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 sectors 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 2019, the project was spun-off to the Global Media Registry (GMR), an independent, non-for profit social enterprise registered under German law.
In each country, GMR cooperates with a local partner organization. In North Macedonia, GMR worked with Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN Macedonia). The project is funded by the European Union.
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 and / or economic interests, even more so if individuals involved hold public office and do not 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 but not least, there are ‘normal’ – i. e. non-media-related reasons for owners to hide, such as tax avoidance.
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 from media companies and research institutes. All sources are thoroughly documented and archived in Library. Further information is available upon request at BIRN.
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).
7. How is "most relevant media" defined?
The media were selected according to several criteria:
MOM focused mostly on media that provide news with a national focus. Media with a specific thematic focus (music, sport), local media as well as news aggregators were not included. The selection based on these criteria initially consisted of around 10 media outlets per media type (TV, radio, print, Online).
8. How are the media outlets selected?
Given the lack of proper audience measured ratings, MOM focused on 10 biggest TV stations, including one public broadcaster, 5 national private channels and satellite and cable channels that rank in the top ten in audience ratings of the Audio-visual’s agency audience survey. The database also covers the four daily newspapers and one weekly as rest of existing print media are neither news nor national. There are also only five national radios that have news broadcasts.
In order to make the selection of online media for the North Macedonia database, three sources were taken into account: data from SimilarWeb, a company specialized in measuring internet traffic, data from Picasa Analytics, a company specializing in data analysis, and Crowd Tangle, a public insight tool from Meta that analyzes public posts on social networks. The 13 online media on the database that were chosen appeared in at least two of the three sources used.
9. Why North Macedonia?
North Macedonia ranked 38 out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index of Reporters Without Borders in 2023. Although journalists no longer work in hostile conditions, media reforms are lagging behind and government advertising funds- formerly a tool to silence and control TV stations- are to return under the guise of public interest campaigns.
The EU progress report published for North Macedonia in November 2023 notes that “Greater transparency is needed regarding media advertising by state institutions and political parties. Reform of the public service broadcaster is required to strengthen its independence, professional standards and financial sustainability. Since December 2018, Parliament has been delaying the appointment of the public service broadcaster’s programming council and media regulator’s council. Working conditions for journalists remain challenging.”
“Online media are not governed by any specific law. There is a shift in the advertising market towards digital, with growing threats from disinformation, breaches of intellectual rights, and a lack of transparency concerning paid political advertising. Certain online media outlets are subject to influence from political figures. Political parties are not obliged to disclose their spending on social media campaigns. There is inadequate oversight regarding the utilisation of personal data for election campaign purposes.”
10. Does the MOM only exist for North Macedonia?
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?
There is no reliable audience data for neither TV, radio, print or online. Nielsen is measuring only five national private stations, while the Agency for Audiovisual services only conducts a survey about most viewed TV and radio stations. Print copy numbers available are only what newspapers choose to publish as their circulation numbers. As for online there are some services and monitoring tools that publish ratings of online sites but those vary and are based on different criteria.
No public information or studies are available on advertising market for North Macedonia.
12. Who do we target?
The data base
- 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. We aim at updating the website, depending on the situation. New country editions are being added frequently.
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.
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.