Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is MOM?
The Media Ownership Monitor (MOM) has been developed as a mapping tool that generates a publicly available database detailing the proprietors of the biggest communications media in each country (press, television, radio and Internet) and their related interests. This information will be continually updated.
MOM seeks to make the risks to media pluralism brought about a concentration of media ownership more visible (for more information: Methodology). MOM also qualitatively assesses market conditions and the regulatory environment, so as to capture local characteristics and detect elements capable of increasing or reducing the risk of media concentration.
2. Who is behind MOM?
MOM has been proposed and launched by Reporter ohne Grenzen e. V. – the German section of the international human rights organization Reporters without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF), that aims to defend freedom of the press and the right to inform and be informed anywhere in the world.
RSF collaborates with a local partner in each country. In Colombia, the MOM implementation partner is FECOLPER, the colombian federation of journalists.
The project is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
3. Why is transparency of media ownership important?
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. Risks to diversity of ideas are caused by media market concentration, when only a few players exert dominant influence on public opinion and raise entrance barriers for other players and perspectives (media ownership concentration). The biggest obstacle to fight it is lack of transparency of media ownership: How can people evaluate the reliability of information, if they don´t know who provides it? How can journalists work properly, if they don´t know who controls the company they work for? And how can media authorities address excessive media concentration, if they don´t 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?” in order to raise public awareness, to create a fact base for advocacy to hold political and economic players accountable for the existing conditions.
As we consider ownership transparency as a crucial precondition to enforce media pluralism, we document the openness of media companies/outlets to provide information on their ownership structure. Considering their answers, we distinguish different levels of transparency – which is indicated for each media outlet and media company on their profile.
Media owner’s motivation to remain hidden or even actively disguise their investments can vary from legitimate to illegal and be rooted in personal, legal or business-related reasons – or a mix thereof, in extreme cases even including criminal offenses like tax evasion or breaches of anti-trust laws. Some of those reasons include the following:
• In several countries, media ownership is restricted by law in order to avoid concentration. So if one individual wants to extend his or her media empire beyond these limits, proxy owners and/or shell companies registered abroad, even off-shore, are frequently being used.
• Sometimes, media owners receive personal threats or face other dangers either originating from governments or competing businesses and therefore decide to remain unknown to protect themselves.
• In many cases, media ownership is intertwined with undue political or economic interests, even more so if individuals are involved that hold a public office and who don’t want to disclose such a conflict of interests.
• In rare cases, the disguise of media ownership happens unintentionally because over time and through mergers and acquisitions, corporate structures became so complex that the original beneficial owner is difficult to identify.
• Last not least, there are ‘normal’ – i. e. non-media-related reasons for owners to hide, such as tax evasion.
4. What kind of concentration regulation does MOM suggest?
MOM doesn’t make normative statements. It does not suggest how to control media ownership. Which form of media concentration control can work, depends on the country context, the existing legal and market conditions, the ownership landscape.
MOM provides a transparency tool to enforce a democratic discussion on that issue as well as good governance: decisions are likely to be of higher quality and to better reflect the needs and wishes of the people if they have access to adequate information and broad consultations, with views and opinions freely shared.
5. How is data collected and validated?
Data collection for the construction of the MOM database was carried out by a local research team selected by the Colombian Federation of Journalists (FECOLPER) in collaboration with and under the supervision of Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
For sources, preference was given to official data provided by government entities, the chamber of commerce, media associations and media companies, as well as sources with a high level of reliability and trust such as academic research. Information was also requested directly from media companies, politicians with links to the media, and university research centers. All sources are well documented and filed.
6. How is "most relevant media" defined?
The key question is: Which media influence the formation of public opinion?
In reviewing who are the proprietors of the most important media, we considered print media, radio, television and digital. The selection was made using the following criteria:
- The ten media in each category with the greatest reach measured by audience share.
- The value of the informational content and of the opinions expressed: The study focused on media delivering content that is nationally relevant, with social networks, search engines and advertising excluded.
7. How are the media outlets selected?
MOM researched the country’s most important media proprietors by selecting the ten largest media organizations in each sector (TV, radio, print , internet) by audience share, based on the General Media Study (2014 third wave) and Alexa.com.
The General Media Study is multimedia tool used by the Colombian Association for Media Research which consists of a survey on media consumption for a defined period. Unlike other media surveys, it does not measure the time spent accessing the media and respondents are able to nominate more than one outlet. The General Media Study provided MOM with a ranking for television, radio and print based on audience share. The ranking for the most visited digital media was determined with data from Alexa.com, a tool that identifies the most-clicked pages within a certain country, without providing exact information on consumption structures. Those information are only available for the website hosts.
