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Methodology

Organised in a country-by-country basis, the pilot version of the EurOMo is composed by: (1) a searchable database of news media and owners; (2) comparable assessments of the transparency of these news media and the risks to transparency in ownership and control; and (3) reports that summarise the most relevant findings. The theoretical concept was developed by the coordinating team at the University of Salzburg, whereas the database and the search were programmed by experts at the University of Turku and Tampere University. National research teams were responsible for the data collection and the assessments.

Sample and data collection

Each national team defined their sample of media outlets and organisations based on relevance for opinion shaping. The pilot EurOMo, therefore, does not cover all the media. Relevance for the sample definition is understood in terms of consumption (market share) and/or agenda setting (citation and/or recommendation by other news services). The samples consider both national and regional media, but the national teams could determine the proportion, considering the peculiarities of each country. The same applies with regard to the media sectors. Print (newspapers and magazines), broadcasting (TV and radio) and online (web-only or web version of print and broadcasting) are present in all samples, following deliberation by national teams on the relevance of representing more or less each sector.

Data was collected from publicly available sources. As public sources, we consider information that can be accessed by any person, for free or behind a paywall, in the following sources:

  • Media outlet and company websites
  • Company registers and reports
  • Reports by national regulatory authorities (NRAs) or similar public bodies
  • Press
  • Publicly available research

For the assessments and country reports, data may also come from interviews with stakeholders (media owners and managers, editors-in-chief, journalists, union representatives, NRA representatives, media experts and researchers).

Defining ownership

The most important information about in EurOMo is the legal ownership. Each national team searched for direct and indirect legal owners of the media outlets in their sample, when possible including all legal and natural persons with at least 5% of participation in an outlet.

Example: if the TV channel “News Max” is published by “Media Company A”, this is 50% owned by “Company B”, which in turn is 50% owned by “John Person”, this means that “John Person” is a beneficial owner of “News Max” owning 25% of the outlet. 

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We rely on public sources as mentioned above. By comparing data from several sources, our research team has done the best to identify incorrect or incomplete information. However, if these public sources themselves are not updated or incorrect, the monitor will probably reproduce the mistake.

Furthermore, we consider the broader concept of beneficial ownership, which according to the OECD includes not only legal ownership interest, but also other forms such as “control of a significant percentage of voting rights, or the ability to name or remove the members of an entity’s board of directors” (Inter-American Development Bank & Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 2019, p. 4). For these other controlling functions, we look in this pilot especially for economic managers (CEOs, general directors), editors-in-chief and relevant owners of foundations as well as percentage of voting rights. However, we cannot claim completeness, as some legal arrangements make private the information about control over a company. We attempt, though, to indicate when this information should be available and is missing, and use it to help assess transparency.

EurOMo Transparency Index

In its pilot phase, the EurOMo created two indices, both at the country and EU level:

  • EurOMo Transparency Index: how transparent the media are in respect of who controls and influences them
  • EurOMo Risk Index: in which areas there are risks to transparency in who controls and influences news provision


Based on the methodology of composite indices provided by the OECD and others (2008), both indices translate into comparable quantitative values the qualitative assessments made by the research consortium. As this is a pilot project, the indices are subject to change and improvement.

For understanding the theoretical background of our methodological choices, we strongly recommend reading our theory.

The EurOMo Transparency Index is a value between 0 and 3, where 0 is the worst transparency possible and 3 the highest transparency possible in each media sample. This value is the average of the transparency score achieved by each country in each of the four dimensions of media ownership and control, namely:

  • Legal ownership
  • Economic control
  • Management
  • Relations
 

The transparency score of each dimension is composed of empirical indicators. The indicators refer to information that should be publicly available according to normative standards established by scholarly literature and EU recommendations and policymaking (e.g., direct owner, beneficial owner, editor-in-chief, company turnover, etc.). The EurOMo national teams have looked for public availability of these data for every news outlet of their sample and their legal/natural owners. The indicator, then, aggregates the results of all outlets and owners of the national sample.

