Media pluralism


This knowledge package focuses on media pluralism. Broadly speaking, media pluralism implies that a diverse range of voices, viewpoints and information sources are heard and reflected in public debate. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) considers it a “fundamental truism” that “there can be no democracy without pluralism” (Manole and Others v. Moldova, para. 95). Media pluralism is thus considered a crucial corollary to the right to freedom of expression. Within the legal framework of the EU, media pluralism received a separate and specific entry in the Charter of Fundamental Rights in Article 11(2), while media-relevant secondary legislation, such as the Audiovisual Media Services Directive, cite media pluralism as an underlying legislative aim. 

Although media pluralism enjoys a central place in European media law and policy, it lacks a clear and agreed-upon definition. In general terms, it is possible to distinguish between three dimensions of media pluralism: (1) media pluralism as diversity of information sources across a range of media (this is also referred to as external pluralism), (2) media pluralism as diversity of content within a given media entity (this is also referred to as internal pluralism), (3) and media pluralism as diversity of exposure. These three dimensions are inter-connected: the traditional assumption is that diversity of information sources will lead to diversity of content, which in turn will facilitate diversity of exposure. This knowledge package reflects on, and unpacks in more detail, these dimensions of media pluralism.  

Intended learning outcomes 

After studying the materials in this knowledge package, you will be able to: 

  • Recognise the multi-dimensional nature of media pluralism and explain why it is a central public policy goal in democratic societies 
  • Explain why various social groups, including minorities, need to be appropriately represented and reflected in the media  
  • Explain why exposure diversity is a dimension of media pluralism that is of growing importance in the online media ecosystem 
  • Analyse the effects of the digital transformation, particularly the dominance and operation of online platforms, on media pluralism 
  • Analyse how economic and political pressures on the media, specifically media capture, can adversely affect media pluralism 
  • Synthesise and evaluate European regulatory and policy approaches to media pluralism in the light of evolving digital, economic and socio-political challenges  


This knowledge package is organised around three main outputs (a blogpost, a video and an infographic), each with its own thematic focus, examining different aspects of, and challenges to, media pluralism. These outputs are complemented by a reading list and a workbook.  

The blogpost takes the digital transformation as its starting point and examines the implications of this for media pluralism. In the information-saturated, platform-dominated digital media ecosystem, the availability of a vast range of information (and information sources) is no longer a concern. However, digital transformations and algorithmic ordering of information raise new threats to the types and diversity of information that are actually encountered by the public, and the long-term sustainability of quality, diverse news. By unravelling these challenges and corresponding legal and policy initiatives, the blogpost considers, in particular, concerns relating to the diversity of exposure, and also reflects on the impacts of digital transformations on internal and external pluralism.  

The video takes a closer look at another growing challenge to media pluralism: media capture. Media capture involves a powerful government-business elite taking effective control over media outlets through a series of premeditated steps, so that these outlets serve their interests instead of the public interest. The video examines how media capture works in practice and the various layers of adverse effects on media pluralism, particularly on its internal and external dimensions. This focus allows us to analyse a range of media pluralism-related issues, including ownership concentration, the independence of public service media, the role of media regulatory authorities, and media financing.  

The infographic addresses a specific issue relating to media pluralism: the social inclusiveness of the media. Social inclusiveness denotes the extent to which the media reflect the socio-demographic diversity of society, ensuring access to, and fair representation of, various social groups in the media. The infographic provides a brief overview of why social inclusiveness of the media matters; the state of play in Europe; and the relevant legal and policy framework.  

These outputs complement one another in order to provide a broad perspective on what media pluralism is, the different ways it is challenged as a policy goal in Europe, and how legal and policy initiatives respond to those challenges. After studying these materials, you can find in the workbook various questions to help you check whether you have understood the key concepts, principles and theories set out in this knowledge package. You can use the exercises to engage more actively with the subject matter. 

In the reading list you will find a selection of case law, books, articles and other resources that may