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Euronews becomes EU Commission propaganda channel

In a blog post over at Decrypter la communication européenne, Michaël discusses the buy-in of the European Commission into the content of the news channel Euronews. According to Michaël, with a global yearly budget of 6.5 million Euros, any Commission directorate general can buy short or long magazine contributions or series each to be aired 15 times on the channel.

The first of these productions is “On the frontline” that Euronews produces in co-operation with the Directoral General Home Affairs who currently even portray the Youtube video of the first On the frontline episode on their front page. That is definitely showing a problematic “hybridisation” of journalist and PR content, in particular since Euronews does not even reveal the nature of the programme on its website.

This type of bought content clearly makes Euronews, in my eyes, become an official governmental (i.e. EU) propaganda channel. If you would ask me, I’d say that the European Commission should refrain from spending public money on bought journalism and Euronews should refrain from letting itself buy in such a way.

PS*: If an EU candidate country’s government would do the same, I suppose it would get serious problems in the media freedom section of the accession conditions. And if I were Russia, I would point my finger to the EU the next time anyone in the Commission of member states complains about undue influence of state institutions on media channels.

* “PS” added at 11:28.

19 Responses to Euronews becomes EU Commission propaganda channel

  1. avatar mathew says:

    It’s fine to make the point, but it isn’t exactly news.

    The thing is, the Institutions decided a while ago that because the traditional media don’t cover the EU enough, they should have their own channels (Euronews, euroParlTV, etc.).

    Unfortunately, by creating such content, they may be keeping ‘real’ media – that could cover the EU properly – out of business. And they’re doing it with taxpayer money … some of it collected from those very businesses. Nice.

    The result is probably an expensive home goal: most people can smell propaganda a mile away, and spending people’s money on stuff like this does the EU’s image actual harm and provides free ammunition to sceptics. Remember that recent DG enlargement video?

    Still, as pointed out earlier (Do we need more EU platforms, or sustainable EU media?), things are a bit more complicated: “state-funded media can be excellent, and there is a case to be made for answering market failure with public support”. The problem is that these projects never seem to become self-sustaining.

  2. avatar Ronny Patz says:

    Well, but there is a difference between countering market failure on the media market by generally supporting public television that then has to operate under clear public guidelines but with a general amount of editorial freedom and the targeted financing of TV programmes “on demand” by governmental institutions.

    If Euronews – which is way different to EuroParlTV in that it is a proper TV channel with licenses all around Europe – is to become a publicly financed TV channel, this should be an official legislative decision of the European Union and then we need rules in place that guarantee editorial independence. Otherwise it is as I said not much different to state media influence we criticise all around Europe and the EU.

  3. avatar mathew says:

    Good point. They are very different beasts. The impact on sustainable, independent media coverage of EU affairs is probably similarly negative, though.

    As for getting rules on editorial independence …we have to make sure we don’t get the opposite! Do you remember that meme floating around a while ago that “The production of qualitative EU coverage should be incorporated in the charters of public broadcasters and it should be supervised as well“? So the EU can ensure they get positive coverage? Yikes, yet another post-plug: Oh, so it’s the media’s fault noone likes the EU …

  4. avatar Craig Willy says:

    1) Ronny: I like this very direct post ;-)

    2) Is the video broken? Although I like the still from the Frontline program they have chosen has the headline “Follow the Money”!

    3) The whole “menu” thing is very distasteful.

    4) Public (state-run/supported) media are not necessarily a negative, but can supplement private media. I think of the BBC, Russia Today, France24, etc, without which the media landscape would definitely be poorer. It really will be up to Euronews to prove they can do this while remaining critical and actually interesting to their viewers (the big fail of your typical euro-sponsored media). (And, come to think of it, up to Commission folks to give Euronews enough freedom of manoeuvre.)

    5) Admittedly there is lots of potential for this to be awful, but I’ll watch a few shows before I decide.

  5. avatar Martinned says:

    In the Netherlands, too, there are plenty of cases of public authorities commissioning media publications, especially in local media. (Public television doesn’t count, since there is no direct interference there, neither in the Netherlands nor in most other European countries.)

    I would say none of this is problematic as long as the source of the programme is clearly identified. Since that does not appear to be the case here, you may consider me in agreement.

  6. avatar mathew says:

    All governments have the duty to inform citizens, but few politicians can resist the temptation to use those budgets for political ends.

    @Martinned’s comment reminded me of a programme here on Belgium’s RTBF (French language, advertising- and state-supported) a year or so ago. It followed the Minister of Culture on a visit to Morocco (she’s of Moroccan ancestry).

    In many ways it was a nice programme, in the way it explored Moroccan culture and history. But it was also a MASSIVE promo for the politician concerned … and was supported by a governmental programme administered by her Ministry, as well as of course the taxpayer through general taxes.

