Media Ownership in Europe is Not Sufficiently Transparent - 24 August 2015 - Gülsün Bilgehan, Ayşe Gülsün Bilgehan, CHP Ankara Milletvekili

Media Ownership in Europe is Not Sufficiently Transparent - 24 August 2015

In a report prepared by MP Gülsün Bilgehan, the ownership structure of the media, which is often debated in Turkey, is taken up. The report calls on European parliaments and judiciary to take action:

National parliaments: Should review all legislation concerning the media and should ensure a transparent media structure.

National judiciaries: Should be more aware of the connection between a functional democracy, freedom of expression and transparent and pluralistic media.

“The media should be transparent, pluralistic and diverse.”

The international media report prepared by Turkish parliamentarian Gülsün Bilgehan was unanimously accepted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).

Gülsün Bilgehan, MP for Ankara (CHP - Republican People’s Party) and President of the PACE Commission on Equality and the Prevention of Discrimination has been working for two years for the said report, holding and participating in many meetings at the national and international level. The final draft of the report had been adopted unanimously by the Council’s Sub-Committee on media and Information Society. The report has now been accepted unanimously at the General Board Meeting of PACE.

The report contains important findings regarding the ownership structure of the media, an issue that is often discussed in Turkey. The main points in Gülsün Bilgehan’s report are as follows:

THE MEDIA IS NOT SUFFICIENTLY TRANSPARENT 

* Transparency in media ownership is prerequisite of properly functioning democracy. Freedom of expression, which is a sine qua non condition of democracy is necessary but not sufficient for pluralistic media; media ownership also needs to be diverse.  

* Political organisations, NGOs, journalism organisations, regulatory bodies and academics has been calling for greater transparency in media ownership in recent years.

* Despite this, media ownership in Europe is not sufficiently transparent. In many European countries, citizens are unable to obtain information regarding who controls the media.

SECRET OR INDIRECT OWNERSHIP   

* The reason for this is inadequate sanctions or secret and indirect ownership realised through opaque legal structures. This is often linked to economic, religious or political interests.

THE MEDIA SHOULD NOT BE CONTROLLED BY A SINGLE INDIVIDUAL OR GROUP  

*Effective measures to be taken by states for transparency of media ownership will prevent a single individual or group from establishing control over the media.

EDITORIAL DECISIONS MAY BE PRESSURISED  

* Editorial decisions within the media may come under political and economic pressure.

PARLIAMENTS ARE IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT

*International and national parliaments should review all legislation regarding the media and ensure a transparent media structure. A culture of transparency may only be established with all sides taking responsibility, but national parliaments are in the driver’s seat.

THE JUDICIARY SHOULD BE AWARE

*Judicial bodies at every level should be aware of the connection between a functioning democracy; freedom of expression and pluralistic media.  

HOW TO ACHIEVE MEDIA TRANSPARENCY? 

According to Gülsün Bilgehan’s report there does not exist a standard for ensuring media ownership transparency in Europe. The report emphasises the necessity of taking joint steps in this direction.

Transparency should cover all written, video-audio and online media companies whether they be domestic and foreign, excluding content in the media prepared by individuals.

According to the report, to ensure media transparency, it is not enough for the name of the owner of the media organisation to be publicly know. Accordingly, the identity of shareholders, whether there has been a stock transfer to prevent secret ownerships, connections with other firms in the media and other sectors and the interests of owners and their families need to be made known. Furthermore, individuals and groups who may have an impact on editorial decisions ought to be publicly known. These usually come from two groups: critical level employees in the media firm or from financial relations.

Gülsün Bilgehan advises the simultaneous use of two different methods to ensure transparency. The first is the declaration of this information directly to the public and the second is for an independent public organisation to sift through the technical information and to present it to the public in an understandable form. (The Diplomatic Observer, August 2015)

About Gülsün Bilgehan

Born in Ankara on 25th of February 1957, Gülsün Bilgehan is the granddaughter of İsmet İnönü, the 2nd President of Turkey who was among the founders of the Republic.

A graduate of Department of International Relations of Paris Institute of Political Studies, she was elected as the Member of Parliament for Ankara from Republican People’s Party, in 2002.

Meanwhile, she served in Council of Europe of which Turkey is a founding member and as the Chairperson of Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).

She received “Woman Writer of the Year Award” by United Women's Organizations of İstanbul and “Abdi İpekçi Award” for the two volume books titled “Mevhibe” depicting Turkish War of Independence and the establishment of Turkish Republic from the point of view of her grandmother Mevhibe İnönü.

She was awarded the “Pro Merito” medal of PACE and “Legion D’Honneur” of  France.

She was reelected as the Member of Parliament for Ankara from Republican People’s Party in 2011 and assigned the Chairperson of Socialist Women Working Group at PACE.

In January 2015, she was reelected as the Chairperson of Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination and held the title for one more term.  She was assigned the Chairperson of Sub-Committee on Media and Information Society of PACE in March 2016 and re-elected for a second term in January 2017. 

She remains the member of Turkish Delegation of PACE.

On 7th of June and 1st of November 2015 general elections, Bilgehan was reelected as the Member of Parliament for Ankara from Republican People’s Party. She was nominated the candidate for the Speaker of Turkish Grand National Assembly by unanimously of the members of parliament of Republican People’s Party.  

Married with three children, Bilgehan speaks advanced level of French and English.