Commission goes audiovisual to communicate Europe

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The European Commission will today (25 April) launch a comprehensive audiovisual media strategy to “increase coverage of EU affairs” and help people engage in a proper debate on EU policies.

Commission Vice-President Margot Wallström will today present an audiovisual action plan, which seeks to aid the media in providing more information to citizens of the EU and beyond (see also citizen’s summary). 

Improving people’s access to and interest in this type of information is a key part of Wallström’s “Plan D for Democracy, Dialogue and Debate“, launched in 2005 to stimulate a “broad public debate on the future of the European Union” and address citizens’ lack of trust in the EU project following the rejection of the European Constitution by France and the Netherlands (EURACTIV 21/09/05). 

Brussels foresees a three-step approach to achieve this goal under the plan. Firstly, it aims to “contribute to greater and more sustainable coverage of EU affairs” by supplying audiovisual media professionals with quality information and material. To that end, the EU information service Europe by Satellite (EbS) will “double” its content-providing capacity, claims the Commission.

A second key approach will be to “encourage media professionals to devote more programmes to EU affairs”. A frequent complaint among Brussels commentators is that the EU news agenda is too “boring” to stimulate widespread public and media attention. The Commission intends to counteract this by “encouraging broadcasters to form and participate in European networks” as well as launching an EU events calendar. This should be particularly relevant in 2009, according to the draft report, when a number of interesting and newsworthy events take place in the EU, notably the “coming into force of the Lisbon Treaty […] and the creation of a president of the EU Council”. 

The Commission will particularly focus on continuing support for the Europe-wide TV channel EuroNews, notably ensuring that the station’s new service in Arabic can begin in July 2008. This should increase the channel’s global reach to some “400 million households,” according to the Commission.

The third and final step will be to promote the EU executive’s communication priorities by increasing its production of high quality edited audiovisual reports and video news. This increased video production should allow the Commission to “better illustrate or explain EU policies”. 

The communication is likely to provoke mixed responses in the European media. Speaking to EURACTIV, Marc Gruber of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) said “there is no problem in offering better information to journalists, but what we do not wish to see is pre-packaged programmes being disseminated by the Commission. “Deciding what is newsworthy is the job of journalists, not of the European institutions,” he added.

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