralism Monitor assesses risks for media pluralism in the EU Member States.
The network provides information of the state of the media in many countries.
The Media Sustainability Index (MSI) provides analyses of the conditions for independent media in 80 countries.
A project that is monitoring the media ownership in Macedonia.
The Website provides information about media ownership in Great Britain.
The organisation publishes an interactive database about media in the United States.
Monitors media ownership and the impact on media pluralism in southeastern Europe and EU member states.
A research that works with authors from 30 countries in the world about media concentration using a common methodology.
A database of international corporations of the world´s biggest media.
Media Development Indicators - A framework for assessing media development.