Theory: media pluralism as key for democratic societies
Media pluralism is a key aspect of democratic societies as free, independent, and diverse media reflect divergent viewpoints and allow criticism of people in power.
Generally, you can distinguish internal media pluralism which refers to how social and political diversity are reflected in media content (e.g. representation of different cultural groups, diverse political or ideological opinions). External media pluralism, on the other hand, covers the number and structure of owners also known as the “plurality” of suppliers.
Risks to diversity of ideas are caused by media market concentration – the opposite of media pluralism:
- when only a few players exert dominant influence on public opinion and raise entrance barriers for other players and perspectives (media ownership concentration);
- when media content is uniform and focused only on specific topics, people, ideas and opinions (media content concentration);
- when the audience only reads, watches and listens to certain media outlets (media audience concentration).
Goal: creating media ownership transparency
Notwithstanding that media pluralism encompasses many dimensions and faces as many risks, the MOM focuses on external pluralism, and more precisely on media ownership concentration as a potential threat to media pluralism.
The biggest obstacle to fight it is lack of transparency of media ownership: How can people evaluate the reliability of information, if they do not know who provides it? How can journalists work properly, if they do not know who controls the company they work for? And how can media authorities address excessive media concentration, if they do not know who is behind the media´s steering wheel?
MOM thus aims to create transparency and to answer the question “who eventually controls media content?”
- by informing about the owner of the most important media outlets of the different types of media (television, radio, internet, print) and their affiliations;
- by analyzing the potential influence on the public opinion-forming process based on audience concentration;
- by shedding light on the regulation of media ownership and concentration, as well as implementation of regulatory safeguards.
Means: data collection and fieldwork
Based on a generic methodology, the "Media Ownership Monitor" (MOM) has been developed as a mapping exercise in order to create a publicly available, continuously updated database that lists owners of all relevant mass media outlets. It creates transparency on who owns media, which interests and affiliations owners have, to which extent dependencies exist and thus, who really has a potential influence on public opinion. Fieldwork is not only aimed at finding out, who holds the stakes, but at investigating who eventually controls media. In addition, MOM provides a contextualization and qualitative analysis by assessing the respective market specifics and legal environment in the countries as well.
Data collection was done by a local research team from Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) Kosovo in collaboration with Global Media Registry (GMR).
The media landscape in Kosovo is complex and diverse, with a mix of television, radio, and online platforms catering to a wide variety of audiences. Currently, the print media in Kosovo is virtually non-existent, having fully transitioned into the online space, a shift driven largely by increased internet access and changing consumer behaviors and the impact of COVID-19.
The methodology for media selection uses a comprehensive approach, relying on the reach, content, and relevance of each medium. In principle, these outlets were chosen for their extensive reach and ability to mirror the social, political, economic, and cultural realities of Kosovo. This selection also takes into account Kosovo’s linguistic diversity, with approximately 80% of the media outlets serving the Albanian-speaking majority, around 10% catering to the Serbian-speaking minority, and the remaining addressing other minorities. Selection of outlets in Serbian language followed the same processes, ensuring they are adequately represented. Through the integration of the work done by research companies like UBO Consulting, a business research and consulting firm, online tools for metrics insights like CrowdTangle, and in-depth ground knowledge, we have informed our decision-making process across each medium: television, radio, and online media.
Television - Given the significant role television continues to play in Kosovo, especially among the older population and diaspora, the selection of television broadcasters is of prime importance. The selected television outlets collectively ensure a comprehensive and balanced coverage, reaching an estimated 70% of the population via terrestrial broadcasting and over 70% through cable TV. To inform our selection, we utilized the work of UBO Consulting. UBO’s metrics include the share percentage - the portion of the population viewing a specific television program at a given time. This metric is instrumental in providing insights into each channel’s reach and content diversity. The aim is to represent both Albanian and Serbian language channels and to include those that offer a broad range of content, such as news, current affairs, and entertainment, thereby offering a comprehensive view of the television media landscape in Kosovo.
Online Media - With digital media consumption rapidly increasing in Kosovo, especially among the younger population, the ability of an outlet to engage with its audience via web and social platforms is an important criteria for its selection. With 97% of the population having internet access, online media has become a pivotal source of information in Kosovo. Contrary to traditional media, online media outlets were chosen based on their outreach as determined by social media analytics and indicators. We utilized research and analysis provided by UBO Consulting to gain insights into the performance and interaction rates of public media posts to identify online media outlets in both Albanian and Serbian languages. However, our selection was not exclusively based on the highest numbers, since we also aimed to include a variety of outlets covering diverse topics. This ensures a well-rounded representation of the online media landscape.
Radio - The methodology for selecting radio stations mirrors that of online media, using metrics from CrowdTangle to identify interaction and engagement rates during the January - June 2023 timeframe. Recognizing the importance of radio in Kosovo, especially among the diaspora, engagement rate is a key factor for selection. With many radio stations transitioning to include online broadcasting in addition to traditional airwaves, their reach has extended, not only nationally but also among the diaspora. This transition has not only increased their accessibility but has also led to increased income for station owners and it ultimately reinforces radio’s role in a pivoting media landscape towards less-traditional mediums. Factoring their reach and to ensure a balanced representation, both Albanian and Serbian language stations have been selected.
Instrument: MOM-user guide
The data collection is conducted following a detailed User Guide, covering following sections:
- Section A “Context” provides a first look into the media market and flanking conditions, such as the regulatory framework related to ownership issues, country information and media-specific data. This section allows to better understand the findings of the following sections and to contextualize estimated risks for media plurality.
- In Section B “Media Market”, the types of media that are relevant for opinion-formation are agreed upon on the basis of the audience reach. At most 10 media outlets per media type - TV, radio, print and Internet – are selected.
- In Section C “Ownership”, owner/ shareholder/ people with influence on the most relevant media are researched. Key media companies are defined economically (related to their revenue) and investigated concerning their ownership characteristics.
- Section D “Indicators” explains the indicators which allow calculating an index for the risks to media pluralism caused by a certain level of media ownership control.
The User Guide is developed on the basis of already existing media ownership and media pluralism research. The indicators are inspired by and harmonized with the EU-funded Media Pluralism Monitor of the Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom (CMPF) at the European University Institute (EUI, Florence).