The media selected publish mostly news content and are thus relevant for opinion formation. Selected media operate nationwide and publish at least once a week. Social networks, internet search engines, and media with a specific focus or focused programming (such as sport, music, or shopping) are excluded as they are considered as less relevant to public opinion.
The ten radio stations were selected based on a high listenership according to General Media Study as well as on information supplied by the Colombian Association for Media Research. They all present a program on debate, opinion, and / or information and news (based on the programming schedule published by each.
The digital media selection was made through the volume of visits to the page according to Alexa.com, website content (e.g., informative content, debate, or opinion) and its relevance in the public sphere. To the resulting list, two additional pages were added because of their significance in the political sphere at national level: KienyKe and The Empty Chair.La Silla Vacia.
The ten most important media in the television sector were selected based on their General Media Study audience shares. International channels with no national content were excluded as well as national channels with a specific thematic focus and the absence of editorial content, such as RCN Telenovelas and WinSports.
The ten most important print outlets were selected based on the General Media Study audience shares. Semana Único magazine was included in the ranking because it is the only publication of political analysis with national circulation and regular circulation. The Mira and Gente newspapers were excluded due to their religious and entertainment focus, respectively. The audience share of local editions of ADN, Q´hubo, Extra and Al Día was also considered.
8. Why Colombia?
In the 2017 World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders, Colombia placed 129 out of 180 countries. In other words, Colombia faces a difficult situation of press freedom. This designation suggests a problematic relationship with media pluralism, media independence, self-censorship and transparency, and therefore, Colombia stands out as a country which merits a closer look at the risk of media ownership concentration. In addition, the country’s current social context means the issue is on the agenda as a platform for peace. On the other hand, unlike other neighboring countries, civil society organizations like FECOLPER are able to operate with relative freedom, which permits implementation of a pilot project.
9. Does the MOM only exist for Colombia?
MOM was developed as a generic methodology that can be universally applied – and potentially will be. Notwithstanding that media concentration trends are observable worldwide; implementation and analysis will first take place in developing countries. MOM has been implemented in around 20 countries over the course of three years. All country projects can be found on the global website.
10. What are the limitations of the study?
One of the difficulties identified in the implementation of the MOM in Colombia was the lack of public data on media audience share and the high cost of accessing the audience studies carried out by private companies or associations such as General Media Study (EGM), Estudio Continuo de Audiencia Radial (ECAR) and the Target Group Index (TGI).
• Lack of an accessible public database led to exhaustive search using chambers of commerce in each city where the companies are registered and the Superintendencia de Industria y Comercio (SIC – English: Superintendence of Industry and Commerce) is necessary.
• Complex corporate structures. Media companies are often owned by other companies/ legal entities as main shareholders, and these again have companies as shareholders which complicates identifying ultimate beneficial owners.
• Limited access to information about foreign media companies
11. Who do we target?
· Allows any citizen to inform themselves about the media system generally and the owners of the media he or she consumes. The project also raises awareness about the importance of media ownership, transparency and critical judgment about media content.
· It supports civil society activities that promote public awareness of the impact of media ownership concentration.
· It provides a database for government authorities when establishing regulatory measures necessary to safeguard media pluralism.
12. What happens next?
The database is a snapshot of the current situation in Colombia, contextualized with relevant historic facts. FECOLPER will update it regularly.
13. Are there similar projects?
The Media Ownership Monitor is mainly inspired by two similar projects. Especially the indicators for a later ranking rely heavily on the EU-funded Media Pluralism Monitor of the Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom (CMPF) at the European University Institute (EUI, Florence). Moreover, Media Pedia, an ownership database developed by investigative journalists in Macedonia served as inspiration for the Media Ownership Monitor. An overview over other similar projects can be found in the table below.
A Spanish NGO that works in the field of media ownership transparency in several European countries.
An NGO which works in the field of press freedom. It implements media concentration projects.
The Media Freedom Navigator of Deutsche Welle provides an overview of different media freedom indices.
A database of television and audiovisual services in Europe.
The Website provides a summary and analysis of the state of the media in Europe and neighbouring countries.
The Media Pluralism Monitor assesses risks for media pluralism in the EU Member States.
The network provides information of the state of the media in many countries.
The Media Sustainability Index (MSI) provides analyses of the conditions for independent media in 80 countries.
A project that is monitoring the media ownership in Macedonia.
The Website provides information about media ownership in Great Britain.
The organisation publishes an interactive database about media in the United States.
Monitors media ownership and the impact on media pluralism in southeastern Europe and EU member states.
A research that works with authors from 30 countries in the world about media concentration using a common methodology.
A database of international corporations of the world´s biggest media.
Media Development Indicators - A framework for assessing media development.