Monday, March 17, 2008

European Sycophancy Prize.

Sometimes the transparency by which the EU Institutions attempt to dominate reporting of their activities gets thrown into sharp relief. Today is one of those times. For today sees the launch of the European Parliament Prize for Journalism. Just by thinking about it one is struck by how badly inappropriate it is.

The prize is divided into four sections, print media, television, radio and internet, (C'mon guys and gals do your worst, and that means you, and you, and you, and you, and you and definitely you). Each of which will be eligible for 5,000 euros. This of course means in this multifunctional world Mark Mardell could go in for 3 prizes, Bruno Waterfield could bid for two. And so on and so forth.

The point is of course that this idea is simply appalling. Journalism, like almost every other section of our society already has a bunch of prizes to slap itself on the back, but as in the other parts of society this is normally done from either a peer group perspective, such as the British Press Awards sponsored by the Press Gazette (or here in the eurobubble there are awards such as the one run by the European Voice), or by another industry keen to persuade journalists to report on their subject area.

It is this style of award that the Parliament is trying to replicate, but of course there is a fundamental difference. They are not funded by the taxpayer, whilst this is. So what is the award for?

The first European Parliament Prize for Journalism will be awarded in 2008. It will be given to journalists who have dealt with major issues at a European level or have promoted a better understanding of the EU institutions and/or EU policies.
Oh yeah right, so those journalists who were involved in breaking the story of the Parliamentary expenses scandal will be in the running then? After all they have indeed contributed to promoting a better understanding of an EU institution. Somehow I doubt it. Why you ask? Well look at the jury,

Rule 7 – Decision-taking bodies

1. European Parliament Prize for Journalism prize winners shall be selected by a sole and single award jury, separate from the shortlist juries, formed under the aegis of the European Parliament information offices, to shortlist entries.

2. The award jury:

a. shall be formed by nine members, composed of three Members of the European Parliament and six representatives of the journalism profession, including representatives of European associations of journalists.. The award jury shall be chaired by the European Parliament Vice-President in charge of information and communication policy. The secretariat shall be provided by the European Parliament's Communication Directorate-General.

b. shall select prize winners from the shortlist drawn up by the shortlist juries. The vote shall be secret. Prize winners shall be selected by an absolute majority vote in the first two rounds, then by a simple majority in the following rounds.

c. shall have the option of naming prize winners ex aequo.

3. The shortlist juries:

a. shall be formed in each European Union Member State under the aegis of the competent European Parliament information office;

b. shall be formed by three to five members of the journalism profession, including representatives of national associations of journalists. The secretariat shall by provided by the European Parliament information office in each Member State;
No suggestion of who shall decide which journalists, both at a national level and at the European supranational level will be invited to take part. Apart from the thought that the Parliament offices will be providing secretarial services, which covers a multitude of sins.

Here are some comments from Brussels based journalists to the plans,
"these people are so unbelievably clueless!" - Broadsheet

"I'm going to do a series of packages on - "At the Cutting Edge of Democracy: How the EP Sets An Example All Around The World"

fuck it, for five grand it's got to be worth it..."
Electric media

"I've heard of two instances recently where a cameraman and a sound engineer, in separate incidents, have had official complaints made against them, in one case for requesting that a door be left open because various other media people were expected and in the other case - bizarrely - because a cameraman had the temerity politely to ask a security guard to move out of shot during an interview. He insisted on remaining visible in the background and complained about the "rudeness" of being requested to move! Last week, one prevented (a) cameraman from filming Den Dover crossing the passerelle but wouldn't say why. Who gave these guys the idea that they now have similar powers to the Stazi, the KGB or the Gestapo?" Electric media

And finally someone from Fleet Street,
"Well I suppose it's cheaper than a press officer".

Comment Forum here


Ralf Grahn said...


You are right. The European Parliament needs constructive critisism more than hagiographers, but then the awards (if any are needed) should be accorded by outside interests, not the EP itself, which would do better to clean up its act.

Gawain Towler said...

Quite, just take a look at the comments to me from the reputable journalists. But near-abouts 80% of journalists accredited to the institutions are stringers, with no serious regular income. The prize to them I suspect looks tempting.

Anonymous said...

How can it be true that 80% of EU journalists have no regular income? They always seem to have beer money when they are propping up the bar. Who pays their bar tabs? I think we should be told!

Gawain Towler said...

I think that you will find that the numbers propping up the bars are few, just regular.

Anonymous said...

At the risk of destroying my pro-European pretensions for all time: 5,000 euros? What's that in real money?

(And yes, it is half twelve on the night before a 4-day Bank Holiday weekend, and yes, I am indeed a bit tipsy...)