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, 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 Lebanon, RSF worked with the Samir Kassir Foundation (SKF). The project is funded by the Federal German 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, representatives of media institutions, the Ministry of Information and research institutes. All sources are thoroughly documented and archived. Further information is available upon request at SKeyes.
For TV, Radio and Print data, MOM used data from IPSOS (Audience Data TV, Q1 and Q2 2018; Radio, Q1, 2 and 3 2017; Print, average readership for years 2016 and 2017; Online, average number of unique browsers in August, September and October 2018). MOM got this data for free and would like to thank Quantum Communications for its cooperation on this issue. Audience data are available on request from the Samir Kassir Foundation.
For information on media companies, the publicly available media outlet information was retrieved from the Lebanese commercial register, where any company operating in Lebanon has to register. Corporate details on shareholders, owners etc. were requested at the same register. It can be purchased for a fee. MOM would like to thank SAAS law firm for its cooperation on this issue.
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 of and experience in the media and communications fields. Amongst others, the following experts were accompanying the research process (in alphabetical order):
- Dr. Maria Abou Zeid
- Ms. Nidal Ayoub
- Ms. Vanessa Bassil
- Dr. May Chidiac
- Mr. Gabriel Deek
- Mr. Dany Haddad
- Mr. Jean-Pierre Katrib
- Ms. Gisele Khoury
- Dr. Jad Melki
7. 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 at IPSOS (Radio: Q1, Q2 and Q3 2017; TV: Q1 and Q2 2018; Print: 2016 and 2017; Online: August, September, October 2018).
- 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, religion, etc.), social networks, search engines and advertisement were excluded.
- The selection based on these criteria initially consisted of an average of ten media outlets per media type (TV, radio, print, and online). Shedding light on these most relevant media outlets already allows revealing tendencies in media concentration. More media outlets may be added according to their relevance in terms of their owner or their influence on public opinion (read more - “How are media outlets selected?”).
8. How are the media outlets selected?
TV stations were all selected as the Lebanese media market counts 9 local TV stations. Their reach was based on Ipsos data from January to end of August 2018.
Radio stations also selected according to their national reach based on Ipsos data (Q1, Q2 and Q3 2017). They consist of Category A, i.e. political radio stations. At the time of the study, the second wave of audience data for 2018 was not available.
For the newspapers selection, we included all 11 printed daily newspapers in circulation in Lebanon as of August 1, 2018.
For the online market, primarily news websites operating only online (“pure players”) and partisan websites were looked at as they build up public opinion. Social networks (e.g. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter), online stores and advertisement websites were excluded, as they are not relevant when it comes to the editorial content and ownership. When available, MOM used the number of unique visitors to get an estimate of the reach, as well as analyzed their online presence on social media.
The advisory group also contributed to the media selection (see 5. How is data collected and validated).
9. Why Lebanon?
A strong local partner organization such as the Samir Kassir Foundation’s SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom is the basis for a successful implementation and the most relevant selection criteria.
Lebanon ranks 100 (out of 180 countries) in the 2018 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.
It is a country with a long tradition of privately-owned media, especially in the newspaper sector. Its relatively open and competitive political system has allowed for a wide diversity of opinion. However, the relative weak state institutions and limited culture of law enforcement have also meant that several aspects of media regulations, for example the online sector, do not exist. Lebanon is also a country where the proximity between political actors (individual politicians and political parties) and the media sector is very high: several media outlets were created by and still linked to political parties. This trend has started during the 1975-1990 civil war and continued in peace time.
10. Does the MOM only exist for Lebanon ?
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 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. Some print outlets shared them on request, which is indicated in their Media outlet profile.
- Official audience measurement data is not publicly available - it is being sold by research companies.
- Although data for corporate ownership are available at the BRELA, accessing them can be costly and inconvenient.
12. Who do we target?
The database :
- 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.
13. What happens next?
The database is a snapshot of the current situation, contextualized by historical facts. It will be updated regularly by the Samir Kassir Foundation (SKF).
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.
A project that is monitoring the media ownership in Macedonia.
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.