Objective reporting is an important criterion

As a result of mergers, media contents and copyrights are increasingly falling into the hands of a small number of companies. In the view of the analysts, voluntary commitments guaranteeing fair and objective reporting are therefore more important than ever. Among the leaders in this section of the survey were the British news agency Reuters with the top score of A- and the German Bertelsmann Group with a B+. Both companies set great store by topical diversity, accuracy, objectivity and the avoidance of violence. As research among regulatory bodies such as national press councils and NGOs shows, they are not merely paying lip service to these ideals. The German Axel Springer publishing house is a different matter. Its newspapers “Die WeltÃ?? and “Bild-ZeitungÃ?? have in the past frequently made it the focus of the German Press CouncilÃ??s attention. Negative scores in the rating were also given where journalists risked sanctions if they produced critical reports. This was the case with the Australian News Corporation which came bottom in the social rating: Rupert MurdochÃ??s media empire has already collected numerous fines from the courts because critical reports were deliberately barred from publication, most recently about Monsanto, one of its advertising clients. In that particular case, the company, fearing the loss of significant advertising revenue, censored the article and sacked the two editors responsible. Companies competing in Europe were best placed to score points in the area of employee relations, since relatively good conditions of employment apply throughout the EU. The Bertelsmann Group also showed a high level of commitment in this context, encouraging its employees in the US, for instance, to voice constructive criticism and have a greater say in the company. Overall, the investigation of social aspects in the rating produced an ambivalent picture and an acceptable average score of C.

Environmental awareness in short supply

Environmental performance throughout the sector was significantly worse: oekom awarded almost a quarter of the companies a score of D- accompanied by a very poor performance report. These companies, including ProSiebenSat.1, were generally unable either to provide evidence of activities to protect the environment or to identify any appropriate action required. They maintained that they were, after all, primarily producing information and not material goods. This is a statement which was frequently encountered in the industry. And in recent years, many of the companies have increasingly outsourced business processes which are detrimental to the environment. These include paper manufacture, printing processes and the production of films, videos, CDs and DVDs. However, this development cannot fully exonerate the companies concerned from their product responsibility. The media giants should instead bring their influence to bear in a positive way by promoting more environmentally friendly production methods among their suppliers. Bertelsmann and Carlton Communications (UK) lead the way here. It is primarily those companies which are or have been producers themselves which are more sensitive to environmental protection issues, since their awareness of the problems is more highly developed. This also held true for the Axel Springer publishing house, which attained top position in the environmental section for using the latest print technology, avoiding toxic inks and reducing the amount of solvents used in the printing process. The paper which Axel Springer uses for printing is also exemplary, with a high proportion being recycled and oxygen-bleached and with 25 per cent of the wood fiber originating from recognized certified sources. Wood from tropical rainforests is absolutely taboo.

Impressive performance by EMI

In the overall rating, however, Axel Springer attained only third place behind Bertelsmann (Germany) and the industry leader EMI (UK) who achieved a final score of B. In addition to an outstanding environmental management system, EMI has drawn up comprehensive social measures e.g. for avoiding sexual harassment at the workplace. As a music label, the company also attaches great importance to cultural diversity, for example, through the promotion of unknown groups of artists from South America, Africa and the Arab world. While other companies exhibited strengths predominantly either on the environmental or on the social side, the EMI Group was able to pick up points virtually everywhere: a result that points the way forward for the media world of tomorrow.


Participants in the Corporate Responsibility Rating in alphabetical order

Axel Springer Verlag (DE), Bertelsmann (DE), British Sky Broadcasting (UK), Carlton Communications (UK), Clear Channel Communications (US), EMI Group (UK), McGraw-Hill Companies (US), Mediaset (IT), News Corp. (AU), Pearson (UK), ProSiebenSat.1 (DE), Reed Elsevier (UK), Reuters (UK), Telewest Communications (UK), Thomson Corp. (CA), Time Warner (US), Vivendi Universal (FR), VNU (NL), Walt Disney Company (US), Wolters Kluwer (NL)

Companies that did not take part in the Corporate Responsibility Rating

Comcast Corp. (US), Lagardère Group (FR), RTL Group (LU), Singapore Press Holdings (SG), Viacom (US)