1. What is MOM?
The “Media Ownership Monitor” (MOM) has been developed as a mapping tool in order to create a publicly available, continuously updated database that lists owners of all relevant mass media outlets (press, radio, television sectors and online media).
MOM aims to shed light on the risks to media pluralism caused by media ownership concentration (for more information: Methodology). In order to grasp the national characteristics and detect risk-enhancing or risk-reducing factors for media concentration, MOM also qualitatively assesses the market conditions and legal environment.
2. Who is behind MOM?
MOM has been proposed and launched by Reporter ohne Grenzen e. V. – the German section of the international human rights organization Reporters without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF), that aims to defend freedom of the press and the right to inform and be informed anywhere in the world.
In Ukraine, RSF cooperates with the Institute of Mass Information. The project is funded by the Federal German Ministry of Economic Development and Cooperation (BMZ)
3. Why is transparency of media ownership important?
Media pluralism is a key aspect of democratic societies as free, independent, and diverse media reflect divergent viewpoints and allow criticism of people in power. Risks to diversity of ideas are caused by media market concentration, when only a few players exert dominant influence on public opinion and raise entrance barriers for other players and perspectives (media ownership concentration). The biggest obstacle to fight it is lack of transparency of media ownership: How can people evaluate the reliability of information, if they don´t know who provides it? How can journalists work properly, if they don´t know who controls the company they work for? And how can media authorities address excessive media concentration, if they don´t know who is behind the media´s steering wheel?
MOM thus aims to create transparency and to answer the question “who eventually controls media content?” in order to raise public awareness, to create a fact base for advocacy to hold political and economic players accountable for the existing conditions.
As we consider ownership transparency as a crucial precondition to enforce media pluralism, we document the openness of media companies/outlets to provide information on their ownership structure. Considering their answers, we distinguish different levels of transparency – which is indicated for each media outlet and media company on their profile.
Media owner’s motivation to remain hidden or even actively disguise their investments can vary from legitimate to illegal and be rooted in personal, legal or business-related reasons – or a mix thereof, in extreme cases even including criminal offenses like tax evasion or breaches of anti-trust laws.
Some of those reasons include the following:
- In several countries, media ownership is restricted by law in order to avoid concentration. So if one individual wants to extend his or her media empire beyond these limits, proxy owners and/or shell companies registered abroad, even off-shore, are frequently being used.
- Sometimes, media owners receive personal threats or face other dangers either originating from governments or competing businesses and therefore decide to remain unknown to protect themselves.
- In many cases, media ownership is intertwined with undue political or economic interests, even more so if individuals are involved that hold a public office and who don’t want to disclose such a conflict of interests.
- In rare cases, the disguise of media ownership happens unintentionally because over time and through mergers and acquisitions, corporate structures became so complex that the original beneficial owner is difficult to identify.
- Last not least, there are ‘normal’ – i. e. non-media-related reasons for owners to hide, such as tax evasion.
4. What kind of concentration regulation does MOM suggest?
MOM does not make normative statements – it does not suggest how to control media ownership. The most appropriate and efficient form of media concentration control depends on the country context, the existing legal and market conditions, the ownership landscape.
MOM is a transparency tool to stimulate a democratic discussion on media pluralism in particular andon good governance in general: we believe that open access to adequate information and broad consultations can improve the decision-making processand better reflect people’s concerns and ideals.
5. How is data collected and validated?
a) Official data sources, and/or sources with a high level of reliability and trust are prioritised.
b) In cases when information was not publicly available, it was directly requested from media companies, political representatives and research institutes.
c) In order to guarantee and verify the objective evaluation, MOM works with its advisory group that provides comments and consultations throughout the research process. It is composed of national specialists with a substantial knowledge and experience in media and communications.
d) Advisory group of MOM Ukraine:
- Mariana Zakusylo, Detektor Media
- Valeriy Ivanov, Academy of Ukrainian Press
- OleksandrDyachenko, Ukrainian Association of Media businesses
- Andreas Umland, Institute for Euroatlantic Cooperation
e) All decisions on how data is selected, which sources are used - and which are not - are clearly indicated on the website of MOM in Ukraine for each media outlet, each owner and also generally under the FAQs for Ukraine.
