Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Parliament TV edited specially for you

Sitting on the agenda of tonight's Parliament governing Bureau meeting is a little item, "an "exchange of views" on EuroparlTV". What this anodyne item actually means is that the Parliament will be rubber stamping its new TV channel. EuroparlTV will be going on line soon. It is a web TV station which aims to produce four streaming channels of coverage of the Parliament's activities. This will cost a cool 10 million euros a year for the next four years.

When this subject first came up I blogged it, but back then, almost three years ago the budget was a mere 2.400.000 euros, so it seems both their stomachs and their appetites have increased.

What is truly disturbing about this new project is that the editorial control will be held by the Parliament itself.

"Only an independent editorial team can make lively and interesting programmes," Dutch social-democrat MEP Thijs Berman has told a the ANP news agency.

"Let journalists criticize me when I deserve so. The christian-democrats want to turn it into a sort of Pravda: boring propaganda. And they want to prevent that they are caught sleeping on-air," said Berman, himself a former radio reporter.

The people who have got the contract are Mostra Communication Services who currently, according to their website,

"Over the past ten years or so, we have acquired specific experience in the design and production of Video News Releases (VNR) on behalf of the European institutions. These video reports are usually between 5 and 10 minutes long. Each one relies on journalistic techniques to provide a real-life story which clearly illustrates a specific European issue in fields such as the environment, energy and transport, education and culture, enlargement or justice and home affairs.

The reports are offered to TV journalists and producers free of rights, to encourage coverage of subjects which the broadcasters may not be able to research and shoot themselves, and to enhance the quality of media coverage of important European ssues".
The project has already employed 22 journalists whose key role will be to provide content for local TV stations around the continent. This has ramifications for the employment of both freelance and tenured journalists who cover the goings on here. Why would their producers waste budgets on sending hacks to Brussels and Strasbourg, when the content will be provided by the taxpayer, via the Parliament.

So there you are sitting in your home watching the news and a piece about the story of the day comes up. Say it is the proposed ban on patio heaters. Up pops Fiona Hall to say how she is going to save the planet. Up comes another MEP from the environment committee saying how her report is "Good, but it should go further, future legislation must take into account all heating systems".

No opposition is voiced, because the settled line of the Parliament has been given.

Will the local TV station broadcast a disclaimer over the piece saying "this reportage has been compiled by civil servants in the European Parliament? Will they hell.

Meanwhile another plank in the control of information nestles into the wall of control.

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