The Strategist

Europe’s largest media holding complains about digital media

05/14/2019 - 12:15

Facebook, Google and Amazon won an economic victory over the traditional publishing business under current conditions of unequal competition, and this situation requires intervention at the level of EU and national government policies, says Hubert Burda Media executive board member Philipp Welte.

“American technology corporations have mastered our markets and are using our content, while everyone else is losing,” said Head of one of Europe’s largest media holdings at the European Publishing Congress held on May 13-14.

According to him, Facebook’s revenues in Germany have already exceeded traditional media’s revenues by a third, and in the USA such market conditions in 2018 led to the sale of Time Inc. and closure of many publications of this major publishing holding.

“We are very small players compared to large corporations,” said a representative of Hubert Burda Media, whose turnover is €2.66 billion.

The publisher and congress organizer Johann Oberauer, who compared Facebook and Google with "pirates on the horizon", agrees with him. According to him, many media have already been attacked and "drowned", and the rest began to call for help from the political class.

Oberauer and Welte stressed that the situation is complicated by deterioration in attitudes of leading politicians from many countries towards the media, including outright hostility. Among them they singled out the United States, Turkey, and Italy.

"There was an illusion that freedom is already guaranteed, but it is not so," Hubert Burda Media’s leader noted with regret. According to him, freedom of speech is restricted in such new European democracies as Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and lives of journalists are at risk.

Welte believes that political reforms can make a difference. He believes that one of the most important reforms is the reforms of legislation on the protection of intellectual property in the media that has begun in the European Union. According to him, he should ensure the fair distribution of content. He urged national governments to comply with new requirements approved by the European Parliament.

The publisher added that it is also necessary to introduce clear non-discriminatory rules for access to platforms such as Youtube, Facebook and Google, and also to ensure responsibility of social networks that already fulfill the function of the content’s media.

Welte also added that the personal data protection legislation in force in the EU is an example of a successful reform to deal with large corporations.

A member of the executive board of directors Hubert Burda Media also noted that today 80% of such important economic decisions for journalists are made in Brussels. “Therefore, we are so nervous before the elections to the European Parliament,” he said, calling for a responsible choice to preserve media freedom.