The Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom on Tuesday published the 2021 edition of its Media Pluralism Monitor, which assesses risks facing media in EU member countries and candidate countries.
“Access to information is still limited--the context of the covid-19 pandemic has again shown the deficiencies--and the governance, competence and resources of the media authority are insufficient,” the country report on Luxembourg states.
In April, Reporters Without Borders ranked Luxembourg 20th in a press freedom ranking, dropping three places from the previous year. “It was only by chance that some of the expert reports used by the government were published,” it said about transparency issued during the pandemic.
The media pluralism report ranked the protection of the right to information at medium risk (45%), saying information is retained in arbitrary ways and that journalists “do not benefit from more efficient procedures to access information.”
Journalists can submit requests to a committee on the access to public documents only once they have a written refusal by the relevant authority. Even when the committee rules in a media outlet’s favour, the verdict is only consultative and the government can still withhold the document.
This was the case for a memorandum of understanding between the government and internet giant Google to establish a data centre in Bissen. Environmental activists from the Mouvement Ecologique had demanded access to the document. This was eventually only given to members of parliament under a confidentiality agreement.
The pandemic highlighted not only transparency problems but also financial trouble for publishers, citing advertising revenue losses. “However, the pandemic alone does not explain the financial issues of the national media sector,” the report said. “The virus has merely aggravated a situation that was already dire due to mismanagement and a lack of revenues.”
For example, the Luxemburger Wort cut staff after a takeover by Belgian media group Mediahuis. Community radio station ARA launched a crowdfunding campaign to stay afloat, although it more recently signed an agreement for funding with the Luxembourg government.
More generous support for online publications will help support media plurality, the report said. A law changing press subsidies--making payments dependent on journalists employed rather than pages published--was voted earlier this month and is expected to generate additional windfall for online newsrooms.
It also praised a reform of public radio station Radio 100,7, aimed at strengthening its independence. The station reaches only around 3.9% of Luxembourg’s population--or 20,400 listeners aged 15 or over daily.
Lack of diversity
“The socio-cultural radio is essentially in Luxembourgish and does therefore not provide proportional access to airtime to the linguistic minorities,” the report said, saying minorities risk a lack of access to media in Luxembourg as radio and television ownership in particular is concentrated on Luxembourgish and French-language outlets.
Print publications targeting international audiences, on the other hand, are “considered to be rather proportionate,” the report said.
The lack of diversity within the media landscape also extended to the presence of women in key positions. The report points out a lack of women in management boards and executive committees of the country’s largest media groups.
“Women are evidently and systematically less often invited by the media to comment on political and other relevant matters and events than male experts,” the report said, ranking access to media for women at high risk (81%).
The report authors conclude that authorities should improve access to information as well as the government, resources and competence of the national audiovisual media authority (Alia). Furthermore, authorities should monitor the influence of commercial pressure on media outlets, ensure political independence, and improve the offer for linguistic minorities in broadcast media.
The report also recommended setting up a national fact-checking centre to identify and combat disinformation in the media.