    This was mentioned in the fine print at the very end of the programme, of course.

    So Euronews is by far not the only offender in this respect – programmes like the one Ronny and Michael mention have been commissioned by most DGs of the Commission.

  7. Though I am not an expert on the issue and thus my opinion may be a random one, it seems to me reasonable that an aggrandizement of an inherently problematic institution (in terms of democratic illegitimacy and bureaucratic inefficiency, among others), may only make things worse.

    Unfortunately to speak against the flaws of the institutional setting of the EU has become equivalent to “euroskepticism” or “europhobia”. In other words if we say that they are doing something wrong it means that we are against any form of European integration.

    We will enjoy open debates when we get rid of this absurd division between “we” the europhiles, “they” the europhobes.

    Good to see this post Ronny.

  8. avatar Ron says:


    I actually think that the europhile/eurosceptic debate is largely dead.

    Some blind europhiles and some deaf eurosceptics may still keep it alive, but the rest of us knows that the European Union is as a fact and so the main question is what policies we want the EU to do in what way – and here comes the old freedom vs. security, regulation vs. deregulation, environment vs. growth etc. political debates we are having on any political level.

    The case of Euronews is just another example for this: It’s not that I think EU institutions shouldn’t be allowed to talk about what they do or what their points of view are. I just think that interfering in editorial decisions (‘You cover this subject for money!’) should be the task of any governmental institution. Governments do governmental communication and free media should rip that communication apart to show where it’s empty propaganda, where it’s contested positions and where it’s great for society.

    Mixing those roles up is simply a blunt attack on the necessary separation of powers, and being against this is not euroscepticism but simple reason. If the EU institutions – and Euronews – do not get this, they haven’t understood the democratic struggles citizens and societies have had and still have all over the place.

    In other words: I want free movement throughout the EU, and we need European solutions to make that possible, but I d not need government-bought propaganda for it.

  9. avatar mathew says:

    “I just think that interfering in editorial decisions (‘You cover this subject for money!’) should be the task of any governmental institution.”

    Perhaps you’re missing a ‘not’ in that sentence? ;-)

    As for the europhile/eurosceptic debate, it’s alive and well in the UK. I can’t speak for anywhere else, but as far as I can see only in the UK is it so infantile that most of the population is either ‘for’ or ‘against’ Europe (and most are against).

    Except perhaps for some quarters of Brussels, where – to some people – to make any criticism, in any way, of anything the EU does, is to be branded a ‘Eurosceptic’. A bunker mentality seems to be settling in, which is probably unsurprising.

  10. @Ron

    I would also like to share your view on how we now see regulation and that the old division is over, but I am afraid I cannot do so since I see the growing anti-EU sentiments in Greece and other hardly-pressed countries. More so, if the crisis deteriorates further, that is if Spain falls into greater trouble and requires financial assistance, then we will again see those publications in the German and other tabloids about those “lazy” Southerners etc. Understandably this will bring us again to the same discussions that “the euro is not good for us”, that “the EU benefits only a few” and other similar arguments along these lines.

    As for the other points in your comment I agree with you.

  11. Thanks Ron to have picked up my post on Euronews & the EC.

    Since I agree with all of you, I’d like to react to your “PS” because I think it is arguable to say the EU does not respect the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU and particularly article 11 (freedom of expression and information) which states that “The freedom and pluralism of the media shall be respected”.

    Anyone think the EC infringes the charter of fundamental rights ?

  12. avatar mathew says:

    Well, I have a lot of trouble ensuring my EC clients don’t break data protection (anti-spam) law …

  13. avatar Martinned says:

    @Lacomeuropéenne: If there is something illegal about this, it isn’t art. 11 Charter. Misuse of funds, maybe, but nothing else.

  14. avatar mathew says:

    A quick update to my previous comment: see the hilarious spoof internal email from Viviane Reding that forms the heart of Data Protector’s latest post: Cookie (Non)Compliance: Is the Commission getting concerned?

  15. avatar Ronny Patz says:

    @ mathew: Don’t get the joke. Two sentences stating the facts would have made that post much better. And I also don’t get what this has to do with the europhile/eurosceptic debate. Suppose my brain hasn’t got up from the weekend… :)

  16. avatar mathew says:

    Sorry if I veered off topic. It was just serendipitous that a couple of days I noted, above, that many parts of the EC have difficulty with complying with one aspect (anti-spam) of EU data protection law, and today Data Protector noted the same organisation’s difficulties with another aspect (cookies).

    A long way off “article 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU”, true, but then noone responded to that anyway …

  17. Pingback: L’indipendenza di Euronews eil futuro dell’informazione europea « EJO – European Journalism Observatory

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