Media companies can now be more accountable and transparent, thanks to new guidance

Source: Global Reporting Initiative, 7 May 2012

Editorial independence, a journalist’s freedom of expression, and the responsibility a video game creator takes for influencing the mind of a player can now be reported by media companies, thanks to new guidance being launched today (Friday 4 May 2012) at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Press Freedom Day International conference. The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)’s Sustainability Reporting Guidelines for media companies will help increase transparency and accountability in the media.
Freedom of expression is a fundamental element of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, an important sustainability issue. Today’s new guidance – GRI’s Media Sector Supplement – will enable media companies to report their performance. This includes the role of freedom of expression in the company’s values and operations, the effect of financial contributions from governments, and the way the company manages staff in areas where freedom of expression is limited.

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) produces a comprehensive sustainability reporting framework. The GRI Guidelines enable all organizations worldwide, of any size or sector, to report their economic, environmental and social performance. The Media Sector Supplement is a tailored version of the Guidelines, for organizations in the media sector. It enables media companies to be transparent about their activities and performance, and the effect their content has on the audience.

Ernst Ligteringen, Chief Executive of the Global Reporting Initiative, said: “As distributors of news and content, media companies can shape the way the public thinks about issues like climate change or labor conditions. Coverage bias resulting from ownership and advertising has arguably left the public largely unaware of the real consequences of the way we are living on this planet. It’s time for media companies to join the thousands of other organizations that are reporting their sustainability performance and being accountable for their actions.”

Media companies, including television, movie and video game creators, also have a responsibility for the impact and influence their content has on people. This impact and influence is referred to as the ‘brainprint’ of content.

GRI’s new Media Sector Supplement will help media companies disclose their values, management approaches and performance related to content creation and dissemination, helping to determine their impact through the brainprint of content.

Ernst Ligteringen added: “The content of video games and television programs can affect attitudes, behaviors and public opinion. This gives media companies additional responsibilities towards society. It can be very difficult to determine the brainprint of an organization’s content, and today’s new guidance provides a framework for measuring performance in a way that contributes to determining impact.”

Pascale Thumerelle, VP Sustainable Development at Vivendi, a member of the Media Sector Supplement Working Group, explained Vivendi’s view of the guidance: “As soon as 2003, Vivendi innovated in defining its sustainable development policy and establishing three strategic challenges: protecting and empowering youth, promoting cultural diversity, and sharing knowledge. Being a founding member of the GRI Media Sector Supplement working group was a great opportunity to share our vision of a media organization’s responsibility and our experience in reporting on our potential brainprint. The Media Sector Supplement will help us and our peers to improve and harmonize the reporting on our sector key challenges.”

The Supplement was developed according to a multi-stakeholder process, with 23 experts from media companies and stakeholder institutions brought together in a Working Group to develop the guidance. The public provided feedback through two Public Comment Periods before the Supplement was finalized. The development was supported by Fundación Avina, Fundación Nuevo Periodismo Iberoamericano and Universidad Javeriana.