EU participatory democracy and EU News Media - Between complementary policies and sectoral needs - A reality check


Supporting a resilient democracy and a healthier media sector are at the heart of the political debate regarding the future of Europe. At the end of 2020, the European Commission launched two interrelated action plans – the European Democracy Action Plan and the European Media and Audiovisual Action Plan – which aim to address democracy and media holistically, for supporting a pluralist public sphere, in which empowered and informed citizens are an essential part. In the academic literature, the role of meaningful political participation in a functioning democracy is widely researched and acknowledged. The same goes for the importance of free, independent, and sustainable media for informing citizens, keeping the accountability of policymakers, and fostering public debate. In the context of the European Union, a plethora of studies addresses the impact of media on political participation. However, few focus on the EU's distinct participatory model and the media's role in it.

This article aims to start a broad reflection, at a theoretical and empirical level, on the role of the European news media in the context of the participatory practices of the EU and to explore the interplay between the European policies and actions related to media, and their specific sectoral needs. Based on literature review, policy document analysis and survey inquiry, this contribution questions whether the EU approach to linking the strengthening of the European news media sector to the participatory democratic process in the EU is responding to sectoral needs. The article starts with theoretical considerations on the role of the news media sector in European participatory democracy. Then, the interconnection between the European news media sector and participatory democracy, as presented in EU actions and policies, is outlined. Lastly, based on the empirical study of companies engaged in innovative cross-border collaborations in the Stars4Media Programme, some of the needs of the European news media sector and their perception of the EU approach to support the European news media for strengthening EU democracy, are presented.

Key words

European participatory democracy; European news media; political participation; media policy; European public sphere