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Press: are we condemned to say goodbye?

Submitted by on November 29, 2011 – 14:13No Comment

In a recent inter­view for the Swiss daily La Tri­bune, the Pres­i­dent of the World Intel­lec­tual Prop­erty Organ­i­sa­tion, Fran­cis Gurry, declared that ‘ in a few years, we won’t find news­pa­pers any­more, not as we know them today. That’s an evo­lu­tion. That’s nei­ther good nor bad. Some stud­ies fore­see press dis­a­pear­ance for 2040. 2017 for the United States’. 

That’s a fact: press goes through a dark time, for sev­eral years now. But must we bring a close to dis­cus­sions and accept its dis­ap­pear­ance with such a neu­tral posi­tion? We don’t think so. On the con­trary, this fore­cast raises essen­tial ques­tions: Has press to fall? Has press to be stopped from falling? And how?

Right that this debate wasn’t born yes­ter­day… We widely heard about the prob­a­ble dis­in­ter­est of peo­ple for both press and books. Accord­ing to the Euro­pean sur­vey Euro­barom­e­ter 74, pub­lished in Feb­ru­ary 2011, Euro­peans would even show real dis­trust for press (52% of them). Only 38% of them say they read news­pa­per every day, while 85% of them watch TV on a daily frequency.

For some, we sim­ply would wit­ness a change of habits and a trans­fer of read­er­ship, from press to web. But does web really replace press? Can it replace press? The great deal of infor­ma­tion, the rapid­ity of its cir­cu­la­tion and the unde­ni­able free­dom of tone of the web opened a new space for infor­ma­tion, espe­cially for infor­ma­tion about Europe. But every flow has its ebb and this quan­tity and fast cir­cu­la­tion of infor­ma­tion also lead to the imme­di­acy and the evanes­cence of infor­ma­tion. In such a con­text, can elec­tronic for­mats open issues and take time of analy­sis, as news­pa­pers do? FILPAC (French fed­er­a­tion of work­ers of book, press and com­mu­ni­ca­tion indus­tries) Sec­re­tary Gen­eral, Michel Muller, in a 2005 report to the French Eco­nomic and Social Com­mit­tee, won­dered what was the func­tion of news­pa­pers in the media land­scape. For him, its func­tion is to ‘bring each day a sense to an event, to take dis­tance with imme­di­ate emo­tion and to com­plete fact with com­ments which allow read­ers to under­stand and eval­u­ate its impact’. Accord­ing to him, the con­tin­u­ous turn­ing of infor­ma­tion would flood the air­time and daily press would keep its his­tor­i­cal niche by elect­ing, day after day, rel­e­vant infor­ma­tion to develop.

Many blogs also bran­dished the ecol­o­gist argu­ment to con­clude to the nec­es­sary end of the press. That’s fully right that print­ing has a not incon­sid­er­able envi­ron­men­tal cost. But are things so sim­ple? The par­tic­u­lar­ity of all fun­da­men­tal rights and free­doms is that they always are bal­anced ones with the oth­ers. The good ques­tion should not come down to a black and white choice between envi­ron­ment and press, but more to how can we man­age to com­bine the right to envi­ron­ment and sus­tain­able devel­op­ment (EU Char­ter of Fun­da­men­tal Rights art.37) and the right to infor­ma­tion (EU Char­ter art. 11).

The main rea­son of press dis­ap­pear­ance is clearly a lack of rev­enues. News­pa­pers also strug­gle when they go to the web. That’s why the arrival of pub­lic ser­vice media on the web was the tar­get of sharp crit­i­cism. The recent launch (Novem­ber 14) of France tele­vi­sion new web­site brought about fury among French publishers.

But if they are all affected by the cri­sis, the more vul­ner­a­ble are the more inde­pen­dent com­pa­nies, which don’t have any other activ­i­ties or rev­enue stream, as points out a recent video report of the Por­tuguese news­pa­per Pub­lico about the dis­ap­pear­ance of one of the most impor­tant crit­i­cal Greek news­pa­pers Eleft­erotipia (inter­view in English).

Are we con­demned to say good­bye to press or can we pro­tect a whole inde­pen­dent and plu­ral­ist media landscape?

We try to defend the sec­ond option by offer­ing to make ‘Infor­ma­tion for cit­i­zens’ a Euro­pean Ser­vice of Gen­eral Interest. 

What do you think?

Related posts:

  1. Make ‘Infor­ma­tion for cit­i­zens’ a Euro­pean Ser­vice of Gen­eral Inter­est (SGI)
  2. Defend­ing media plu­ral­ism by mon­i­tor­ing threats in the Mem­ber States
  3. Cre­ate a bal­ance between pub­lic ser­vice media, com­mer­cial media and community-based media
  4. Live blog­ging a Euro­pean Coun­cil: a new step forward
  5. Anne-Marie Impe: “For a per­ma­nent edu­ca­tion journalism”

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