6. How is the "most relevant media" defined?
The main question is: which media outlets influence the opinion-forming process? In order to scan all relevant media, we included all traditional media types (Print, Radio, TV, Online).
The media were selected according to the following criteria:
MOM focuses on media with the highest reach, measured by audience share. The selection for the Monitor is based on recent media consumption surveys and audience research studies.
For MOM we select media with socio-political and economic content, that has impact on public opinion. Content should have a national focus; however, world-wide broadcasting news outlets are excluded, as they do not target the national audience specifically (e.g. Al Jazeera). Media with specific thematic focus (music, sport), social networks, search engines and advertisement are also excluded.
7. How are the media outlets selected?
The media were selected according to the following criteria:
MOM focuses on media with the highest reach, measured by audience share. The selection for the Monitor is based on recent media consumption surveys and audience research studies:
o TV. The audience share for TV was easily accessible via Television Industry Committee (TIC) website, due to the fact that TV industry is rather institutionalized and more regulated. TIC commissioned Nielsen Ukraine to produce the audience research, therefore it is the property of TIC. The data is calculated for programmes that run 5 and more minutes on a monthly basis. As the audience is measured monthly we have calculated the average audience share for the period of January – July 2016. The sample includes individuals between the ages 18 and 54, in cities with population of 50+ thousand people. Out of 37 national TV channels in the audience rating, we have identified only 12 that qualified as channels that present information which is relevant to the political and socio-economic developments of the country, along with the usual heavy entertainment segment. Additionally, MOM considered some TV channels with heavy infotainment content for the analysis at first, which were later excluded. Although such channels as TET and 2+2 have a large audience and infotainment does have an influence on public opinion, the team decided to focus on outlets with socio-political and economic content, that has impact on public opinion and included only channels that broadcast at least some news.
o Radio. The audience data was calculatedby TNS. The data was obtained from the website of Retro FM, which made the audience data available on its website as it occupies the third place in the rating.
o Print. Print media audience data was the most difficult to obtain. In addition to difficulties related to measuring the readership, newspapers have a tendency of exaggerating the circulation of print issues in order to attract more ads. We base our selection of top 10 print media outlets on the survey conducted by TNS Ukraine during the 4 quarter of 2015 and the first quarter of 2016. 15.046 people were surveyed aged between 12 and 65 in cities with the population of more than 50.000 people. Crimean republic was excluded from the study. TNS Ukraine provided MOM with the average issue rating of all news issues in the country.
o Internet. Multiple rankings for online media are available – but inconsistent. There are two major online platforms measuring the digital content: liveinternet and bigmir. Both only calculate visitors of the websites that have installed a respective calculator of either of the platforms– thusfor those websites that pay to be listed in their rankings. This data is not only inconsistent but also not independent. Instead, MOM obtained information about Internet audience from Factum Group that allowed calculating a mean for audience in January-July 2016. Their ranking is comprised of news sources which generate own content. The study measures on a monthly basis people who visit the sources at least once a month, the users that visit the sources multiple times are still calculated only once. 5000 people are surveyed all across Ukraine aged above 15. The company considers an online resource a media is if it is run by an editorial team.
Regional vs National divide. During the initial stages of the research the team was confronted with the regional vs national divide. Ukrainian media landscape has its specificities. Regional media markets are under researched and would be a fertile ground for projects like MOM. There is a strong distinction between regional and national broadcasters. Experts suggest that regional media landscapes in Ukraine would show greater media concentration both horizontally, vertically and acrosssectors. Unfortunately, due to the limitations in time and human resources the team was not able to extend the research to the regional media. However, the methodology is reproducible and it is advisable for further such mapping exercises to focus on the regions of Ukraine.
