On Wednesday the Blessed Margot (who is in all sorts of trouble according to today's Swedish Press - I will come back to that), gave a speech to a conference at the Flagey building in Brussels. Nothing unusual in that I guess, what with her being a Commissioner and all. However this was somewhat different. As it is described on the Commission' website,
"It is the first time that senior editors from both public and commercial Television, Radio and Online news outlets have been asked to contribute directly to the development of a new European Commission communication strategy".
As readers of this blog will be aware the purpose of the simpering Swede (and now learn corrupt and simpering Swede) is to improve the Commission's information and public relations policy. Having realised that having a multi million team of over 200 press officers doesn't seem to help she has decided to co-opt the private and national public sector. Thus the conference.
The set piece speech is fascinating. Dan Hannan MEP will be delighted to discover that she admits, "There is no such thing as a European demos", in itself quite an admission, due to the fact that in most classical political theory and experience if one doesn't have a demos, then one cannot have a democracy.
The whole speech can be read here.
To save you the trouble.
People have different ideas about Europe. They speak different languages. Have different cultures. They are not stupid.
We have to communicate better
"We need to stop having a monolithic message from Brussels - which we then pretend everyone has to accept alike. I believe we need to address each audience in its proper tradition and culture and through the channels they are interested in. This is certainly the biggest challenge of this strategy."
The problem with this of course is that people do have to accept what the EU gives it. Its legislation and cultural baggage is one size fits all. The whole point of the EU is the harmonisation and integration of systems. So to pretend otherwise is dishonest. Thus the problem.
"Listen to people! Communication is not a one-way street; it is a two-way channel of dialogue. I deeply believe that we have to listen better and earlier to people".
Excellent Margot, I do believe you are starting to understand,
"Of course we cannot do this with each citizen, but we can do this via opinion-formers and stakeholders - particularly civil society and Parliamentarians - and by carefully exploiting our opinion polls."
Whoops spoke to soon, what she, means by "people" is elite, the people she speaks to already. And what precisely does she mean by exploiting opinion polls? I'm not quite sure. Lies damned lies and stats I suspect but I dunno.
How can we work together more effectively?
This is where it gets scary - Do you remember that there is the suggestion that media outlets should have a prize for the most Euro-friendly organisation. Now we have the following suggestion,
"I would also like to have a more regular dialogue with you, like this opportunity. I am also considering inviting you, every year, to propose programmes aimed at national or regional audiences and describing how EU policies affect ordinary people. For 2006 we are considering significantly increasing the budget for calls for proposals of this kind, so that as many as 70 TV stations and 100 radio broadcasters could be involved. The best proposals would be awarded a contract and we would place at your disposal the Commission’s technical facilities."
What this looks like to me is a massive power grab, as private and nationalised broadcasters compete for resources by producing more and more EU friendly copy. Those programme makers who retain independence would be cut out of the financial loop.
Put it this way, 25 countries 70 TV stations. That would be almost three per country. Most countries do not have that many stations which produce news/current affairs programming. In many the coverage is already heavily skewed in a pro-European/government line already.
I note others have noted this