Social Media Blog

The Blogactiv debate on EU citizens and media is now open!

This post will collect all the different strands of the debate into one place – acting as a focal point for the discussion.

Have a read through some of the stuff posted below, then come back here to post your thoughts. We’re planning a workshop around this issue, and we’ll take some of your ideas and present them to journalists, officials and other stakeholders so that this debate can hopefully have some impact.

Part One: How To Stop Journalists Deserting Brussels?
Part Two: Media Freedom in Europe
Part Three: Supporting the Press Without Controlling It
Part Four: Blogactiv Covers the EPP Summit

Further Reading:

1. Read Fondation EurActiv PoliTech’s press release on this issue (EN, DE)

2. Posts from bloggers at an EU Council event (Day 1, Day 2)

3. Read a post by a blogger at the EPP summit last year (EN)

 

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Comments

  1. I would like to share my excellent impressions from a conference held recently in Brussels on media freedom, with the participation of Aidan White.
    My view is that the controversial Hungarian media law to a certain extent was helpful in pointing out at deficiencies in Hungary, but also across Europe.
    This is the link if you would like to read the story:
    http://www.euractiv.com/en/future-eu/media-experts-urge-reconquest-press-freedom-news-502738
    Georgi, EurActiv

  2. Media Freedom … Freedom of the Press .. Liberty of expression..

    Don’t you think that the title Blogmanager is inappropriate? If immediately brings to mind the managing of information? Isn’t this what the debate is supposed to be about or rather against?

  3. I believe the EU should not buy coverage but can support the media in several ways.

    Journalists are faced with both government restrictions in some countries and the limited resources of their media companies, as exemplified by the dwindling EU press corps. Except for justified and competitive advertising or communication projects, the EU should not fund media companies. But the EU, among others, can help on both fronts. First, by taking a firm line on media freedom at national level. Second, it could develop and improve its programmes to make journalists aware, well-informed and well-supported when they do cover European matters.

    Social media tools could help journalists find mutual support, so they can identify stories they find relevant and leverage sources across borders. In the Arab world, this has worked efficiently in recent weeks: why not more so in Europe itself?

    Christophe

  4. The main obstacle to the dissemination of information generated by the institutions of the European Union is represented by the governments of the Member States and their respective departments of communication. The national media involved in designing the agenda of governments and not the one starring in Brussels.

  5. I’ve heard EU Institution staff complain many times, with a peculiar mixture of petulance and insecurity, about the lack of coverage of EU affairs by the media, as if this was the media’s fault.

    They seem to forget, as I mentioned earlier, that the media is the best judge of what interests their audience. People in Brussels are not.

    The Institutions have been complaining about this for quite some time now. In times past, they decided to create Euronews and EuroParlTV to fill the gap.

    And now they complain about the dwindling Brussels press corps, as if setting up competing services, funded in part by the taxes paid by the journalists and their employers, had nothing to do with it. Strange …

    PS I’m being deliberately provocative in the hope that this interesting idea becomes a real debate.

  6. Two personal stories. The first positive for the Commission. In the 1980s the Commission produced the first European multilingual electronic magazine, which I edited. This was to show that (a) national electronic networks were connected via Euronet DIANE and were now European and global (b) all alphabetic character sets, including Greek, Finnish and Norwegian could be sent electronically in the same document. Once the market had taken this innovation up, the testbed magazine ceased. It required media proprietors to rethink their whole strategies, which they are still doing. Euractiv and many other publications are the children of this, helpful Community initiative. What, if anything, should the EU be doing today? Clue: Schuman provided a plan to be used to ensure an interactive relationship between the public and international institutions. I sent a copy to the Commission. It has had absolutely no effect on them! They continue to think in terms of PR campaigns and selling cans of beans.

    The second relates to non-Brussels journalism. When I worked at the BBC World Service in the late 1970s I suggested to the editors that they should do a programme such as ‘This week in the European Parliament’. They laughed, or rather giggled. Even though direct elections had just been introduced they considered the EP as irrelevant to news and politics (as it was, more or less).