For each indicator, the EurOMo Transparency Index defines a minimum standard of transparency (e.g., the figures of at least 70% of the media owner shareholdings should be publicly available in a country). Below such a minimum, any value is classified as 0. Above this threshold, the availability is translated into a 0-3-point scale, where 3 corresponds to full availability of the information throughout our sample (100%). For the composition of the score of each dimension, the empirical indicators are weighted according to the relevance of that specific information (e.g., mentioning owners on a website is more important than public availability of their shareholding percentages, then the former has more weight than the latter). The decisions on the minimum standard of transparency and the weights of indicators are normative as well, following deliberation by the EurOMo research team.

EU-level assessment corresponds to the aggregation of the national findings.

See below the full list of indicators, the kind of empirical evidence the teams looked at, the minimum standard of transparency for each one and the respective weights.

Indicators

Legal ownership

Indicator Empirical evidence Minimum Weight
Media owner(s) Mention of direct and beneficial owner(s) of each media outlet in the publication or its website 70% 0,5
Shareholdings Data about the percentage of shareholdings of each legal/natural person involved in the ownership chain 70% 0,25
Voting rights Data about the percentage of voting rights of each legal/natural person involved in the ownership chain 50% 0,25

Economic control

Indicator Empirical evidence Minimum Weight
Reach and audience Data about reach and audience of each media outlet 20% 0,4
Public funding Data about public subsidies and advertising received by each company involved in the ownership chain 20% 0,3
Revenues Data about the revenues of each company involved in the ownership chain 20% 0,3

Management

Indicator Empirical evidence Minimum Weight
Managers Name of responsible person(s) for the economic management of each media outlet (CEO, managing director, etc.) 85% 0,4
Editors-in-chief Name of person(s) who bears editorial responsibility in each media outlet (usually editor-in-chief) 85% 0,4
Newsroom decision-making Availability of information for each media outlet on the level of participation of the newsroom in the choice of editors-in-chief 25% 0,2

Relations

Indicator Empirical evidence Minimum Weight
Affiliation of media outlets If there are outlets affiliated to external institutions (political party, church, interest group), disclosure of the affiliation by each outlet 70% 0,4
Affiliation of legal persons If there are media owners (legal persons) affiliated to external institutions (political party, church, interest group), disclosure of the affiliation by each owner 70% 0,3
Affiliation of natural persons If there are media owners (natural persons) affiliated to external institutions (political party, church, interest group), disclosure of the affiliation by each owner 70% 0,3

EurOMo Risk Index

The EurOMo Risk Index is a value between 0 and 3, where 0 refers to the worst performance possible and 3 to the best performance possible, leading to a low risk for transparency in ownership and control of news provision. It goes beyond the current transparency to analyse conditions that might impact future developments in transparency. The final value corresponds to the average of the risk score of each country in the areas of news production, distribution, and public policy. Similar to the procedure of the Transparency Index, each risk area is composed of empirical indicators based on scholarly literature and EU recommendations and policymaking.

Most indicators are qualitative assessments by the national teams graded in a 0-3-point scale, in which:

  • 0 = very high risk
  • 1 = high risk
  • 2 = moderate risk
  • 3 = low risk


Furthermore, every indicator is weighted. Both grades and weights are normative decisions following deliberation by the research team.

Some risk areas have particularities which require slightly different approaches. See explanation below.

EU-level risk assessment corresponds to the aggregation of the national findings.

Indicators – Risks in news production

The risks in news production are assessed in each of the four dimensions of media ownership and control. In all dimensions, the EurOMo Transparency Index is itself a factor, among others, for the risk assessment, as the EurOMo considers existing lack of transparency as a particular risk for future transparency.

