EPP experiments with interactive web TV channel

25.02.08 @ 09:28

  1. By Leigh Phillips

The centre-right European People's Party (EPP) has launched 'DialogueTV', a sophisticated experiment in online video and interactive web TV. The new channel aims to exploit the increasing popularity of video clips on the internet to outreach to citizens ahead of the 2009 European parliamentary elections.

  • European politicians are experimenting with online video (Photo: EUobserver.com)

A number of European political groupings have played around with multimedia on their websites or uploading content to YouTube, but Dialogue TV is the first stand-alone webTV channel with a dedicated staff and news presenters.

"We are living in an audiovisual era and the EPP wishes to use all technologies available, especially the internet, to get closer to its citizens," said Antonio Lopez-Isturiz, EPP secretary-general.

Where other political online clips can often be of quite low video quality, the service offers a series of high-definition news-style video blurbs introduced by an EPP news presenter exploring a range of topics coming from a centre-right perspective.

Initially the subjects will focus on climate change, immigration, security, demographic change and the digital economy.

EUobserver spoke to the EPP's secretary-general to see what inspired the EPP to get their hands on the latest internet video technologies.

"We have to put an end to all these long, boring documents and long, boring press conferences that we are used to here in Brussels," said Mr Lopez-Isturiz. "We need instead short, clear messages that people can relate to and understand, using the language of the people."

"[Our online video is] not just about young people, it's for everyone, but it is true that they are the generation that needs to be converted to the European ideal," said the centre-right leader. "Earlier generations went through war or can at least remember its effects and so accepted naturally all the building of the European institutions without question."

"The new generations aren't like that. The European ideal needs to be put to them afresh."

One normally thinks of the left or centre-left as being first to embrace new media technologies, so it may come as something of a surprise that the EPP has stolen a march on its rival European parties in this area. However, the EPP is very much impressed by what politicians have done with web video across the political divide in the United States, particularly within the Democratic primaries.

"US political parties can be a real model for the communication work they're doing online. The primaries have shown how to use online video as an example to be followed," said Mr Lopez-Isturiz. "They're a good proving ground for these new techniques."

Barack Obama's internet campaigning and use of video has been credited in many quarters as enabling him to continue to campaign with ease following the dead-heat results of 'Super-Tuesday', where his rival Hillary Clinton has run into difficulties, especially with fundraising.

The EPP are not the only political grouping in the parliament experimenting with internet video.

"Actually, [DialogueTV] sounds great!" said Richard O'Ferrall, the Greens' spokesperson. "But we only have one person who's able to work on our multimedia section on our website. We've got a total of five people working on all our press activities, so we're a bit of a small team for that."

The Greens do however upload video of major events, such as the Bali climate change conference. "There, we had daily video uploads. It wasn't a video-blog as such, but was a visual documentation of the process."

The Liberals in the parliament too are slightly envious of the EPP's new project.

"We can't really afford to do the intense online video stuff that the EPP are doing," said Neil Corlett, spokesperson for ALDE, echoing the comments from the Greens. "They have a lot more money than us."

Nonetheless, Mr Corlett was quite positive about the future of online video for European politics.

"Most of the political groupings in the parliament have been experimenting with these new technologies in order to reach out to a wider audience, not just online video, but audio – such as podcasting – too," he said. "Everyone's sort of been feeling their way forward because no one knows exactly how web TV is going to take off."

The liberals, meanwhile, has been experimenting with YouTube, the online video portal. "We do however use YouTube a lot, simply because it's watched a lot," said Mr Corlett. "People do searches for topics on YouTube and come across things from us that they otherwise would never have found unless they knew to directly come to the ALDE website."

"People stumble across a video on a particular issue, whether it's Tibet or Iran or the Beijing Olympics and there's probably a video by some MEP, which is a great entry point for politics."

He also explained bluntly why online video was necessary for European politicians: "Let's be honest with ourselves, most people won't out of choice directly visit a political party's website, will they?"