European Federation of Journalists

EFJ calls on EU and governments to fight the COVID-19 crisis in the media sector

Picture credit: Eric Baradat / AFP.

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), representing 320,000 journalists across Europe, calls on national governments, the European Commission and the European Parliament to take rapid, targeted and coordinated action in support of all workers – staff, freelance and self-employed – and companies in response to the devastating social and economic impact of the global COVID-19 crisis on the media sector.

COVID-19 is spawning a global press-freedom crackdown. In the face of this pandemic, European citizens need professional, economically secure journalists more than ever. The EU should take action and encourage its Member States to take action.

EU and national emergency recovery packages are urgently needed to protect the jobs and livelihoods of media workers, support companies and fund public service media through this crisis. Thousands of media workers have already lost, or are at risk of losing their jobs, either temporarily or permanently.

“We met with the Vice President of the European Commission Věra Jourová and we asked her to consider the media sector as a vital one. Journalism can save lives. The media sector needs governments, international and regional inter-governmental organisations and media funding bodies to provide vital support by taking extraordinary measures,” said EFJ President Mogens Blicher Bjerregård.

“Instead of corporate tax cuts or social security cuts and stock buybacks, the EFJ demands targeted measures that will put more reporters on the ground”, added Renate Schroeder, EFJ Director.

The EU and national media recovery plans should include:

  • Increasing national funding for public media;
  • Direct financial support for daily and weekly newsrooms (direct, emergency subsidies to fund newsroom jobs at commercial outlets committed to local coverage; deferred or no-interest business loans; tax credits on newsrooms staff wages; household tax credits for paid subscriptions to local news outlets; increased EU or government public-service advertising in local outlets…). Subsidies will be distributed by an independent body, taking into consideration objective criteria (safeguarding of jobs in the newsroom, demonstrated loss of advertising revenue, endangered independent local media…);
  • EU and National News Innovation Funds to support new approaches to newsgathering, specifically at local or community level. A new independent body, the EU Public Interest Media Endowment would distribute grants to support independent, community-based, investigative journalism and news start-ups, among other innovations. These funds could be sustained through a tax (2%) on targeted online ads on online platforms.

“Several European governments, including Denmark and Sweden, are taking relief measures to sustain the economy of the media sector. But most have not yet offered specific assistance to the media. Some countries, such as Croatia, have even deliberately refused specific media assistance, which I strongly condemn,” said EFJ General Secretary Ricardo Gutiérrez.

The EFJ also joins the demands of the International Federation of Actors (FIA) and the Media, Entertainment & Arts Sector of UNI Global Union (UNI-MEI) to support the economic sustainability of the creative sector:

  • Economic relief and stimulus packages are directed and tailored to the specific needs and practices of the sector.
  • Temporary and non-restrictive frameworks addressing state aid are put in place in a swift manner. Tax regimes are adapted during the crisis to ease pressure on companies and workers alike.
  • Payment of employers’ social security contributions are postponed wherever necessary (not deleted but postponed).
  • Funding bodies adapt their rules to provide the best possible support for interrupted projects and provide flexibility with respect to project applications.
  • Direct subsidies are granted to help cover immediate fixed costs, including employment. Subsidies should be preferred to loans.

Together with FIA and UNI-MEI, the EFJ also calls on the European Union and the European governments to support specifically freelance end self-employed workers. Many of them may do not have enough social benefits to fall back on during this crisis and may thus face a critical situation. We recommend in particular that:

  • All workers in our sector, including freelance and self-employed, are equally
    encompassed by economic and social relief packages directed to the media sector with a view to retaining employment and skills.
  • Workers’ compliance with stay-at-home confinement injunctions does not come at the expense of their accrued leave entitlements.
  • Access to social benefits and sick pay is guaranteed without restrictions or waiting periods for all workers and entry thresholds lowered or otherwise adapted.
  • Temporary loss of employment due to confinement measures does not prejudice access to such benefits.
  • Access to unemployment benefits is extended to withstand the length and protracted effects of the crisis and qualifying periods revised to absorb the full length of inactivity due to compliance with confinement measures.
  • Funds for freelance and self-employed workers in our sector are set up by public authorities to compensate for lost income due to sickness, family care duties or confinement measures that cannot be compensated otherwise.