Legal ownership

Indicator Empirical evidence Grade Weight
Hidden ownership Media outlets whose legal structure ensures control of news media by individuals and/or families without appearing as legal owners (e.g., private foundations, family investment funds) 0 – more than half
3 – no outlet
0,3
Contested ownership Media outlets whose legal ownership is publicly contested (e.g., legal owners are “stooges”, “front men” or“straw men”) 0 – more than half
3 – no outlet
0,3
Foreign ownership – national Media outlets whose legal owners are based in other national jurisdictions 0 – more than half
3 – no outlet
0,1
Foreign ownership – EU Media outlets whose legal owners are based outside the EU 0 – more than half
3 – no outlet
0,1
Transparency score – Legal ownership See “Legal ownership” in EurOMo Transparency Index 0 – very low transparency
3 – high transparency
0,2

Economic control

Indicator Empirical evidence Grade Weight
Non-media ownership Media outlets whose relevant legal owners have a non-media business as their main economic activity 0 – more than 20%
3 – no outlet
0,4
Cross-ownership distribution-production Media outlets whose owners also operate media distribution companies. This indicator also appears in the risk area of distribution 0 – more than 20%
3 – no outlets
0,3
Transparency score – Economic control See “Economic control” in EurOMoTransparency Index 0 – very low transparency
3 – high transparency
0,3

Management

Indicator Empirical evidence Grade Weight
Editorial influence Breaches of editorial independence by owners, advertisers, and economic managers 0 – more than one outlet, more than one case
3 – no cases
0,5
Owners in councils Presence of media owners in mediac ouncils 0 – present in majority with voting rights
3 – absent or no voting rights
0,3
Transparency score – Management See “Management” in EurOMo Transparency Index 0 – very low transparency
3 – high transparency
0,2

Relations

Indicator Empirical evidence Grade Weight
Political relations Politically exposed persons (PEPs) in official documents and registers 0 – no information
3 – information is available and there is no PEP
0,2
Related persons Media outlets whose owners have related persons (spouse, parent, sibling, child) in politics 0 – more than half
3 – no outlet
0,2
Affiliation – media outlets Media outlets affiliated to external institutions (political party, church, interest group) 0 – more than half
3 – no outlets
0,2
Affiliation – legal persons Media owners (legal persons) affiliated to external institutions (political party, church, interest group) 0 – more than half
3 – no outlets
0,1
Affiliation – natural persons Media owners (natural persons) affiliated to external institutions (political party, church, interest group) 0 – more than half
3 – no outlets
0,1
Transparency score – Relations See “Relations” in EurOMo Transparency Index 0 – very low transparency
3 – high transparency
0,2

Indicators – Risks in news distribution

The risks in news distribution cover linear (print, free-to-air and paid TV, radio) and non-linear distribution (digital, online, especially intermediaries such as search engines and social media). The weight of the indicators is different for each country depending on the use of linear or non-linear distribution in that market (main source: Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2021 by Newman and colleagues (2021)), reason why the column “weight” is suppressed below.

Indicator Empirical evidence Grade
Print distribution Availability of distribution infrastructure of print media and discrimination of access 0 – low reach and discrimination
3 – high reach and no discrimination
Radio distribution Diversity of distribution infrastructure of radio (FM, AM, DAB, DAB+) and competititon between providers 0 – FM/AM only, monopoly
3 – high diversity, multiple operators
TV distribution Diversity of distribution infrastructure of broadcast TV (DTT, CATV, IPTV, DTH) and competititon between providers 0 – DTT only, monopoly
3 – high diversity, multiple operators
Internet access Internet connectivity and competition between providers 0 – low connectivity, monopoly
3 – high connectivity, multiple operators
Cross-ownership distribution-production Media outlets whose owners also operate media distribution companies 0 – more than 20%
3 – no outlets
Net neutrality infringement Cases of net neutrality infringements (according to articles 3 and 4 of the TSM Regulation 0 – no compliance, high level of recidivism
3 – high compliance, no recidivism
Non-linear news use News use via digital intermediaries in comparison with other sources such as direct online access and print/broadcast distribution 0 – digital intermediaries higher than other sources
3 – digital intermediaries lower than two or more sources
Content curation criteria Disclosure of criteria for content curation by relevant digital intermediaries for news use 0 – no disclosure
3 – all disclose one click away from the content area
Commercial agreements Disclosure of commercial agreements that influence content curation 0 – no disclosure
3 – all reject influence or promise to label/tag

