‘National angle’ continues to dominate EU news reporting


Editors in European capitals are increasingly interested in the EU’s role as a global player but still insist on giving a ‘national angle’ to news reporting in order to give EU affairs a ‘human face’, EURACTIV heard at its annual conference earlier this month.

The results of the EURACTIV Media Survey 2007 were presented at its conference on the role played by national stakeholders in involving citizens in EU policy debates on 8 November. 

Considered Europe’s most important media hub, Brussels boasts the largest press corps in the world, with the Belgian capital home to over a thousand journalists covering EU issues. 

At the conference, media representatives spoke about how they cover EU affairs in their organisations, and revealed the priorities behind the selection of particular stories. 

The survey suggested that as the global importance and the EU’s competence in policy areas such as energy, climate change and the environment continues to grow, so does the necessity for journalists to cover these topics. 

But the EU is a complex matter for journalists to cover as decision-making involves 27 member states with often conflicting views, an EU Parliament composed of 785 MEPS and a myriad of stakeholders which seek to influence policy decisions: businesses, NGOs and citizens’ organisations. 

All this helps to explain why the EU finds it difficult to ‘speak with one voice’ and get its message across to citizens. Recently, Commission Vice-President Margot Wallström tried to address this by launching an initiative to ‘Communicate Europe in Partnership‘. The plan seeks to foster greater cooperation between Brussels-based EU institutions and national governments in communicating EU policies to citizens. 

Marc James of the BBC said: "Editors […] are now interested in the role the EU plays on the world stage […] or isn't playing and should play". 

He said that BBC World "specifically goes out of its way to target the main television bulletins […] with a different way of covering Europe", adding that the BBC is "dedicated to adding a human dimension to EU affairs", presenting the news in an "interesting and lighter way". 

Sergio Cantone of EuroNews described the channel as "pan-European television", and its coverage as a combination of "different important events in different European countries, not necessarily related to the European institutions, and then the European Union". 

He said: "Every journalist gives their personal and national identity to the news they are dealing with", leading to some "differences and nuances" between the language versions. 

Cantone added that EuroNews has been successful because it has "put the spotlight on the link between the national and the European dimension". 

Natalie Todd of Ogilvy, a strategic communications consultancy, said that focusing on energy and the environment presents an opportunity for EU-wide communication as these issues "transcend political divides, go across cultures and have become a mainstream issue" to be communicated "in simple terms". 

However, despite describing the internet as "a tremendous enabler" of communication, she warned that it "presents challenges for engagement with citizens and stakeholders because there is so much information out there". 

In 2006 and 2007, EURACTIV conducted a survey among Brussels-based journalists to determine how they cover EU affairs. The EURACTIV Media Survey 2007 found that: 

  • Journalists see energy (43%), foreign affairs (42%), the environment (39%), climate change (34%) and institutional reform (31%) as their priority policy areas in EU reporting. 
  • 62% of the journalists surveyed believe that their main role is providing analysis and commentary, rather than "raw" information, which comes notably from institutional and online sources. 
  • 57% of journalists said that in order to improve reporting on EU affairs, further training on specific policy knowledge was necessary. 

End 2007: Commission to adopt a new strategy on how it communicates via the Internet.

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