Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the Media Ownership Monitor?
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 (printed press, radio, television 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 legal environment.
2. Who is behind the Media Ownership Monitor?
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.
The project is funded by the Federal German 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 biggest obstacle to fight it is lack of transparency of media ownership: 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.
4. Why do owners hide?
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.
5. What form of concentration control is recommended?
The Media Ownership Monitor 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.
The Media Ownership Monitor 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.
6. How is data being collected?
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 of media companies, political representatives and research institutes.
In order to guarantee and verify the objective evaluation, the Media Ownership Monitor works with advisory groups in the countries that comment and consult throughout the research process. It is composed of national specialists with a substantial knowledge and experience in the media and communications fields.
All decisions on how data is selected, which sources are used - and which are not - are clearly indicated on the country websites for each media outlet, each owner and also generally under the country specific FAQs. Sources are thoroughly documented and archived,often directly available for download in the library. Other documents are available upon request.
7. 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, MOM includes all traditional media types (Print, Radio, TV, Online). Media outlets are selected based on the following criteria:
The highest reach, measured by audience share. The more people an outlet reaches, the more potential influence on public opinion can it take. Basis for selection are recent media consumption surveys and audience research studies.
News worthiness and influence on opinion of the content. The Media Ownership Monitor focuses on information that have an influence on how the national public perceives the world around them – an influence on opinion, attitudes, and behavior. Content should have a national focus, which excludes world-wide broadcasting news outlets that don’t target the national publics specifically (e.g. Al Jazeera). Media with specific thematic focus (music, sport), social networks, search engines and advertisement were excluded.
8. How are the countries being selected?
The Media Ownership Monitor was developed as a generic methodology which can be universally applied. Notwithstanding that media concentration trends are observable in almost any country worldwide, implementation and analysis will first take place in developing countries. Another EU-funded project - the Media Pluralism Monitor (MPM), coordinated by the Centre for Media Pluralism and Freedom at the European University Institute in Florence - delivers complementary results for European member states and some accession countries.
In the selection process, the country ranking in the World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters without Borders, is a first important indicator for deficiencies in media pluralism, media independence and transparency. A low ranking highlights which country might be worth looking in depth into the risk of media ownership concentration.
The political context is also a condition for a successful implementation: on the one hand civil society organizations such as our local partners need to be able to operate relatively freely. On the other hand the media landscape needs to be open to an extent: in a country where the state has absolute control over media, researching media ownership would be pointless.
9. For which countries is the Media Ownership Monitor available?
2015: Cambodia, Colombia
2016: Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, Philippines, Peru, Mongolia
2017: Serbia, Ghana, Brasil and Morocco. Further country editions are planned in Albania and Mexiko.