Back

New rules to protect media pluralism after company prevented from broadcasting

Centro Europa 7 S.R.L and Di Stefano v. Italy  | 2009

New rules to protect media pluralism after company prevented from broadcasting

There can be no democracy without pluralism. Democracy thrives on freedom of expression. It is of the essence of democracy to allow diverse political programmes to be proposed and debated, even those that call into question the way a State is currently organised, provided that they do not harm democracy itself.

Judgment of the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights, 7 June 2012 - © Photo Wikipedia

Background

Italian television was dominated by a small number of channels, with little diversity of ownership. The company Centro Europa 7 wanted to set up new channels. It was granted a license to broadcast in 1999. However, it could not do so until 2009, because the authorities refused to allocate it any broadcasting frequencies. Instead, the frequencies were given to existing media networks.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

The court said there can be no democracy without media pluralism. If a powerful economic or political group is allowed to dominate television, this could undermine free speech.

The authorities’ refusal to grant Centro Europa 7 a frequency prevented the organisation from broadcasting for almost ten years. This showed that there was not a proper framework in place to guarantee media pluralism in Italy.

Follow-up

News laws and regulations were brought in to protect media pluralism. Licensing is now conducted by an independent regulator, which applies newly-clarified regulations on the allocation of broadcasting licenses, the transfer of ownership and avoiding media concentration.


Related examples

Excessive police operation against journalists leads to reforms to protect media sources

Four Belgian journalists were targeted by the police in a huge search and seizure operation aimed at identifying the source of leaked government information. The Strasbourg court ruled that the operation had been unjustified and disproportionate. The case influenced new legislation to improve protections for journalists and their sources.

Read more

Reforms to protect free speech after journalist given prison sentence

Ionel Dălban was a Romanian journalist and ran a local weekly magazine, Cronica Romaşcană. He was convicted and given a prison sentence for writing about an alleged fraud by public figures. The Strasbourg court ruled that the conviction had violated his right to freedom of expression. The case triggered reforms to free speech protections in Romania.

Read more

Privacy laws strengthened after a lawyer’s phone calls were intercepted

The authorities tapped the telephone of lawyer Hans Kopp and listened to confidential conversations. The Strasbourg court ruled that Swiss law had not properly limited the interception of confidential communications by the authorities. This violated Mr Kopp’s right to respect for privacy, leading to stronger legal protections.

Read more