13 September 2011
ARTICLE 19 policy paper on transparency of media ownership by off-shore companies
(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - Kiev, 08.09.2011 - In response to problems in the legal framework related to foreign media ownership in Ukraine, ARTICLE 19 is today releasing a policy paper, titled "Transparency of Media Ownership of Off-Shore Companies in Ukraine: Problems and Solutions", outlining a set of principles to regulate media ownership by off-shore companies in Ukraine and other countries. ARTICLE 19 argues that states have an obligation to set out a legal regime for the transparency of media ownership by off-shore companies, otherwise there is a risk of media concentration, lack of media pluralism and a lack of clarity about who influences the media.
"Media pluralism is one of the basic conditions of the right to freedom of expression and freedom of information. The full transparency of media groups and their owners lies at the heart of modern media pluralism," comments Dr Agnes Callamard, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19.
"Without transparency of media ownership it would be impossible to take steps to address excessive media concentration and to form an opinion on the value of information disseminated by the media," continued Dr Callamard.
ARTICLE 19 finds there are two main reasons for the lack of transparency: the companies which own media outlets are under no obligation to disclose the identity of their physical owners. Moreover, some media, especially broadcast media, are owned by companies registered in off-shore zones, mainly in Cyprus, and their ownership is shrouded by off-shore confidentiality laws.
The lack of transparency is not unique to Ukraine. The post-Soviet, free-market era in Eastern Europe has resulted in an influx of foreign-backed media groups that have come to dominate the media landscapes of several countries over the last two decades. While, initially, this led to an increase in variety for the consumer and technologies for the producers, there have also been problems. It also means that audiences in this part of Europe are prevented from being able to properly shape their judgements about the value of information, ideas and opinion disseminated by these media outlets.
To address these issues, ARTICLE 19's policy paper examines the legal models for regulating the transparency of media ownership by off-shore companies and proposes principles for respective regulation on the subject.