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Week ending January 26, 2013
Distinguished journalist and broadcast executive Kevin Klose returns today to RFE/RL, Inc., as Acting President and CEO. RFE/RL's corporate board of directors announced Klose's appointment, for a period of up to one year, on January 17.
"I am honored to return to Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty," Klose said. "RFE/RL correspondents work in some of the world's most hostile media environments, connecting with audiences in countries such as Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Russia to provide news, analysis and debate they cannot otherwise get. I look forward to re-connecting with many friends in Prague and Russia and to working with the entire RFE/RL team."
"We are grateful that Kevin has agreed to take on this task," said Dennis Mulhaupt, chairman of the RFE/RL corporate board, which consists of members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. "Kevin understands well from first-hand experience the special challenge and public trust that RFE/RL represents."
"Kevin Klose's deep experience in journalism and international broadcasting is unparalleled for this mission," according to RFE/RL board co-chair Susan McCue. "His leadership and stable hand will build bridges to the future while ensuring that RFE/RL’s long tradition of journalistic integrity and courageous reporting is honored."
Klose was president of U.S. public radio broadcaster NPR from 1998 to 2008, and was named President Emeritus in 2008. Before joining NPR, he was president of RFE/RL from 1994 to 1997, overseeing its relocation from Munich to Prague. In 1997-98, he directed the International Broadcasting Bureau at the U.S. Information Agency. Prior to this, he was an editor and reporter at The Washington Post for 25 years, including stints as Moscow bureau chief, city editor and deputy national editor. A tenured professor at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, Klose served as dean of the journalism college from April 2009 to July 2012. He will be on leave from his faculty position while serving at RFE/RL. He earned a B.A. from Harvard and is the author of five books, including Russia and the Russians: Inside the Closed Society.
The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) today welcomes a move to shelve the privatization of its Portuguese Member RTP, but urges Lisbon to prioritize the quality of the broadcaster’s output in its planned restructure.
Portuguese Deputy Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Miguel Relvas revealed on RTP1’s Telejornal news programme last night that the unpopular privatization plan would not go ahead – for now.
Portuguese media were today reporting that more than 600 of RTP’s 2,069 staff – a third of the total – could be cut over the next two years under what Relvas called an “ambitious, demanding, painful” restructure.
EBU Director General Ingrid Deltenre, who last September described privatization of Rádio e Televisão de Portugal (RTP) as “reckless”, said the government must protect the public broadcaster’s ability to serve the Portuguese public.
“Efficiency savings are a necessary evil in many countries, and many EBU Members are facing financial difficulties,” Ms Deltenre said.
“But when times are hard people turn more than ever to their public service broadcaster for reliable, quality information and news.”
RTP’s Executive Board released a statement today affirming its commitment to becoming “a good example of public service” through the government’s “profound restructure and modernization” of the company.
It also said that from 2014 RTP will no longer receive state subsidies, but will be funded solely from the audiovisual fee levied via electricity bills, plus advertising.
Mr Deltenre said: “It is encouraging to see that the Portuguese government has committed to creating a modern, future-proof public service broadcaster, while conceiving what appears to be a realistic funding strategy.”
She added that the EBU stood by its offer to provide the Portuguese government with its in-depth knowledge of the various public media systems in Europe, and that the Union would gladly give any advice, assistance and expertise necessary to preserve RTP as a true public broadcaster in the European tradition.
An independent group of media freedom experts has told EU officials that public service media (PSM) “play an important role in maintaining” media pluralism in Europe, highlighting their importance in providing a variety of opinions and catering for minorities.
In its long-awaited report published on Monday (Jan 21), the High Level Group on Media Freedom and Pluralism also stressed that PSM support civil society, serving as a tool for distance learning, as an agent of enlightenment and as a means for strengthening national cohesion.
The text also acknowledges the important and positive role of PSM in promoting democracy and pluralism, warning that governments must rigorously respect the editorial and creative independence of PSM.
EBU Director General Ingrid Deltenre, who met with the group in October 2012, said: “The High Level Group has issued a useful assessment. The EBU gladly takes note of its recommendations on monitoring national levels of freedom and pluralism, enshrining in EU law the concept of net neutrality and reinforcing media freedom and pluralism in countries that want to join the EU.”
She added: “The conclusions also highlight the importance of issues like media literacy, search engine neutrality, codes of conduct for journalists, editorial independence and providing more support for high quality and investigative journalism, issues which are actively advocated by the EBU. The group’s report provides a good basis to continue our ongoing dialogue with the European Institutions on a subject which touches upon the very raison d’être of PSM.”
The EBU this week published a Viewpoint on Media Freedom and Pluralism (attached) to coincide with the release of the High Level Group’s conclusions, affirming the EBU’s unwavering intention to play an active role in this process.
The ‘committee of the wise’, established by Commission Vice-President Neelie Kroes and chaired by former President of Latvia Prof. Vaira Vike-Freiberga, also concluded that the EU should have the means to act more decisively as part of its role in defending fundamental rights.
While the group found that “main responsibility for maintaining media freedom and pluralism lies with the Member States”, it asserted that the EU should be more than a “moral compass” when media freedom and pluralism are endangered.
Commission Vice-President Neelie Kroes has already declared her intention to launch a “very-serious and EU-wide political debate” via the launch of a broad public consultation. The European Commission will publish its official reaction once it has received more feedback and pushed the political debate forward.
A High Level Report funded by the European Commission with the intention of making recommendations that would protect press freedom, especially from interference from the State, has come up with recommendations for media companies to be tightly regulated by independent bodies (to be monitored by the European Commission) that would have the power to investigate complaints and enforce fines. The group also proposes harmonization of media law across the 27 member states.
Whilst Europe’s leading publishers welcome the group’s commitment to upholding press freedom by tackling state interference, adaptations of some aspects of competition policy and support for quality journalism, we regret that this led them to some recommendations which, if enacted, could impose Europe wide rules of the game on an independent, free press. The European Publishers Council (EPC) will oppose the idea that the European Commission should regulate “independent” national media councils.
EPC Executive Director Angela Mills Wade said: “The free and independent press faces deeply challenging times in spite of soaring audiences online but where profits are elusive. In the consultation that now follows we must work together to nurture a truly independent press that promotes democracy and cultural diversity throughout the world."
“We are quite taken aback by some of the report’s recommendations. The EU does not have legal competence under the treaties to harmonise substantive media laws such as defamation. Any notion of harmonised rules of the game, monitored by the EU, is anathema to press freedom – the very thing the group was tasked to protect.”
Angela continued: “Independent press councils, self-regulatory bodies or press ombudsmen exist already in Europe and operate according to national cultural and social mores. Journalists follow codes of ethics and high professional standards which are already adapted to the digital environment.”
Commissioner Neelie Kroes has welcomed the report but says that a political debate will follow with all stakeholders invited to give their feedback.
Angela concluded: “We don’t need new media regulation; what we need are the right conditions for the long term viability of quality journalism and professional media. We look forward to taking part in the debate that follows.”
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