Does Media Policy Promote Media Freedom and Independence? - The Case of Belgium
50 Pages Posted: 4 Apr 2012
Date Written: December 15, 2011
This report engages in the study of the institutional dynamics of media policy-making and media policy-implementation in Belgium. The focus of this report is on the policy processes and instruments that promote or constrain the development of free and independent media in Belgium, especially with regard to new technological developments and media convergence. This report examines the various policy participants, the interests they present and the ways they influence media policy. It also examines the various structural regulations (such as rules on media-ownership, competition, subsidies and licensing) and the rules on the composition and diversification of media content in Belgium. Finally, this report explores the ways the journalistic profession is organized and the various initiatives taken by Belgian authorities to promote media literacy and transparency.
Media policy in Belgium is focused on the audiovisual media, rather than on the written press or Internet media. The freedom and independence of the media, often under the general banner of freedom of expression, are systematic features of policy interventions, be it regularly only as background principles.
There have been discussions on the interpretation of specific provisions in the Belgian Constitution, especially with regard to the application of the principle of media freedom to media other than the written press. These discussions reveal problems with the application of the principle of media freedom by judges, rather than by parliaments, governments or individual politicians. Politicians generally seem to respect the freedom and independence of the media and to refrain from introducing specific legislation limiting the media’s freedom and independence. In the same sense, there are no major incidents of changes to media legislation that are mainly inspired by specific commercial or economic interests.
There is a general practice of cooperation between policy makers and media stakeholders when it comes to making media policy in Belgium. Self-regulation has gained a central place in Belgian media policy. Self-regulation is, for instance, often deployed as a means to respond to problems and situations of media convergence and new technological developments in the media. Policy responses to technological convergence have to a large degree been formulated on a case-by-case basis. Independent media regulators supervising compliance with media regulations help to ensure a general legislative framework that protects the freedom and independence of the media. There is a wide variety of different state parties responsible for media policy in Belgium. Also, the EU and the ECHR increasingly influence media regulation at all levels.
Keywords: media policy, media freedom, media independence, Belgium, Europe, mediadem
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