#Stars4Media Lab calls for structured support to media innovation

The #Stars4Media Lab on ‘The Future of Innovation in the European Media Sector’ took place Tuesday, May 25th. The event included high-level interventions, expert insights and practical examples. It underlined the need for structured and permanent funding, rebalancing of the info eco-system and modernising of the media sector in Europe.

In her opening keynote Anna Herold from the European Commission DG CONNECT highlighted “Current times have shown how important reliable information is and how relevant it is that it reaches the audience. Ensuring proper training for media professionals is essential’. She continued, “Inspired, among others, by the Stars4Media community, under Creative Europe we hope to provide the sector with more stable EU funding that might seem a drop in the ocean, yet is crucial to spearhead innovation in the European media”.

EURACTIV Chairman Bart Becks, discussed accessibility to Artificial Intelligence (AI). It affects big media companies as well as start-ups and freelancers. ”We will see a lot of AI-enabled innovation – with data analysis, machine learning and algorithmic design”. Mr Becks continued “In this context, money is time: more money and faster allocation to talents, marketing and growth. Media consolidation between big and small players in both media and journalism gives all an opportunity. One success greets another”. Initiatives like e-Health Valley that connects healthcare and entrepreneurship, are a good example.

Christophe Leclercq, founder of EURACTIV Media Network and Europe’s MediaLab, focused his intervention on the change management required in the media sector “We need to benchmark the different programs and pick the best, then boost them and bring them together. Such programs should engage top media management, not only youngsters”.

Prof. Luciano Morganti from Vrije Universiteit Brussel, also Stars4Media coordinator, stated “Stars4Media answers the media sector’s call for action. By lowering administrative burden and enabling direct co-funding to applicants, it is in a unique position to foster media innovation”. He concluded “Figures from this year’s first Call for Initiatives show it: 330 media professionals, 150 media companies and start-ups, and 82 proposals. Providing continuation to good programmes like #Stars4Media is key”.

For 81% of the programme’s past beneficiaries, this was their first time participating in an EU project. Making the programme permanent would foster media innovation, collaborative journalism and also a quality public sphere.

Mrs Herold announced funding for collaborative journalism partnerships might be open from June, as part of the NEWS initiative announced in December’s Media and Audiovisual Action Plan

Though pilot projects help bridge the current gap, they only partially satisfy the needs of the sector. For them to be effective and impactful, structured and reliable funds should be available as a part of wider NEWS call.

As mentioned in this Op-Ed,  ‘The media sector is essential for democracy. It has lost one-third of its journalists since 2008, and – apart from public broadcasting – more are at risk’. Bundling EU initiatives within the NEWS umbrella is welcome, yet long-lasting impact requires long-term solutions

The Stars4Media Pilot initiatives have demonstrated the value and importance of collaboration-based innovation. There is a real need and interest in the sector that the programme helps to bridge. To avoid losing this momentum, now is the prime time for the EU Institutions to act and transform it into a permanent skill-exchange opportunity for media innovators.