22nd Oct 2018


Pan-European Radio: There's a good idea!

After the signing of the Lisbon Treaty, the rest of today's European Council in Lisbon, is likely to prove a damp squib. In fact there is not much on the thin agenda. Leaders are however due to set up the Reflection Group' of wise men, which France's President Sarkozy hoped originally would advise on Europe's future boundaries and its competences.

In fact both boundaries and competences now appear to have been vetoed leaving the putative wise men without much to be wise about and Europe's future as much in the wind as ever.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • "Until we have more than an itzy-bitzy European press we cannot expect more than itzy-bitzy European government" (Photo: EUobserver)

There will be a declaration on globalisation and some hand-wringing over Kosovo but otherwise the winter summit will not have much to look back upon, save for the carbon-costly Lisbon Treaty signing. Even this is more symbolism than substance, the battle over the text being long past and the battle over ratification having not yet commenced. No one will remember, or even care, where it was signed.

The Council may also consider the Commission's proposals for a pan-European radio service, the contract for which is now being let to a consortium of European broadcasters. This will broadcast European news, analysis, education and entertainment, in a variety of languages, commencing next June.

This initiative is a small though useful contribution to filling the 'European Media Space' - the lacuna that results from journalism and entertainment being traditionally conducted along national rather than Continental lines. Anything that might be called 'European Journalism' - that is journalism about subjects with a pan-European focus and directed at a transnational audience - is at best limited.

True, we have EuroNews, the television channel whose Commission grant is being increased to 10 million euros next year and EuroSport. There are a few pan-European journals mostly, like EUobserver, web-based. For a Continent of some half a billion souls, with pretensions towards a union of peoples, this isn't much.

No European journal of record

There is still, for instance no European journal of record. No paper, in whatever format, that sets out to be a point of departure for historians in centuries to come; which records, day by day or week by week, in one place, European governance, politics, events, and developments in sport and popular culture across the Continent. Something that tells us not only what was happening at the European level but who the players were and to what the controversies amounted.

Of course, there are problems of language and geography, but the lack of a popular European journal of record is surprising, given the increasing importance of Europe both in the lives of European citizens and in the lives of the neighbours who trade with us, are defended by us, or who receive our largesse.

I suspect at present that the market is too small and fragmented to make such an enterprise commercially worthwhile, though if the Commission were to support such a journal by advertising its public announcements within it, that might make a difference. Even if such a journal were to draw on articles re-printed from existing publications edited into a coherent whole, we should be some way down the track.

As for the new radio service, we shall have to watch how it performs and what its standards are. Not all countries are signed up to it. Britain, of course, is notable by its absence from among the key players, surely a great pity considering the traditions of British Public Service Broadcasting and what it might contribute to this fledgling enterprise.

EU funding should be at arm's length

It is unfortunate also that it should be funded directly by the Commission. Although pledges of editorial independence have been freely given, sceptics will argue that whoever pays the piper calls the tune. Moreover, ambitious proprietors would not be human, or prudent, if they didn't strive for an editorial line that kept the Commission sweet and the largesse rolling in. If European Public Service broadcasting - for this is what in essence we are taking about - is to develop then it must be transparent and funded at arm's length.

And why is all this important? Not for some warm and woolly idea of promoting greater 'European-ness' or even for developing better 'communications.' If it were only these there would be little point in getting excited. No, the reason is that in a modern state the media plays as important a role in good governance as do any of the other players - the elected representatives, those appointed by government, the judiciary, civil society. Without a strong media to provoke, question, ridicule, investigate, criticise, you will never have effective government.

With more decisions being taken at the European level, there needs to be on hand a well-informed European media presence that can hold decision-makers to account. To see the truth of this you need to look no further than this week's EU-Africa Summit. The 76 page communiqué is a masterpiece of wishful thinking that bears little relation to reality. Consider this passage on human rights:

With regard to human rights, Africa and the EU will work together to protect and promote the human rights of all people in Africa and Europe, including through enhanced dialogue between relevant institutions from both continents, such as the European Court of Human Rights of the Council of Europe, the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights and the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, the African Committee on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, and African and European national human rights institutions.

Nothing objectionable there - but what does this mean in the context of the abuses in Darfur, the atrocities in the DR Congo, the outrages in Uganda and Zimbabwe? In the absence of a pan-European press and more particularly a pan-African press, leaders can pat themselves on the back while ignoring the hell holes on their doorsteps. Where is the press to pry, probe and ask embarrassing questions?

A strong press, written and broadcast, is a vital counterweight to modern governance. It preserves freedom, holds tyranny in check, educates, entertains, informs. It tests the glib propositions of politicians and provides the essential corridor between parliaments and peoples. It is there to bang the drum at hypocrisy and to debunk vainglorious statesmen. It is there to stop nonsense and prevent the triumph of symbolism over substance. Until we have more than an itzy-bitzy European press we cannot expect more than itzy-bitzy European government.

The author is editor of EuropaWorld

Dodgy regime lobbying is below the EU's radar

In Brussels, PR professionals and lobbying consultants are working for some of the world's most autocratic regimes. And we have no way of knowing for sure who they are, how much they are paid, or what they are up to.

MEPs demand more from EU on human rights in Asia

On Thursday and Friday, heads of state of 51 Asian and European countries will be in Brussels for a summit with the EU. As MEPs, we denounce the fact that many countries around the table are major human rights violators.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  8. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  9. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  11. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  12. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All

Latest News

  1. Lone Merkel announces Saudi arms ban
  2. Dodgy regime lobbying is below the EU's radar
  3. Bannon's The Movement to launch with January summit
  4. What Italy's budget row is actually about
  5. EU preparing 'concentration camps' for migrants in Africa
  6. Poland to respect EU injunction on judicial purge
  7. EU votes on Facebook and plastic This WEEK
  8. Top EU banks guilty of multi-billion tax fraud

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  2. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  4. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  5. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  7. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  8. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  9. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  10. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  12. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us