Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is MOM?
The “Media Ownership Monitor” (MOM) has been developed as a mapping tool in order to create a publicly available, continuously updated database that lists owners of all relevant mass media outlets (press, radio, television sectors and online media).
MOM aims to shed light on the risks to media pluralism caused by media ownership concentration for more information: Methodology. In order to grasp the national characteristics and detect risk-enhancing or risk-reducing factors for media concentration, MOM also qualitatively assesses the market conditions and legal environment.
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.
In each country, RSF cooperates with a local partner organization. In Albania, RSF worked with Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN Albania). The project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economic Development and Cooperation (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 and / or economic interests, even more so if individuals involved hold public office and do not 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 but not least, there are ‘normal’ – i. e. non-media-related reasons for owners to hide, such as tax avoidance.
4. What kind of Concentration Control does MOM suggest?
MOM doesn’t make normative statements – it doesn’t suggest how to regulate media ownership. Which form of media concentration regulation 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?
Preferably, official data sources, and / or sources with a high level of reliability and trust are used. Whenever not publicly available, information was directly requested of media companies, political representatives and research institutes. All sources are thoroughly documented and archived in the Library. Further information is available upon request at BIRN Albania.
Audience data was purchased from Abacus research (TV, Radio, Print) and Telemetrix (TV) for 2017.
Information on ownership structures, shareholders and financial statements of media companies and related individual owners were obtained from the Albanian National Business Register. The register’s database is online and publicly accessible in the Albanian language.
MOM also sent information requests to all investigated media companies and FOI requests to the public broadcaster, RTSH, the Ministry of Finance (for Public Spending on media) and AKEP (for registered internet domains).
In order to guarantee and verify the objective evaluation, MOM worked with an advisory group that commented and consulted throughout the research process. It was composed of national specialists with a substantial knowledge and experience in the media and communications fields.
6. How is "most relevant Media" defined?
The main question is: which media outlets influence the opinion-forming process? In order to scan all relevant media, we included all traditional media types (Print, Radio, TV, Online).
The media were selected according to the following criteria:
- MOM focused mostly on media with the highest reach, measured by audience share. Basis for selection was audience research data for the most recent period available provided by Abacus Research and Telemetrix (Print, Radio, TV for 2017).
- The news worthiness and opinion content. The study focuses on general information with a national focus. As such, media with specific thematic focus (music, sport), social networks, search engines and advertisement were excluded.
- The selection based on these criteria initially consisted of plus/minus ten media outlets per media type (TV, print, radio, online), with a focus on the TV market as it has the widest audience reach in Albania. Shedding light on these most relevant media outlets already allows revealing tendencies in media concentration. More media outlets were and will be added – if they prove to be relevant in terms of their owner or of their influence on public opinion (read more - “How are media outlets selected?”).
7. How are the Media Outlets selected?
TV stations were selected according to their audience reach nationwide, based on Abacus and Telemetrix data. Two research agencies are active in the Albanian media market: Abacus Research and Telemetrix. Parts of the expert community are of the opinion that market research field is divided along the lines of two major media houses: Top Media and Klan Media. In order to be able to compare, MOM purchased data from both research agencies.
Their data on Television viewership differs greatly as they employ different methodologies and household samples. Abacus research has 1080 household all across Albania including rural areas, whereas Telemetrix has around 300 households only in major cities across Albania. Those discrepancies in audience data along with explicit remarks on the unreliability of provided audience datamade by the expert community as well as some of the media owners show the low level of trust in both research agencies. 11 Television outlets were selected based on audience reach and informative content production. A number of news-only media outlets (Report TV, ABC News, Ora News, Top News) were selected in the sample regardless of their audience reach because these are widely used in public spaces such as bars and restaurant across the country. Scan TV was not in the top 10 but it is seen as a relevant source for economic and financial news and widely viewed in offices by decision makers.
The audience data for Radio and Print markets were only available from Abacus research for 1-8, April 2017. 1000 completed interviews through a week-long diary method recording radio listenership and print readership among Albanians 12+ were conducted by Abacus Research. 10 Radio stations were selected based on availability of some news and audience reach. 12 Print outlets were selected which covers all national daily print media with relevant informative content.
There was no data on internet audience in Albania. Alexa’s sample is contested by the expert community and considered as highly unreliable. It also included mostly media outlets operating outside of Albania, in neighboring Albanian speaking countries, such as Kosovo or Macedonia. Similarweb.com, another market research agency, doesn’t have data on the Albanian market. In the absence of audience data, MOM selected the online media outlets based on the following criteria: availability of an editorial team/journalists, continuity, frequency of publication, located in Albania. These criteria were identified because there are myriads of online aggregators which do not have any original content and only republish content from other sources and were seen as irrelevant. Continuity is an important criterion, because over the years dozens of online media appeared and disappeared especially around elections, so MOM focused on online media outlets that have been continuously active over some considerable time. 11 online outlets were selected, most of which are online editions of existing traditional media print or television.
8. Why Albania?
Albania ranks 76 (out of 180 countries) in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters without Borders, which positions nations according to indicators such as media independence, self-censorship, rule of law, transparency, and abuses. The Albanian media finds itself in a stagnation with the media regulator politicized, the hostile environment for the journalists driving them to self-censorship and the aggressive strategies of politicians discrediting the few critical voices. Furthermore, Albania is aspiring to join the European Union which puts it on path to reform and harmonization of its legal system with that of the European acquis.
Lastly, a strong local partner organization, such as Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) Albania, is one of RSF’s most relevant selection criteria as it presents the basis for a successful implementation.
9. Does the MOM only exist for Albania?
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 was implemented in Cambodia & Colombia (2015), Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, Peru & Mongolia (2016), Serbia, Morocco, Ghana, Brazil (2017) and is underway in Mexico. All country projects can be found on the global website.
10. What are the limitations of the study?
- Economic data: Market concentration based on market share could not be calculated for online and radio since financial statements were not always outlet specific or outlets are not always registered, i.e. had general revenues from other businesses.
- Official audience measurement data is not publicly available; it is being sold by research companies, and the data provided is conflicted and contested by some media owners and experts.
- Some investigations, particularly into the diverse local markets as well as into more hidden ownership structures would require more time and resources.
- Public spending / advertising for media is not transparent. It is impossible to identify public funds spent on media, because they are not always clearly labelled as advertising.
11. Who do we target?
The data base
- allows each citizen to get informed on the media system in general;
- creates a fact base for civil society’s advocacy efforts to further promote public consciousness on media ownership and concentration;
serves as a point of reference for consulting competition authorities or governmental bodies when establishing suitable regulatory measures to safeguard media pluralism.
12. What happens next?
The database is a snapshot of the current situation, contextualized by historical facts. It will be updated regularly by BIRN Albania.
13. Are there similar projects?
The Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom (CMPF) at the European University Institute (EUI) conducts the “Media Pluralism Monitor” (MPM). The EU-funded MPM identifies threats to such pluralism based on a broader set of indicators, covering legal, economic and socio-cultural considerations, taking media ownership concentration only as one of six dimensions. It assesses risks for media pluralism in the EU Member States.
Media Pedia is an ownership database developed by investigative journalists in Macedonia that served as inspiration for the Media Ownership Monitor.