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Context

Recorder, a Romanian NGO recently published an investigation about how some political parties manage to hide the (indirect) funding of media outlets using money provided by the state (source, automatically generated subtitles work very well for English).

The investigation shows:

  • by law, the political parties receive several million euros from the state to fund their activity
  • an essential fraction of this money goes to some companies, which buy various services from virtually all important TV stations or websites. This is done because the political parties are not allowed to directly buy media services outside of the political campaigns (and other restrictions such as clearly displaying that a show is publicity or political debate)
  • the details of the contracts between the political parties and the companies are not disclosed
  • although the law requires any entity to specify how public money is spent, the main political party (the social democrats) refused to offer such details

Shortly put, some political parties in Romania are de facto spending public money for media services, propaganda, etc. without being to tell how that money is spent.

As a consequence, many shows including politicians are not including important questions are very important changes (e.g. national security, education law changes) receive next-to-nothing coverage in most media channels.

Question

I am wondering if this is also happening within other EU countries or not. My first thought was Hungary. I have found multiple articles about this, but none is concerned with how media channels are being influenced (is it transparent for someone interested in this or it is indirectly visible by watching their content?).

As side note, the European Commission has just adopted the European Media Freedom Act.

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  • I believe that the problem you're looking at is not solved through disclosure. In most countries there are news media with a particular political slant, one that is known to their subscribers and advertisers. For instance, in Germany one would expect an interviewer from the taz to be much more sympathetic to a Green secretary of the environment than to a Liberal secretary of transportation. Not because the Greens paid them, but because for decades the taz was hiring people to fit the company profile and that is more Green than Liberal.
    – o.m.
    Commented Sep 19, 2022 at 3:57

1 Answer 1

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Political parties and their related activities have three major sources of public money:

  • The parties themselves get public money (a) partially matching any donations they collect from members and supporters and (b) in proportion to their vote totals after an election.
  • The party caucus in a parliament or municipal body gets public money to fund their operations (staff, offices, information campaigns).
  • Foundations politically close to a party and nominated by that party get public money for their work.

Germany being Germany, there are strict rules of what can be done with each founding source and what cannot be done. People who think that transparency requirements are sufficient would say that this is no example for your question, people who think that transparency requirements are insufficient would call it an example of just the thing you talk about.

And then there is the perennial question if a government can use government funds to promote/support/defend government policies which have been set by elected government officials.

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  • I see. However, the following is not clear from your answer: can a German citizen find out (through some bureaucratic effort) if a certain party has used public funds to pay a media outlet to include a "friendly" interview with a politician? In Romania, in theory, law 544/12 October 2001...
    – Alexei
    Commented Sep 18, 2022 at 17:48
  • "any individual has the right to request and obtain public information from the public authorities and organizations, under the terms of this law.". In fact, Recorder has shown that this is not the case, as political parties can hide how they use public funds and might never answer requests under law 544.
    – Alexei
    Commented Sep 18, 2022 at 17:48
  • @Alexei, the invoice would not read "fee for a friendly interview," and what parties have to document is often late (e.g. the annual report of the next year) or summarized. So the answer to that is no.
    – o.m.
    Commented Sep 18, 2022 at 19:10

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