19th Sep 2019

MEPs say little-watched parliament TV should be scrapped

  • Committee meetings such as these are filmed, but too few are watching, say critics (Photo: KBRI Brussel)

The European Parliament's in-house TV, a multi-million-euro project designed to give citizens an insight into the workings of the EU, has been deemed too expensive and watched by too few people to justify maintaining it.

Set up in 2008, EuroparlTV gives the unfiltered view of the parliament through live streaming of committee meetings and plenary sessions. It also has three other strings to its bow - making news, debate and "educational" pieces for the general public.

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But the effect of the TV's offerings - including pieces showing how MEPs go about their daily work or how EU laws affect people's lives - were panned by deputies on Thursday (10 May).

"EuroparlTV cannot be considered to be a success story in view of its very low number of direct individual users ... in spite of the considerable financing that it received in 2010, amounting to some EUR 9,000,000," said a report passed by MEPs on parliament's own expenditure.

"Further subsidy cannot be justified," it continued, calling on secretary general Klaus Welle to close the TV channel down.

Parliament's figures show that on average less than 30,000 people a month watched the parliament TV during 2010.

"This is much too expensive given its output," Dutch Liberal MEP Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy told this website. He criticised parliament for "spending money too easily" and said its budget should be "independently evaluated."

Other parliament activities were called into question too. The 114-point report asked whether the four prizes the parliament awards - for films, journalism and project promoting EU culture or integration, as well as the Sakarov prize for freedom of thought - belongs to the "core activity" of parliament.

It notes that expenditure on the Lux prize, which awards films portraying Europe's cultural diversity, rose by over 50 percent between 2010 and 2011 and that money spent on all four of the prizes increased from €749,000 in 2009 to over €1.4 million in 2011.

The report also highlights murky financial issues within the EU assembly - which itself approves the budgets of other EU institutions.

It notes that the total cost for the European House of History - a expensive pet project of former parliament president Hans-Gert Poettering - is not clear and asks parliament's administration to refrain in future from agreeing to projects the final cost implications of which are unknown.

"Why do we play such games?," said German centre-right MEP Inge Graessle, referring to the fact that costs for the project spiralled from the original estimate.

Other criticisms range from the travel agency not always offering the most competitive prices, to the almost €4,000 discrepancy between the most frugal and the most profligate MEPs when it comes to daily costs for trips abroad, as well as the fact that at the end of last year two lobbyist group still had offices in the parliament.

Pension fund problems are picked up too. The report asks from where the money for a €179 million shortfall in MEPs' voluntary pension funds is supposed to come. The fund went into the red after stock market troubles in 2008.

It notes that the shortfall "raises concerns about the possible default of the fund" and points out the parliament has in the past said it will guarantee the payment of pension rights for members of this fund - but many deputies say they do not want taxpayers to foot the bill.

The ball is now in court of the parliament's bureau - consisting of the president, 14 vice-presidents and five MEPs in charge of administration.

"It's a swamp and a bit messy," says Gerbrandy, indicating that he is not sure whether the specific cost-cutting recommendations will ever be implemented.

He noted that last year his suggestion to use air miles wherever possible to reduce travel costs was adopted by plenary - but the idea has still to see the light of day.

Defending the 'European way of life' name splits MEPs

European People's Party group leader Manfred Weber defended Ursula von der Leyen's decision to rename a commission portfolio, partly dealing with migration, "protecting the European way of life". He said it means rescuing people in the Mediterranean.

Hungary claims EU 'witch-hunt' over rule of law hearing

Hungary was quizzed by EU ministers over its domestic crackdown on media, judges, academia and NGOs. Hungary's minister responded by saying the country had defended "the European way of life" for centuries, and it should be respected.

EU divided on how to protect rule of law

Poland and Hungary have argued that rule of law is purely a domestic matter and the EU should respect legal traditions, but Dutch foreign minister warned backsliding was a worry for all.

Catalonia celebrates national day ahead of trial verdicts

Catalonia celebrated on Wednesday its national day - while awaiting the trial verdict on 12 Catalan separatists, former politicians of Carles Puigdemont's government. That decision is expected for early October.

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