Indicators – Risks in public policy

The risks in public policy also cover all media sectors, including non-linear distribution (digital intermediaries). Most of the indicators regarding ownership transparency are inspired by the EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD), whereas provisions for transparency in algorithmic services reflect the discussions of the EU Digital Services Act (DSA). The EurOMo also considers concentration a risk for transparency in media ownership and control, and corresponding regulation is also assessed. Finally, the risk assessment covers the role of national regulatory authorities (NRAs) and their capacity of enforcement as well. Similar to the risks in news distribution, the weight of the indicators changes in each country depending on the predominance of news use offline or online, direct access or via digital intermediaries, so the column “Weight” is suppressed.

Indicator Empirical evidence Grade
Transposition of Art. 5 of the AVMSD National implementation of Art. 5 of the AVMSD 0 – not transposed
3 – implemented and requires additional information
Coverage of media sectors Media sectors covered by laws that require disclosure of information regarding direct and beneficial owner(s) 0 – no obligations
3 – all sectors including digital intermediaries
Level of information Level of information depth required by the national legal framework about media ownership and control 0 – no obligations
3 – high level (shareholdings, names of manager, funding)
Requirements for updates Requirement of periodical updating of ownership information upon change 0 – no requirements
3 – requirements for immediate updates
Information disclosure request Level of accessibility to information disclosure requests for relevant media ownership data 0 – no provisions
3 – filing possible regardless of status of applicant and existence of direct interest
State/public funding Obligation to disclose information on media funding provided by state/public institutions 0 – no obligation
3 – public authorities and media companies have disclosure obligations
NRAs for media ownership transparency Existence of national regulatory authorities (NRAs) or other designated bodies responsible for media ownership issues 0 – no authority
3 – independent regulatory authority has this responsibility
Enforcement and sanctions (transparency) Enforcement of compliance to the AVMSD or other relevant legislation by NRAs (from monitoring to sanction) 0 – no powers
3 – sanction powers
Anti-concentration provisions Media sectors covered by anti-concentration provisions 0 – no specific provisions
3 – limitations at cross-media level, including distribution
Qualitative and quantitative limits Provisions for media concentration 0 – no limitations
3 – quantitative caps on market and pluralism grounds
NRAs for media mergers Existence of NRAs or other designated bodies responsible for the control of ownership concentration issues 0 – no authority
3 – all types of media subject to independent authority
Enforcement and sanctions (concentration) Enforcement of limitations of concentration 0 – no powers
3 – provisions include ban, annulment, dismantling of positions
Government overrule Role of the governement in anti-concentration decisions taken by NRAs 0 – no decisions by NRAs
3 – decisions are fully respected by the government
Newsroom independence Provisions for ensuring newsroom independence from owners and economic management in editorial issues 0 – no provisions
3 – provisions limit intervention with civil liability
Legal provisions for PSM Provisions for the role of state/government in defining the board of public service media 0 – all board appointed by politicians
3 – no board member appointed by politicians
Must carry provisions Must-carry rules for content in the public interest or contribute to political, cultural, or geographical diversity 0 – no provisions
3 – provisions apply also to PSM and commercial content providers
Provisions for content curation Provisions for transparency of curation criteria, commercial arrangements between digital intermediaries and news providers, and alternatives to standard content curation 0 – no provisions
3 – provisions cover all three areas
Exposure rules Provisions for exposure of public interest content in content curation (discoverability and prominence) of digital intermediaries 0 – no provisions
3 – provisions cover large platforms and other relevant players
NRAs for content curation Existence of NRAs or other designated bodies responsible for content curation at the national level 0 – no authority responsible
3 – independent authority with sufficient resources
Enforcement and sanctions (content curation) Enforcement of provisions for content curation 0 – no powers
3 – sanction powers

Reference

Inter-American Development Bank & Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. (2019). A beneficial ownership implementation toolkit. Inter-American Development Bank. https://doi.org/10.18235/0001711

Research Consortium