    Why are journalists leaving Brussels? Because after a spark of democratic debate the whole system has reverted again to inter-governmentalism, with a new, secret, closed-door organisation called the European Council. It claims it owns all policies. The Commission has become its secretariat. Supranational democracy is stifled. There is no democratic, open debate about most vital public issues of today:
    *financial crises and corruption in high places,
    *governments fixing of statistics and loans,
    *the non-Communitarian basis of the euro, hence its weakness,
    *government by lobbies, cartels and revolving doors,
    *energy blackmail and dependence on corrupt producer countries,
    *religion/ immigrant issues,
    *Islamic law versus European and Community law,
    *non-transparency of the making of EU regulations and law,
    *lack of participation, in fact the exclusion of non-party-political civil society from debates on laws,
    *ever-increasing distrust of politicians and party machines,
    *a big debate about the implications of the revolutions on Europe’s southern borders,
    *nuclear proliferation by sectarian fanatics … and so on.

    Added to this the dead hand of accountants running some media, governments other media like the BBC, the noxious, the deadening effect of the the EU institutions subsidizing and paying for ads in major publications, sponsoring journalists for their ‘public’ debate — no wonder real, free, in-depth, high-standard, truthful journalism is uttering a death rattle!
    David http://www.schuman.info

  7. I think we should look at these questions from the decision making perspective.
    In fact, if most of EU decision making and policies are decided by a significant number of people/institutions that were not elected nor have any effective responsibility of presenting their work to their fellow citizens, why should the common citizen pay attention to it/them?
    If we want people to be interested in something, either we create a “shocking” fact/event either we involve them in the process.
    As long as we assist to an EU increasingly distant from Europe and its citizens, the general problems affecting media will only be an additional vector to the main question that is giving EU back to society.

  8. Supporting the Press Without Controlling It:
    This is nothing new, public funds have been giving subsidies to the news business for decades, if not centuries. Much can be learnt by looking at how nation states handle this.
    Being French, some French examples on a fund dedicated to the online press:
    – from the Ministry of culture, in charge of these subsidies:
    http://www.ddm.gouv.fr/article.php3?id_article=1469
    – from the Association of Independent Online news Editors:
    http://www.spiil.org/position/transparence-aides

  9. Jean-Christophe: After reading the form to be filled out, the French system seems to be a combination of as much bad practice as possible. It also provides an easy way for the ministry bureaucrats to save money should they have to build up dossiers on awkward journalists or specially flexible ones. It allows the politicians to get all the private details of bloggers or independent writers, such as bank account and office operations. How do journalists know these details remain confidential only for the purpose of giving them money? Clearly the politicians believe they can control what the media say by subsidy. The sytem encourages a Pavlovian response by susceptible journalists. Only those chosen by the ministry get the money! My oh My! These so blessed learn gratitude. If the President of the Republic were really interested in journalistic standards, why did he not organize an independent committee of retired journalists to chose who should get the handouts? Good journalists would pick young writers who have the guts and intelligence to know how to criticise effectively. In contrast by this system young journalists learn that the journalists can have their taxes back (as a subsidy) if they are nice to the politicians and their policies. This operation is no-back-of-the-corner oversight or naive mistake that happens accidently to attack the freedom of an independent press. It is organized by presidential decree.

    What would be the reaction of journalists if this was done at EU level by a Barroso decree? In fact it is already, by various, more subtle ways. How is such a system different morally from the payments governments used to give to foreign correspondents for publishing their point of view? The German government continued paying some French journalists even during World Wars. Are they doing it still today? As for the French bribes, can we all apply for a French grant???? Are all 27 governments soon going to offer us handouts and the lobbies too? Why should MEPs get all the money (an extra 100.000 euros) for their ‘consulting fees’ and the journalists only a few hundred (See Sunday Times)?

  10. Thanks for strong and practical views from all including David. Two questions if I may:

    – if the Council has gained power and its legislative requests reflects national public debates, is it necessarily a bad thing? from a media viewpoint, probably not, if well reported (and indeed more transparent)
    (btw, when the Council prepares its draft conclusions before official meetings, guess who is attending? Mainly Council staff, President staff, country-in-presidence and… the Commission itself! Often, the latter has the most knowledge, and is ‘asking to be requested’ 🙂

    – what will be the impact of European Citizen Initiatives on media coverage from 2012? None? livening up? bypassing journalists, like some social media?

