EU wants TV to depict entrepreneurs


Television could improve public opinion of entrepreneurship, but a range of formats will have to be used to tell stories about risk-taking and starting your own company, according to a panel of businesspeople and media experts speaking at the first European Entrepreneurship Video Awards.

A spokesperson for the European Commission told EURACTIV the aim of the awards – which were handed out at the launch of Europe’s first SME Week – was to encourage TV companies and movie studios to show the positive side of entrepreneurship. 

“The media play an important role as a catalyst for entrepreneurialism,” the spokesperson said, adding that there is no designated budget for promoting media coverage of entrepreneurs. 

Total prize money of €18,000 was available for the inaugural awards, but there are currently no firm plans to repeat the exercise next year. 

Nine prizes were awarded to filmmakers in three categories: Innovative Entrepreneurship, Responsible Entrepreneurship, and The Entrepreneurial Spirit. 

See link to videos below for more information. 

The event in Brussels also featured a panel discussion entitled 'Entrepreneurship on TV', which debated the role of media in shaping social attitudes to entrepreneurs. 

Leona Achtenhagen  of Jönköping International Business School in Sweden said a range of television formats – from documentary to fictional drama – can be used to tell stories about entrepreneurship. 

"We need to show a variety of entrepreneurs on screen. Research shows that young people react badly to television formats that are seen as educational or pushing information. So you have to look at other formats for telling that story," she said. 

Katharina Uppenbrink of the German Screenwriters Guild said fiction can be an effective medium for communicating about entrepreneurs, but added that movies and television drama would still have to conform to the usual style of the media.

"There will always be stereotypes – good guys and bad guys. If you want to tell a story about entrepreneurship, you need a mix of drama, love and hate." 

She said American series featuring criminal pathologists had sparked great interest in forensic science, and well-told stories featuring entrepreneurs could potentially do the same thing for business start-ups. 

Roman Mlodkowski of TVN Poland said television can help give the public a valuable glimpse of life as a business owner, which might inspire them to become their own boss. "Entrepreneurs need a passion for risk but may also need experience," Mlodkowski said. 

"TV shows help give some insight into life as an entrepreneur. But programmes on entrepreneurship need to be relevant and give viewers information they would otherwise not be able to access," he said. 

Mlodkowski added that scriptwriters often had a limited view of how business was done. 

Manuel Lozano  of Lua Multimedia in Spain said television does not always portray an accurate image of entrepreneurs. 

"The perception of SMEs is often bad. TV can help show entrepreneurs as hard-working and dynamic individuals. A movie about the founders of Google would be interesting to a large range of people," he said. 

Alain Coumont  of Le Pain Quotidien, Belgium, warned against going into business for the wrong reasons. He said there is a misconception that financial gain is the primary incentive for entrepreneurs, but this was not what motivated him to start his own business. 

"I didn't care about money. I was inspired by the work of another chef and I wanted to make bread. I still view it as a hobby," Coumont said. 

European Commission SME Envoy Françoise Le Bail said perceptions of entrepreneurialism are important, stressing the importance of SME Week in shaping public attitudes. 

"There has been huge enthusiasm for SME Week, with over 1,000 events across Europe. The concept of an SME Week predated the crisis, but when we get out of the crisis, employment growth will be driven by SMEs," she said. 

The public's perception of entrepreneurs is believed to be influenced by media portrayals of businesspeople and risk-takers. Entrepreneurs are often represented in movies, fictional television shows, documentaries and news bulletins. 

There is some concern that company owners and businesspeople are often presented in a bad light or that an unrealistic impression is painted of the life of an entrepreneur. 

To mark the opening of the first European SME Week, the European Commission organised a debate on 'Entrepreneurship on TV' and sponsored the first European Entrepreneurship Video Awards to recognise young movie makers who produce short films on the subject of entrepreneurship.

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