8. How are the countries selected?
MOM was developed as a generic methodology which can be universally applied. Although media concentration trends are observable worldwide, implementation and analysis will first take place in developing countries. Besides, the Media Pluralism Monitor delivers complementary results for European member states.
In the selection process, the country ranking in the World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters without Borders is the first important indicator for a problematic relation to media pluralism, media independence and transparency. A low ranking highlights which country being worth looking in depth into the risk of media ownership concentration.
The political context is also a condition for a successful implementation: on the one hand civil society organizations such as our local partners need to be able tooperate relatively freely. On the other hand, the media landscape needs to be open to a certain extent: in a country where the state exercises absolutecontrol over media, media ownership research would be irrelevant.
9. Does the MOM only exist for Ukraine?
MOM was developed as a generic methodology that can be universally applied – and potentially will be. Notwithstanding that media concentration trends are observable worldwide; implementation and analysis will first take place in developing countries. MOM has been implemented in around 20 countries over the course of three years. All country projects can be found on the global website.
10. What are the limitations of the study?
The Ukrainian research team was confronted with diverse obstacles at the data-collecting stage to measure media concentration. The most common problems include:
· Audience data is not consistent and difficult to access: information on audience share is fragmented,notstandardized and there is no obligation to publish those data. It is commercial information that is usually collected by private companies upon request, and sold to media companies that base their advertising rates on it. Media outlets purchase market data, and they might chooseto make it public when theyappear at the top-5.In Ukraine MOM acquired audience data from different sources that were considered as most independent, most recent, and most representative (Read more: link to How is media selected?).
· No economic data: Market concentration based on market share cannot or can only partially be calculated since complete and credible numbers are not publicly available.In Ukraine such information is typicallynot disclosedand considered a “commercial secret”.
11. Who do we target?
The data base of MOM in Ukraine:
· allows each citizen to get informed on the media system in general and in Ukraine in particular;
· creates a fact base for civil society’s advocacy efforts to further promote public consciousness on media ownership and concentration in Ukraine and to use it in other post-Soviet countries;
· is a point of reference for consulting competition authorities or governmental bodies when establishing suitable regulatory measures to safeguard media pluralism.
12. What happens next?
The database is a snapshot of the current situation in Ukraine, contextualized by historical facts of the country. Itis designed with the goal to be updated further by the Institute for Mass Information and the Ukrainian civil society in general.
After the roll-out in further countries, an international ranking on the level of media ownership concentration will be established, similar to the Ranking of Press Freedom by Reporters Without Borders.
13. Are there similar projects?
The Media Ownership Monitor is mainly inspired by two similar projects. Especially the indicators for a later ranking rely heavily on the EU-funded Media Pluralism Monitor of the Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom (CMPF) at the European University Institute (EUI, Florence). Moreover, Media Pedia, an ownership database developed by investigative journalists in Macedonia served as inspiration for the Media Ownership Monitor. An overview over other similar projects can be found in the table below.
A Spanish NGO that works in the field of media ownership transparency in several European countries.
An NGO which works in the field of press freedom. It implements media concentration projects.
The Media Freedom Navigator of Deutsche Welle provides an overview of different media freedom indices.
A database of television and audiovisual services in Europe.
The Website provides a summary and analysis of the state of the media in Europe and neighbouring countries.
The Media Pluralism Monitor assesses risks for media pluralism in the EU Member States.
The network provides information of the state of the media in many countries.
The Media Sustainability Index (MSI) provides analyses of the conditions for independent media in 80 countries.
A project that is monitoring the media ownership in Macedonia.
The Website provides information about media ownership in Great Britain.
The organisation publishes an interactive database about media in the United States.
Monitors media ownership and the impact on media pluralism in southeastern Europe and EU member states.
A research that works with authors from 30 countries in the world about media concentration using a common methodology.
A database of international corporations of the world´s biggest media.
Media Development Indicators - A framework for assessing media development.