Frothier elements of the British press have today cried foul at the European Commission, claiming that this supranational executive body, the members of which are appointed by and accountable to European Union member state governments, is calling for statutory regulation of the press, with the power to fire journalists and bar them from working again in the Fourth Estate. As is usual with reporting of European affairs in the UK, it is largely bollocks.
The report of the High Level Group on Media Freedom and Pluralism, an independent expert advisory established by commission vice president Neelie Kroes, does indeed call for regulation of the press, at least of the statutory underpinning kind proposed by Brian Leveson in his UK-centric report, and to which I and many NUJ members are opposed. But the advisory group’s focus is on threats to media freedom from political and commercial interference.
Political interference includes the kind of heavy press regulation regarded as anathema in an open society. Also discussed in the report is the concentration of media ownership in the hands of press barons who take a keen interest in the editorial direction of their publications. All good stuff, and conveniently ignored in the sensationalist commentary.
The question of journalistic status is covered at length in section 4.3 the report. From that text it is clear that the differences between journalism and the professions are fully understood by the report authors. Owing to the fundamental distinctions between a trade such as journalism and necessarily regulated professions such as law and medicine, the advisors decline to offer a consensual definition of either journalism or journalists. Political spin around the removal of journalistic privileges is coming from elsewhere.