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Accueil du site > Qui sommes-nous ? > On parle de nous > Dans la presse > New Europe : There’s a new media universe, but a lot of different (...)

New Europe : There’s a new media universe, but a lot of different stars

Author : Dr. Karol Jakubowicz is an international expert in broadcasting and new communication services, advising international bodies such as the Council of Europe and UNESCO
Because of the economic crisis, and also because of competition for audiences and advertising from the Internet and other media, American newspaper giants from the Los Angeles Times to the Chicago Tribune, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Christian Science Monitor have announced they are either bankrupt, merged with distant sister papers or ended their print editions entirely. The Internet is said to be “killing” the newspaper industry, but at the same time it is making available to everyone entire archives of such newspapers as The Times, The Guardian, The Economist and The Observer, with millions of articles from hundreds of years of newspaper writing easily available to everyone.
Television and radio are using new distribution platforms, including the Internet and mobile telephony. Books are available in digitised form as e-books. The 90-year old Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant has lost circulation over the last decade, but has branched out into television to reach the readers it has lost : its video reports can be watched on the Internet, on an iPod or on digital TV. We are witnessing accelerated evolution of the media, due in part to convergence and the appearance of media as well as “media-like” content coming from a variety of sources on ever new platforms.
Traditional broadcast and print media are still pre-dominant, but they are weakening. The convergence of all media is producing new digital multimedia. They can communicate globally, but also address each person separately with personalised, localised content (e.g. weather forecasts for each locality.) They can be oneway or interactive. Content can be available to audiences or be on-demand. Reception can be simultaneous, delayed or on the move. That is the first “new notion” of media : all media on one platform, available via broadband networks.
Older media will not disappear, but may re-emerge in changed form, as another source of content available on broadband Internet and other broadband networks. At the same time, patterns of media use are changing. Young people especially are moving away from traditional radio and television and actively looking for specific content on multiple platforms, such as TV, games console, radio, PC, mobile phone and MP3 players. Change in media is not only technology-driven. Social change is another powerful factor.
General democratisation and rising affluence in European societies have levelled social divisions and stratification. Many individuals claim access to creative and cultural opportunities and are no longer willing to be passive. Also important is individualisation and fragmentation of society. The old collective experience created by the mass media is giving way to many group and individual interests, feeding an interest in thematic services and personalised content available via the Internet.
All this is creating a second new notion of media : content produced outside professional media organisations, coming from millions of new authors and content- creators. Many resemble news media : serve the same purpose (provision of information and opinion), have an editorial policy, involve an editorial process, are disseminated periodically and abide by at least some normative, ethical, professional and legal standards similar to those of a traditional media operation. The most typical form is online citizen journalism, including blogs.
A good example is AgoraVox, a website that describes itself as “The first online newspaper in Europe written by citizens.” Whereas traditional media bring down the information from the top to the bottom (“one to many” principle,) AgoraVox makes it move along in a transversal way (“many to many”principle). This is thanks to a very motley team of citizen authors, constituted with very various profiles. It has a “never-seen-before editorial policy and editorial committee” which it describes thus : “The objective of the AgoraVox editorial policy is to publish verifiable news related to objective events or facts, as far as possible unpublished ones. For this reason, we believe it is essential to put in place a new type of editorial committee that can act as a ‘filter.’
The submitted information is thus moderated to avoid any political or ideological drift. … Each moderator has to vote individually on the articles based on their relevancy to the news and their originality.” AgoraVox publishes around 75 percent of all submitted articles, clearly performing a traditional gate-keeping role. Many blogs are mainly personal and only 34 percent of US bloggers consider their blogs a form of journalism, where they collect, analyse, interpret or comment on current events to wide audiences and in this way perform the very same social function usually associated with institutionalised media.
Some are serious journalistic endeavours : the popular American blog Huffington Post, which has had many scoops and has broken many important news stories, is bankrolling a group of investigative journalists to look at stories about the nation’s economy. This will help keep in work professional investigative reporters who were laid-off by crisis-stricken newspapers. Finally, let us mention a third new notion of media : media-like activities performed by new intermediaries (search engines, Internet service providers or content aggregators.) Search engines are information services of enormous importance.
They also assume direct journalistic functions, as in the case of Google News, a computer-generated news site, updated every 15 minutes, that aggregates headlines from more than 4,500 English-language news sources worldwide, groups similar stories together and displays them according to each reader’s personalised interests. The articles are selected and ranked by computers that evaluate, among other things, how often and on what sites a story appears online, but also on the basis of freshness, location, relevance and diversity. Media-like activities are also undertaken by Internet service-providers, user-generated content sites, website administrators, i.e. all those who mediate between the provider and receiver of content and may have the ability to act as gate-keepers and potentially interfere with the flow of information.
Terms of Service and Acceptable Use Policies between Internet Service Providers and users contain a vast array of rules pertaining to content and expression on the Internet. This invests ISPs with an almost regulatory function and gives ISP rules a media law-like effect. US-based ISPs are very particular about intellectual property rights and privacy, whereas Europe-based ISPs tend to restrict more areas of content and behaviour and to forbid anonymity. Website administrators moderate content to remove illegal or what they consider inappropriate content, again performing a gate-keeping function that is not covered by any legal regulation.
With all this, we are entering a new world : one of disintermediation (when millions of new information and content creators can reach receivers directly), but also of new intermediation : with new filters between the two. It is an exciting new world,) but also a terra incognita, where our traditional ways of obtaining information and understanding of the world around us are supplemented or replaced by entirely new ones. We do not know if they deserve our trust, but we find them everywhere and so we have to learn how to use them. International bodies such as the Council of Europe have a long tradition of setting standards for protecting freedom of speech.
The Council of Europe has for some years now been updating its standardsetting texts to make them relevant in the new technological circumstan ces. However, a more general appro - ach is needed. To discuss these new dev elopments in the way citizens can acc ess (but also create and share) information today, the Council is holding a ministerial conference in Reykjavik on May 28-29. The conference will debate these new notions of media and what kind of response governments must put in place to protect, if necessary, freedom of expression and information.
Beyond questions such as whether existing regulations can apply to new media, or whether governments and international bodies must develop specific new regulations to pro - tect hu man rights, the conference will be a first step towards the development of a new concept of public policy in the field of the media and new communication services. A concept that will be adequate to the new social communication environment emerging to - day, and will ensure that individual and societal needs will continue to be met and human rights will continue to be safeguarded in the new media universe.