    You might want to look at this article:
    http://www.euractiv.com/en/future-eu/experts-strive-citizens-initiative-work-news-503261

  11. @David, Jean-Christophe, your two comments display the incredible divergence between Member States.

    Jean-Christophe seems to be saying that only UK citizens find French-style “poodle of the establishment” state media subsidies as fundamentally wrong.

    However, I would be surprised if there were not a few other countries sharing a British viewpoint on this. Are such subsidies common in Scandinavia, Jean-Christophe, or are you simply extrapolating the French experience to all of Europe?

  12. Christophe. It is unreaslistic in my view to think that democracy happens behind closed doors. It is the Politburo system, a political cartel, that the founding fathers denounced. The citizens’ initiative is a distraction, designed to cover the lack of democracy. Why? Because the politicians and their parties are still in charge of what further ‘initiative’ is taken after submission of a million signatures. They decide on how it is written as law.

    Supranational democracy includes all sections of society. The European Council has 28 to 30 people cutting deals in secret. The media show less interest in Brussels because they cannot access the real debate. The parties (who lack public support) spend masses of taxpayers’ money on futile operations like europarltv which has few viewers and other projects. No one can stop this media corruption. I have just read the following from one critical British MEP quoting the Daily Telegraph of today which is also linked.

    <>

  13. I don’t think the quote was printed. Here it is:
    As Bruno (Waterford in today’s Daily Telegraph)reports, the European Parliament spends £70,800,000 a year on spin doctors, and £7,900,000 on a TV channel watched by fewer than 900 people. One Commission official was sacked for writing a book (in his own time) which criticised the euro. Yet, without any hint of self awareness, MEPs huff and puff about Hungary’s new media laws…

  14. Who is live blogging? Is it Blogactiv staff? If so, I wouldn’t say you are “citizen bloggers” in this situation. You are professionals of an organisation, a branch of a news organisation actually. That gives the EPP the certainty that you are not going to act weird. Providing access to independent citizen bloggers who do that as a voluntary activity is a whole other story.

  15. Do you really think the distinction is so clear? Blogging today’s event is me – Joe Litobarski (I’ll make it clear at the top of the blog). I’ve been invited to blog at EU events both in a voluntary and a professional capacity. The difference doesn’t seem so obvious to me.

    I’m definitely not a journalist. But am I now not a blogger either? And should this sort of invitation (inviting bloggers to cover summits) make that distinction clear?

  16. Hi Joe!
    Well you are blogging indeed. But you are there as Blogactiv, blogging on the Blogactiv social media blog, and not on your personal blog. So in this situation, you are not a citizen blogger although in your leisure time you are. Does it make sense?
    It’s complicated for bloggers to deal with their different hats. I think probably the future of the debate on bloggers’ accreditation will have to deal with this.

  17. I’m actually preparing a blog post on this, based on something I remarked in passing in a comment to Europasionaria’s blog: it’s no longer “journalist accreditation” vs “blogger accreditation”.

    Should it not just be “accreditation”?

    Not that this actually helps that much! But as I said in my blogtour, it seems to me that (re)defining accreditation must now become a priority if the EU wants to get serious about its social media strategy, otherwise it’ll never scale.

  18. Accreditation comes not from the European institutions but from journalists’ organisations or associations. The European institutions insist that what they give is a laissez-passer for the buildings, not accreditation. There are those of us who consider ourselves electronic journalists, that is, journalists with electronic media from the start and they can say they were electronic journalists before the idea of blogging was invented. If blogging is of the sort “I got up and had breakfast in a bad mood because … ‘ this is more diary-keeping — web logging rather than journalism.

    In this logic bloggers of this type should create their own organisation which will be distinct from a journalists’ association. Tweeting is a short version of this. Tweeting from a professional journalist is still journalism. Tweeting from an unknown member of the public is not. It can be true of false, PR or news, an SOS or a joke, propaganda or an incitement etc.

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