Category Archives: EU

Mapping Community Media in Europe

CCMC has quite a few claims to fame, but if we are not mistaken the idea of mapping the Community Media landscape in Europe for the first time was born in Nicosia during the first annual CMFE Conference last November. The project aimed to create a complete picture of the European Community Media sphere so as to inform policy decisions for institutions such as the European Union and the Council of Europe.

A survey was created by the Community Media Forum Europe (CMFE) with the help of the European Platform of Regulatory Authorities (EPRA) and its members as well as some national federations, targeting 49 countries, with data now available for 39 of them.

According to the data collected by CMFE, “in January 2012 there were 2237 community radio stations and 521 community television stations in Europe. Most stations are located in EU member countries especially in France, Netherlands, Italy, United Kingdom, Denmark, Spain, Germany and Sweden. Only 122 radio and 9 television stations are located in countries outside the EU … In 17 countries (including four non-EU countries) the community media sector is regulated in the media law and as such this third media sector is recognized. In some European countries the community media sector is supported by government funding. Austria, Denmark, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands have substantial funding systems for both community radio and television. Belgium, Italy, Norway and Switzerland to a lesser extent. In France community radio is financed up to 40% by government funding.”

The next task for CMFE will be to rate each European country in order to enhance the development of community radio and community television in Europe, and we look forward to working with them on creating a more enabling environment for Community Media in Cyprus.

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Five Years in the Making: NGO Law Reform in Cyprus

This article was first published on page 16-17 of The Cyprus Weekly (3 August).

Yiouli Taki cuts a frustrated figure. As the coordinator for the NGO Initiative, an informal group of civil society representatives working towards reform of the legal framework for non-governmental organisations (NGOs), she has spent countless working hours organising meetings and drafting letters with the aim of achieving greater legal recognition of the sector. “This is as much about the process of reform as it is about the legislation”, says Taki, who doubles up as lead researcher at INDEX Research and Dialogue, a non-profit organisation working on issues of social policy. “Five years since this process started we do not know where we stand, and we are frustrated”, she adds.

Back in November 2007 things were on the up. Civil society, a novel concept for a country which just three years previous had joined the European Union (EU) had been limited to – and dominated by – institutions such as trade unions, the Church and political parties. The concepts of volunteerism and philanthropy covered the range of activities promoted by these institutions as a way of giving back to society. Cyprus’ accession to the EU created new opportunities and incentives for participation of a new form of civil society which had been developing in Cyprus since the late 1990s that was neither politically motivated nor philanthropic in its outlook on issues of societal concern. Increasingly active at the European level through networking and partnerships, Cypriot NGOs have started becoming more assertive in their demands for participation in decision-making processes.

In parallel, institutions of the state, the Planning Bureau in particular, started to see NGOs as potential implementing partners for policy both at home in abroad. European practice in the field of development cooperation – the delivery of financial support for countries in the developing ‘Global South’ – suggested that national agencies implement their policies in collaboration with local NGOs. CyprusAid, Cyprus’ development agency, has been implementing policy through ‘delegating’ funds through other EU member states such as Denmark and Ireland as well as through United Nations (UN) organisations like the World Food Programme. For collaboration to take place with local NGOs it was necessary for them to, amongst others, fulfil certain principles of financial transparency and accountability. Reform of the legal framework thus became a ‘wish’ for the Planning Bureau. “Not so much a wish, but also a need”, Taki responds.

On the initiative of the Planning Bureau funding was secured from the United Nations Development Programme in Cyprus (UNDP-ACT) and a reform process was launched. In April 2008 a report assessing Cyprus’ legal and regulatory framework was published by the European Centre for Not-for-Profit Law. The report, available online, included a series of recommendations for the relevant Ministries of the Interior and Finance calling especially for the adoption of legislation which would set out a “Public Benefit Status” category for NGOs. The NGO Working Group – formed in June 2008 and later renamed the NGO Initiative – was an effort on behalf of civil society to participate effectively in the public consultation process expected to be launched by the respective Ministries. “We had requested in our correspondence from the very beginning that our positions are taken into consideration in a future bill, and that we would like for there to be a consultation in line with standards set by the Council of Europe”, said Taki.

And there are serious shortcomings in the existing legislation. “The obstacles to registering an NGO under the Law on Associations and Foundations must be removed for the civil society sector to grow and become more professional”, says Nadia Karayianni, who represents the NGO Support Centre in the NGO Initiative. “Just recently we had the case of ACCEPT [an organisation working on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights], for which official registration effectively depended on permission from the Church because the law asks for the opinion of so-called relevant stakeholders. I think this case illustrates clearly the problems associated with this approach.”

Exogenous factors have also made it harder for NGOs to operate effectively. At present there are disparate provisions for state funding for NGOs, with limited operational support available. There are also severe limitations on the activities that are deemed as ‘profit-making’ for NGOs, which makes financial sustainability a key concern. So when the government imposed a 350 Euro tax levy on registered companies, including not-for-profits in response to the financial crisis, those managing and working for not-for-profits have had to dig into their pockets to keep their organisations afloat. The likelihood is that this fee would have been avoided had new legislation been in place sooner. Taki insists that the problem is one of definition. “When you start structuring a bill you have to put some basic concepts down on paper, and this is where the state creates definitions that are conflicting with those given by the sector itself”, says Taki. “Instead of entering into a real dialogue they are trying to update the legislative framework based on outdated concepts of what constitutes public benefit activity.”

