Spanish media groups are still not aware of the risks that affect their credibility and editorial independence today. This is the main conclusion of the report “Front Page: Report on Transparency and Good Governance on the Credibility and Independence of Media Groups“, prepared by the Commitment and Transparency Foundation. Moreover, according to this study, none of the twenty media groups studied met the minimum guidelines to be considered transparent.
The report divides the media groups into listed and unlisted ones on the stock exchange and from there makes a comparison between both types, based on a series of indicators and basic parameters such as ownership, government, financing, creation and dissemination of information of content and regulatory compliance. Although the former show a greater degree of transparency in their respective websites (an element of the study), such a differentiation to unlisted groups does not translate into greater effectiveness in managing risks that can damage credibility and independence. It should not be forgotten either that listed media companies are under constant pressure and and subject to exhaustive control and to a never-ending demand to provide value for their shareholders. Nevertheless, these circumstances and requirements, as the study concludes, do not guarantee the implementation of policies to protect media quality and editorial independence.
On the other hand, the fact that unlisted companies are under no legal obligation publish certain information cannot be used to justify the great obscurity apparent with everything that relates to their practices in supposedly ensuring their independence and editorial credibility.
It becomes paradoxical that one of the sectors that exerts the most influence on the values of society turns out to be so obscure. What is even more alarming, according to the report, is that we are in a very complicated period in which the credibility of institutions, including media companies, is under siege from the growth of a phenomenon commonly referred to as fake news, that although nothing new, is spreading at a relentless pace through digital platforms.
The report of the Commitment and Transparency Foundation contains a set of recommendations to help media companies adopt and make public a series of practices and policies aimed at strengthening their credibility in all aspects of their activities and structures. Among these, they’ve highlighted certain elements such as guidelines related to publishing information about media authorship and ownership, as well as the ties media proprietors may have (political, economic or family, among others) that may influence their independence. Another good practice is the need for the sustainability and CSR reports to include a specific chapter identifying, analyzing and explaining the measures implemented to manage the risks that may affect credibility and independence.
“All media must develop or adopt a code of ethics or editorial statute and make it public so that all stakeholders, such as readers, organized civil society and investors and shareholders, may have access to it”, as stated in the recommendations section of the report.
Finally, there is a section that unveils a Pandora’s box of issues. More specifically, it pertains to the increase of so-called branded content or content sponsored in the media. Although the report admits that it is indeed a very compelling opportunity to generate income, it poses important risks that may affect media credibility. That is why it is essential that the media be transparent in branded content labeling, clarifying to readers the conditions and characteristics of this type of collaboration, especially if these advertising pieces were created by the company itself or by the media company, among other relevant issues.
The presentation of this report, which took place at the Rafael del Pino Foundation, was carried out by its authors Javier Martín Cavanna, founder and director of the Commitment and Transparency Foundation, and Elena Herrero-Beaumont, managing partner of Vinces.
A Decade of Analysis
The Commitment and Transparency Foundation has spent ten years analyzing through its reports and studies public and private institutions that play an important role in the development of society and in the defense of democratic values. In total, each year about 500 institutions are examined, the foundation studying relevant information published on their corporate web pages on issues related to the management of their risks and their commitments to their stakeholders.