The reader is the most important player in the game
In an open discussion on the independence of the media we examined questions concerning financial backing for media outlets. The ‘Can Media Be Truly Independent’ panel discussion took place at the Primate’s Palace in Bratislava as part of the the Young Journalists for Tomorrow’s Europe conference.
Beáta Balogová, editor-in-chief of the Slovak daily SME
Martin Danko, External Relations Manager at Penta Investments
Lukáš Fila, CEO of N Press — the publishing house of the Denník N
Cristian Lupsa, editor at the Romanian Decât o Revistă, longform journalism magazine
Our panel experts debated how much pressure financial investors exert on journalists (and if at all), what is the impact of corporations buying out media outlets in the country on the variety of news and their quality, and how to prevent funding partners from interfering in editorial decisions.
Beáta Balogová believes that traditional media owners struggle to make ends meet. Therefore they are replaced with large and stable financial supporters. She also stated that journalistic standards should not be compromised under any circumstances and that reporters are required to stick with basic journalism values.
After Penta Investment bought a share in SME, the newspaper’s top editorial staff quit the periodical and questioned the freedom of writing under Penta’s ownership.
According to Mr Fila, from the start of the financial crisis, the media has fallen into the hands of large investor groups with unlimited resources and these large companies always place their interests above others. He also added that Penta has a history of being involved with conflict of interests and that was one of the primary reasons why they were and still are concerned about Penta’s motives.
“In an ideal world, media ownership is not linked to independence. In an ideal world a media outlet should not worry about who its owner is,” Ms Balogová said. She also stated that the media business can not be evaluated through excel tables, journalism is a true business where journalists work a lot with reputation. She also believes that ownership is not a negative factor but she admits that the recently finalised media purchases in the Czech Republic raises questions that need to be answered. “We should be concerned about media concentration,”she added.
“It is unimaginable for any investor in Slovakia to completely reshape the media environment,” Mr Danko objected. He defines media outlets as providers of different kinds of services, where businesses collide and synergies emerge. According to Mr Danko, Penta’s expectation is to gain from the millions of views and to connect various business activities at one place. “We are satisfied with the performance of the papers we own,” he added.
Our foreign guest Mr Cristian Lupsa pointed out that the media market is extremely challenging and even a random facebook post might be competition to his story. According to Mr Lupsa innovation is the crucial factor in the fight for leadership. He was pleased with the dynamics of the panel discussion and surprised by the willingness of both sides to discuss such a sensitive topic.
In the end we agree with Ms Balogová. Journalism is a true business and the reader is the most important player in the game.