Measuring media concentration for the purposes of ensuring pluralism and diversity
Sociology City University London London, United Kingdom
Growing media concentration is being driven by technological convergence, the escalation in the costs of acquiring attractive contents and regulatory relaxation. Alongside being market reality, media concentration is a public concern because high levels of concentration can undermine social and cultural ideals such as political pluralism, cultural diversity, integrity and editorial freedom. There has been a great amount of literature about concentration, ownership and pluralism and this provides a strong academic reference basis in order to analyze the complex questions related to media concentration. Yet surprisingly, there is little real research, academic review or agreed measurements on concentration (and diversity) and there are no universal measuring methodologies. To be sure, there are several US-originated market concentration indexes which are mainly adapted to a quantitative description of the intensity of market power and are therefore indicators of the intensity of competition on a given market (for example, Herfindahl-Hirschman concentration index; diversity index; the Lorenz Curve). In Europe any measurement is applied on a case-by-case basis by the regulator or government and the analysis is based on ownership in one industry or cross-industry companies.
But the above are classic economic measures of market power and arguably fail to capture the influence exerted in the market-place for ideas and opinions. The tension between the pursuance of economic and cultural values is reflected in the current debates as to how to measure concentration in media markets and test media pluralism. The phasing out of sector-specific rules, which were largely based on normative ideals, has been accompanied by the development of new mechanisms of measuring economic and cultural power: the formal public interest or plurality test in the UK; the three-step approach of weighting the influence of various media by the German authorities; and a system to define the total integrated media and communications market in Italy. This research explains the reasons for this shift to an integrated new schema in assessing market power and pluralism, evaluate their effectiveness for meeting economic and social objectives, and assess whether ownership patterns remain critical for the elucidation of the nature and extent of market power.