Research group at imec & Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Media Economics & Policy

The Media Economics and Policy (MEP) unit focuses on analyzing and ensuring the economic and cultural sustainability of content production, aggregation, and consumption. Our research projects cover both market and policy aspects for a multitude of creative sectors, from publishing and cultural heritage to broadcasting, film, video games, music, and documentary filmmaking. In the past five years, we have focused extensively on streaming services and the process of platformisation for both commercial and public media. Our research investigates how platforms reshape production, distribution, and consumption of audiovisual content, and how streamers impact the sustainability of small media ecosystems. We have extensive expertise in media policy developments at European and national level, focusing on shifting regulation on online services and platforms, media plurality, and ownership. This includes, but is not limited to, the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD), the Digital Services Act (DSA), the Digital Markets Act (DMA), and the Media Freedom Act (MFA).

Researchers in the MEP unit work on fundamental and applied research tracks seeking to advance knowledge on how digitalization, internationalization, and platformisation are impacting the business models of traditional media players, how these media players innovate and interact with new players, and how governments contribute to sustaining or strengthening local media ecosystems.

Methodologically, we combine qualitative and quantitative research methods including impact assessments, scenario-building, financial monitoring, business modelling, document analysis, mapping, quick-scan, case studies, stakeholder consultations, survey and data-scraping. We keep a clear focus on advancing academic insights in the field of media policy and media economics, and we aim to critically contribute to societal and industry debates. We have a strong track record in research on audiovisual markets, with a particular focus on the specificities of small markets, and a longstanding expertise in public service media and European media policy. Over the past two decades, we have been specializing in applied research for media industries and policymakers. Clients include the Flemish Government, the Dutch Government, the Ministère de la Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles, the European Commission, Screen Brussels, VRT, SBS, Google, SACD and the Flemish independent producers’ organization (VOFTP).

Our researchers have published widely in peer-reviewed journals and have (co-)authored several key publications in the field, including The Palgrave Handbook of European Media Policy, The Palgrave Handbook of Methods for Media Policy Research, Platform Power and Policy in transforming television markets, Creative Cluster Development: Governance, Place-making and Entrepreneurship.

Key research areas

Our current research fits within four strands that combine media policy and media economics:

  1. Future-proof audiovisual production and distribution: How are current changes in the media industries re-shaping domestic content production, distribution, and consumption? Research includes fundamental tracks on the shifting position of the theatrical release of film, the impact of streaming platforms on the financial sustainability of small markets, and how new services challenge on-screen and off-screen representation, diversity and inclusion. Projects in this domain include CresCine (2022) a project that aims to increase the international competitiveness of the film industry in small European markets. Applied research tracks include, among others, impact assessments for the VRT, VOFTP and Screen Brussels.
  2. Platforms, algorithms, and recommenders: What does platformisation mean for film, television, music, video game and newspaper industries, with a focus on the interplay between technology, policy, organizations, content, and audiences. The research takes place within the Strategic Research Program of the VUB, a five-year program including 3 PhD and 3 postdoctoral tracks; and European projects including PSM-AP: Public Service Media in the Age of Platforms (2022) which combines policy, organizational, and textual analysis in a three-year transnational comparative research project; and FairMusE (2022), which aims to promote fairness for music creators and stakeholders, leading to a more transparent, competitive and sustainable music ecosystem in Europe.
  3. Creative clusters, collaboration, and media innovation:How can partnerships, ecosystems and clusters strengthen the economic and public value of media industries? Projects include two studies focused on the Brussels-Capital Region for on the audiovisual sector and its internationalization, and support organizations for the Cultural and Creative Industries and their impact; as well as the EU ScreenME project which develops an international network of universities across Europe with the aim of improving the research and teaching of entrepreneurship for the screen media industry.
  4. Challenges in European and international media policy: How are domestic, European, and international media policies (re-)shaping the democratic, cultural and economic role of media? Recent projects include the VRT Chair Media in a Society in Transition and a number of studies for the European Commission, including the Study on Media Plurality and Diversity Online (2022), the Study on the implementation of the new provisions in the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive(2021) and the annual mapping of investment obligations for on-demand players (2018 edition, 2021 edition, 2022 edition).