19th May 2022

Brussels moots financing Euronews in Arabic

In a bid to improve ties with the Muslim world, the European Commission is considering granting up to €5 million a year to news channel Euronews to broadcast in Arabic – but it has yet to find the cash.

EU communication commissioner Margot Wallstrom told EUobserver on Monday (29 August) that broadcasting by Euronews in Arabic would be important in "building bridges" to the Muslim world.

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"In the climate we have had this is absolutely the right idea," she said after meeting members of the European Parliament's culture committee.

The commission currently funds Euronews - a TV channel run by a consortium of public broadcasters providing news in seven languages - to the tune of around €5 million a year.

Adding Arabic to the list of languages – which currently includes English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish – would require an additional annual investment of between €3 and €5 million, commission officials said.

"We could increase our financial contribution to Euronews," the commissioner told MEPs, adding "this is rather expensive but it is doable."

Lebanese funding?

But later she cast doubts on the feasibility of the plan asking "where would we get the money from?"

Brussels' budget for communication policy suffered a severe blow in this year's deal on the EU's 2007-2013 financial perspectives, which saw member states slash Ms Wallstrom's budget by around 8 percent compared to current rules.

Ms Wallstrom suggested that "alternatively, necessary resources could come from Arabic channels," explaining that talks on co-operation between Euronews and Lebanese channel LBC had been ongoing until they were interrupted by the recent war in Lebanon.

Euronews has a global reach, distributing to 140 million households in Europe, as well as to almost 16 million households in the Middle East and Africa.

MEPs in the culture committee broadly supported Ms Wallstrom's plan, but questioned the possibilities of financing it.

Spanish conservative MEP Luis Herrero said "You come up with a lot of ideas but ultimately you are short of finances," stressing that communication policy in the EU currently has no legal basis in the EU treaty which makes longer-term budget planning extremely hard.

Mr Herrero's call for a legal basis is strongly supported by Ms Wallstrom, but other commissioners believe a legal move on the issue would pre-judge broader discussions on a future EU treaty.

Meanwhile, German member Ruth Hieronymi, also a conservative, pointed to the fact that Germany does not participate in Euronews, which deprives the channel of major advertising gains.

"Until Germany joins in, I'm afraid Euronews is not going to be sustainable," said Ms Hieronymi.

Tom Wise, a British eurosceptic MEP, rejected the Euronews project altogether, describing it as "mindblowingly dull propaganda of the worst sort."

"It is a political project. Now wonder why viewers turn it off."

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