The EU’s overarching gender equality commitments and measures have rarely addressed women and the media. The media were not mentioned as a priority in the European Commission’s strategic engagement for gender equality 2016-2019 or in the Council of the EU’s pact for equality between women and men 2011-2020. Nevertheless, the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive (2018) marked a significant development in updating the EU legal framework on media, calling on Member States to eliminate discrimination based on sex in audiovisual commercial communications provided by all media service providers under their jurisdiction.
Although the EU has limited competence to tackle the broad variety of gender equality policies within media organisations themselves, the European Parliament has highlighted persistent gender stereotypes in the media and called on the European Commission and Member States to take action. New forms of media also put women at risk of harassment, particularly those in public positions. The increasing prevalence of social media poses a challenge for regulators, as new rules need to be established to deal with the harassment that women suffer on these channels, including possible sanctions against media organisations.