A recent report by the Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom and the University of Luxembourg highlights three risks to the diversity of the media in this country. One risk is the high concentration of media ownership and cross-media ownership.
Kim Nommesch, who co-wrote the study, observes: “While we have a great diversity in the print media, we don’t have it in the audio-visual media.” RTL Group dominates both TV and radio, and while there are six daily newspapers, they only belong to two publishers, Editpress and Imprimerie Saint-Paul. “These three groups receive a lot of public subsidies, while smaller papers with less than five accredited journalists receive no funding at all,” she says.
At the same time, the study shows that political independence of the media is very low, and Nommesch has found that it has even decreased. She wonders: “While we have media pluralism, do we also have a plurality of opinions? The negative aspect of the depoliticisation of newspapers, ironically, is that they seem to defend the same positions. We often talk about the media being influenced by politics, but we don’t talk enough about the influence of commercial interests.” The media is dependent on advertising, and this question is often overlooked.
Another risk is social inclusiveness in terms of foreign residents’ access to national media. As the study is based on the definition of minorities established by the Council of Europe, Luxembourg’s international community is disregarded and the results are therefore misleading. Nommesch argues that they nevertheless should be included. The study recommends that public service media should be in three national languages.
Eric Hamus, a journalist at RTL Radio, says that for the English-speaking population, “the media landscape was expanding, albeit belatedly and too slowly.” He mentions Delano, the English version of the Wort, which is geared towards expats, but misses an English radio station. Hamus wonders: “Is there a market for this, as most expats listen to internet radio?”
Freedom of information
The constitution does not mention a right to full information and there is an overall lack of legislation relating to a fundamental and coherent right to information. “So far, this has been less of a problem as most information was still available to journalists through personal contacts,” says Nommesch.
Hamus says that access to information from the state has always been a problem, but with the latest government coalition it has become more difficult. Both Nommesch and Hamus have criticised the latest “circulaire Bettel”, a memo which stipulates that civil servants should only give out information when their minister or superior has agreed. Furthermore, all media requests should be done through the press officer. Hamus argues that this new guideline seriously impedes his work.
The government is in the process of revising its subsidies to media, so we can expect another hot debate on this topic.