Things could be set to move before the end of the year. According to information obtained by the Cyprus Community Media Centre (CCMC) the Ministry of Finance’s work on all aspects of the legislation reform, including feedback received on relevant aspects handled by the Inland Revenue Department, was concluded in May this year. The new legislation package will be sent to the Law Office of the Republic of Cyprus for legal check once the summer period is over.

However for the process to be successful the Ministry of the Interior must expedite its own procedures as well. The submission of the two draft bills for Parliament approval at the same time will make it easier for lawmakers to see the correlation between them. “We are not aware of what is happening at the Ministry”, Taki insists. “We have had unanswered correspondence since November 2010! However, we acknowledge that a number of position changes took place in the last few months, and, having sent a new package to the Minister on 22 June of all this correspondence, we are hopeful that a constructive dialogue will start with Ms Eleni Mavrou very soon.”

From outside looking in, there is no reason why the appropriate legislative reforms cannot take place before the end of 2012. Inter-ministerial communication will be key for the bills to reach Parliament, and this is where the Planning Bureau could play its final role in the process. As the holder of the Presidency of the Council of the EU, a positive conclusion by December 2012 would be further indication of Cyprus’ European transition.

#cy2012eublogs – Join the Virtual Hangout with European bloggers at CCMC!

We did say it would happen. So here’s the plan:

With the awesome experience of Buffer Zone Bloggers in mind, CCMC is organising a live-link up with the Council of the European Union to connect Cyprus-based bloggers and online activists with European counterparts participating in an event under the auspices of the Cyprus Presidency of the EU (see previous blog post).

On Thursday 26 July, from 11am to 1pm, the CCMC Community Space will be open for online activists to ‘hang out’ with the bloggers in Brussels through four ‘Google Hangouts’ (http://www.google.com/+/learnmore/hangouts/).

The four discussions will be structured around the thematic priorities of the Presidency:

– Europe, more efficient and sustainable;
– Europe, with a better performing and growth economy;
– Europe, more relevant to its citizens, with solidarity and social cohesion;
– Europe in the world, closer to its neighbours.

In addition to the Hangouts, bloggers and tweeters are encouraged to use the hashtag – #cy2012eublogs – to propose and comment on the issues under discussion. Please reference @CCMCCyprus if you do connect to the meeting so we can track the contributions coming from the Buffer Zone.

For more info on the event go to http://www.consilium.europa.eu/cy2012eublogs.

Look forward to seeing you there!

#cy2012eublogs bloggers connect!

The Cyprus Presidency has come good on its word – namely to organise an event that will connect European bloggers with their Cypriot counterparts. The efforts of @BlogCyEu and @MyriaAntoniadou have paid off!

Branded under the Twitter hashtag #cy2012eublogs, the meeting will take place on 26 July in the Justus Lipsius building (Press Bar) at the seat of the Council of the EU in Brussels, from 09:30 to 14:00. Registration for the event is now open.

And CCMC will be there, for the simple reason that there is no other organisation in Cyprus that has been more active in promoting the use of social media for citizen participation in decision-making, and because it is the only inter-communal entity in Cyprus that supports activities relating to media which promote reconciliation in Cyprus. Our highly successful Buffer Zone Bloggers event last year was a great success in creating a space for bloggers from across the island to exchange ideas and best practices.

The politics of the division in Cyprus continue to hinder communication between the island’s two main communities, and discussion about the six-month Presidency has focused on the official rhetoric and posturing. Social media, and new media more generally, offer an alternative space for information and opinion exchange, a solution to the problem of effective communication that the mass media have tended to stifle over the years. This event represents an open forum for all Cypriots to have their voices heard at the European level, and offers a basis for constructive dialogue.

CCMC will be hosting a livestream of the event at its premises at the same time, in order to support the interactivity of the event, and open the floor to participants from Cyprus who will not have the chance to participate in Brussels.

The discussion will be structured around the four thematic priorities of the Presidency, but CCMC encourages bloggers and social media users to contribute their own ideas with the aim of broadening the discussion. The priorities, as set by the Cyprus Presidency, are:

Europe, more efficient and sustainable;
Europe, with a better performing and growth economy;
Europe, more relevant to its citizens, with solidarity and social cohesion;
Europe in the world, closer to its neighbours.

CCMC will be sending out more details on the livestream over the coming days, so stay tuned to our social media outlets for more information!

New Media Forum, Wednesday 27 June, European Parliament

We wish we could be there.

On Wednesday 27 June the New Media Forum will be held in the Plenary Chamber of the European Parliament in Brussels. The event website is clear that this will definitely not be “yet another conference on the media”. It aims to offer “a unique forum to discuss opportunities and risks for media pluralism resulting from new media”, and share recent developments in the field, pulling together different strands of discussions that are currently taking place at EU level.

Just some of the questions to be addressed are the following:

– Does the new media contribute to, or undermine, a pluralistic public sphere?
– Do new technologies overcome bottlenecks related to traditional media or do they create new information gatekeepers?
– Should existing media ownership regulations for traditional media be relaxed, or extended to new media?
– How have industries, such as music, books and film, faced the challenges presented by the new media?
– Is there a need for diversity obligations on online on-demand media and can they be imposed?
– Should the EU take an initiative in ownership regulation in this era of globalization?
– How do we assess the role of publicly funded media, specifically public service broadcasters (PSBs), but also, where relevant, subsidised press and online operations?

Community Media will be represented in these discussions, in the form of Pieter de Wit, President of the Community Media Forum Europe (CMFE) and Francesco Diasio, Regional Coordinator of AMARC Europe. We will be looking forward to their feedback as well as the Forum’s final report, and hopefully to contribute to follow-up discussions.

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