Wednesday

20th Feb 2019

Opinion

EU-funded media - not just propaganda

  • "It is lazy to lump PR and journalism together" (Photo: EUobserver)

I read with great interest the report on the EU's "propaganda machine."

As editor of Euranet's English language group, one of the propaganda wings mentioned, I must say that the think-tank behind the report does not seem to have done very much research, or indeed, thinking.

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It is lazy to lump PR and journalism together. The report says "It is necessary to understand that information and propaganda is completely different" (page 22). Yet this is precisely what it does.

Euranet has a very clear charter which guarantees its journalistic integrity and independence.

Our reporters and programmes do not paint any facts about the EU in a biased or positive light, which you would know if you had listened to our programmes or visited our website.

On the contrary, we are at pains to question, analyse and attack MEPs, commissioners, the institutions they work for and the decisions they make, whenever possible. It is our obligation to do so.

Look at the coverage we give to the ridiculous trek the EU parliament makes between Brussels and Strasbourg each month. Or to the long-running row over MEP expenses. Or to the Common Agricultural Policy's subsidising of agriculture. We look to bridge the gap between European taxpayers and the representatives who spend their tax-Euros.

It is our job to present the important but overlooked details of European life fairly and accurately so that they can better understand where their money is going.

I challenge the writers of this report to find more balanced coverage than ours on such issues. I suspect that they have not bothered to research it. I do not see any evidence of pro-EU bias in the EU-funded web and radio they speak of.

Did they actually find something they thought was biased or are they making the assumption it is there to support your tenuous thesis? Perhaps we can ask the two PR and journalism students who appear to have written the report.

Independent media often fail to report European affairs in an engaging way. Stories that affect people's everyday lives are often missed by national media and are only picked up by the likes of Euranet, and other small operations like us.

This is a pity since the big institutions in Brussels (the European Commission, the European Parliament, the European Council) are in many respects more powerful than our national governments and spend huge budgets in our name.

Making the public better aware of what the EU is doing and why by asking difficult questions is where we fulfil our purpose. Our challenge is to do that in a way that catches and maintains the attention of a large number of people across Europe.

Is the report's complaint then simply one of public funding? Should the EU not financially support any media?

Sun, Bild and Berlusconi

In European countries with publicly funded radio and television I believe the public considers them the most trustworthy and balanced media.

Privately funded media have products to sell and advertisers to please. Instead of a charter guaranteeing balance they must live by the first rule of free market economics – to maximise profits. I suggest the latter is less well positioned to offer unbiased news coverage.

So where does funding you can trust come from?

I assume, being a pro-free market think-tank, the writers would say the Free Market? The same free market that brings us The Sun in Britain, Bild in Germany and Silvio Berlosconi's colourful publications in Italy. All fine, entertaining reads no doubt but reliable sources of balanced information?

I think a charter signed by elected representatives carries more credibility than a station that has to go cap-in-hand to companies selling time-shares in Mallorca, Swiss watches and the latest hair gel.

Furthermore our charter is renewed every year. If there is dissatisfaction with our adherence to it, funding can be stopped quickly.

By the way, on the subject of funding, where does this Timbro think-tank's come from? There's no mention of it on their website.

Richard Walker is editor of the European radio network Euranet, English language

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