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?
Since 2015, MOM has been incubated by Reporter ohne Grenzen e. V. – the German section of the international human rights organization Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF), which aims to defend freedom of the press and the right to inform and be informed anywhere in the world.
In 2019, the project was spun-off to the Global Media Registry (GMR), an independent, non-for profit social enterprise registered under German law.
In each country, MOM is implemented in cooperation with a local partner organization. In Egypt, RSF worked with local partners whose identity – for the first time in the history of MOM –won’t be disclosed for security reasons. The project was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economic Development and Cooperation (BMZ).
3. Where can I download this report?
The website affords a PDF download containing all website content. The PDF is automatically generated and thus updated on a daily base. It exists for all website languages. In order to generate the PDF, scroll down to the website footer, choose your preferred language and “Download complete website as PDF”.
4. 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.
5. What kind of concentration regulation 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.
6. How is data collected and validated?
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 Egypt, for TV and Radio data, MOM used the results of 2017 study conducted by Ipsos – a global market research firm headquartered in France – whose offices were closed in Cairo in the same year. The dataset was provided by a trusted expert who has access to the study along with a report published by Al Mal news website.
As there is no official data for the Egyptian print market, the MOM team applied insights from independent experts, referred to an article from the website Masrawy about the circulation of dailies in Egypt (April 2017) as well as the Media Use in the Middle East study (2015) from the Northwestern University of Qatar.
Due to the lack of online market data, the research team proceeded according to the methodology, and also used social networks distribution numbers as well as the Media Use in the Middle East study (2015) from the Northwestern University of Qatar as a reference.
For information on media companies, MOM team resorted to the data provided by their official websites. Corporate details on shareholders, owners etc. were requested through official letters and emails to media outlets and corporate entities possessing them.
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. For security reasons, also their names cannot be released here.
7. How is “the 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 lpsos, by online social network distribution and by the Middle East study (2015) from the Northwestern University of Qatar.
- 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, online. 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 proof to be relevant in terms of their owner or of their influence on public opinion (read more - “How are media outlets selected?”).
8. How are the media outlets selected?
TV stations were selected according to their audience reach nationwide, based on Ipsos data (2017). Ipsos is a global market research firm headquartered in France. According to its website, it is present in 14 countries in MENA. Before being forced to close its office in Egypt, it conducted audience research on Egyptian television networks and provided the results to advertisers.
Radio stations were also selected based on Ipsos data (2017). Only radio stations that had a significant radio listenership nationwide were included. MOM conducted interview with an expert on the matter to get the data about radio stations’ ownership.
Ipsos data for both TV and Radio sectors were accessed thanks to the MOM group of experts. For commercial reasons, they are not shared here.
For Print, the outlets were selected based on the circulation numbers published by the Masrawy website (2017). Newspapers exclusively reporting on sports or entertainment (e.g. Al Ahly magazine and Ain newspaper) were excluded.
For the Online sector, the websites were selected according to their audience reach based on their Alexa ranking, the Middle East study (2015) from the Northwestern University of Qatar and their social network distribution and reach (September, October and November 2018). Primarily news websites and fora were looked at as they build up public opinion. Social networks (e.g. facebook, Instagram), online stores and advertisement websites (e.g. Souq.com and Jumia) were excluded, as they are not relevant when it comes to the editorial content and ownership.
9. Why Egypt ?
A strong local partner organization is the basis for a successful implementation and the most relevant selection criteria. For security reason, RSF’s local partner in Egypt cannot be disclosed here.
Egypt ranks 161 (out of 180 countries) in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders (rsf.org/en/egypt), which positions nations according to indicators such as media independence, self-censorship, rule of law, transparency, and abuses.
Early 2018, the new strongman, Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, engineered a second term as president. Since 2013, the authorities have waged a witch-hunt against journalists suspected of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, operating a “Sisification” of the media. Some journalists remain in pre-trial detention, and in some cases pre-trial detention exceeds its maximum limit - two years according to Egyptian laws - without being brought to trial. Moreover, an increasingly draconian legislative arsenal poses an additional threat to media freedom. The Internet is the only place left where independently reported news and information can circulate, but more than 400 websites have been blocked since the summer of 2017 and more and more people are being arrested because of their social network posts. Seven years after the January 2011 revolution, the level of media freedom is abysmal and Egypt is now one of the world’s biggest prisons for journalists. All this makes media ownership a crucial topic to look at in Egypt.
10. Does the MOM only exist for Egypt?
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.
11. What are the main limitations of the study?
- No economic data: Market concentration based on market share could not be calculated since complete and credible numbers were not available publicly.
- Official audience measurement data is not publicly available nor sold by research companies.
- Data for corporate ownership are not available.
12.Who do we target?
- 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.
Note: all websites of RSF Germany, RSF International and also the MOM project sites have been blocked by Egyptian authorities. Insofar we explore alternative means to have the content of this work reach the general public.
13. What happens next?
The database is a snapshot of the current situation, contextualized by historical facts. It will be updated regularly.
14. 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.
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.