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31st May 2020

EU wants to dress up 2009 elections on TV

  • "Without the media we cannot convey Europe to the public," the EU parliament's chief said (Photo: CE)

The European Parliament and public service broadcasters from across the bloc are already preparing for coverage of the 2009 European elections, in an attempt to increase citizens' interest through a real televised election night.

European public broadcasters meeting at a two-day conference in Brussels last week decided to "better prepare" the coverage of the European parliamentary elections in June 2009.

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The national broadcasters said the June 2004 elections lacked an EU touch and seemed more like a series of national elections.

"The problem…is that there [was] nothing to see," – head of BBC Parliament Peter Knowles said about the way the elections were covered on television. "There were real problems last time in terms of presenting this as a European election....People struggled with it."

"There's no counting going on and there are very few politicians with no focus of activity apart from a few journalists standing around in front of cameras," said Mr Knowles, adding that it is "a poor way" of conveying the story of a European-wide election.

The fact that the election took place over four days was problematic in itself, said head of the European Parliament audiovisual service Anne-Margrete Wachtmeister.

"People had voted in the days ahead of election night but still we did not get the exact numbers until the night itself," she told EUobserver, adding that it was hard to interview political figures when nothing was official until the last moment.

The then 25 member states of the EU in 2004 used varying election days according to local custom, but most results were not officially announced until 13 and 14 June to avoid results from one country influencing voters in another where polls were still open.

The 2009 European elections will also be held over several days, from 11 to 13 June, but national broadcasters are planning to make the 13 June election night itself more exciting.

"There are some specific ideas around but the overall theme here is to try to make the European parliament a hub of focus for that election night, which last time around there wasn't really," said Mr Knowles.

"It's partly a fact of dressing the set – making it look differently. There are some concrete proposals to do with having scoreboards, having representatives of party groupings based here in Brussels on election night, so I think that could be a better watch than what it was the last time," he said optimistically.

"This was in a way the beginning of that discussion and there is a working group going on within the parliament. We are just as broadcasters trying to feed into to that saying that really what we got last time wasn't good enough," Mr Knowles explained.

For the 2009 poll, there will be an estimated 378 million registered voters in 27 member states for 785 MEPs posts.

Gunnar Hoidahl - from the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation and head of the European Broadcasting Union's (EBU) news group - pointed out that "the coverage of an election night can only be successful if those who watch it, or consider watching it, feel that it concerns them."

EBU members agreed with Mr Hoidahl who stressed that coverage should kick off well ahead of the actual elections in order to spark an interest for the actual election.

The EBU – a union of 74 public service broadcasters in Europe and which organised the conference - exchanges 40,000 news items per year copyright-free, including audiovisual material from the European Parliament.

European Parliament president Hans-Gert Poettering, for his part, stressed the fact that European news should be an integrated part of main news and not just treated as a specialist subject.

"Without the media we cannot convey Europe to the public," he said.

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