Monday, October 04, 2010

A picture is worth a thousand euros

Or more to the point lots of pictures are worth "tens of millions" of them. Hugh Barton-Smith has made a splendid spot on the latest part of the EU propaganda empire (and yes chaps propaganda empire / and not a jot of hyperbole in it - how would you describe the creation of tv stations, press agencies and so on in the last few years? It all looks positively Murdochain, or mabe from a European perspective Berlesconian).

Sadly what he has spotted is the capture of AFP, or at least its partial capture by the EU. At the end of September AFP won a contract with EBS,
As of October 1, the Agency will cover the movements and activities of members of the European institutions in most regions of the world. It will also establish image banks illustrating the themes of major importance to the commission, the parliament and the Council of Europe.

So that is teams of AFP snappers on hand across the world to capture everybody's best side. But hold on, AFP is a independent news agency, which prides itself on its news values.
Article 2 of its 1957 Statute is pretty clear on the subject,
"Agence France-Presse may not under any circumstances take account of influences or considerations that would compromise the accuracy or objectivity of the news; it must not under any circumstances pass under legal or de facto control of an ideological, political or economic group.

So surely paid tens of millions by the EU to create vast image banks (they will be the perfect European banks, thousands of deposits everyt week, but virtually no withdrawals) puts into question 'objectivity'. But no hold on what have we here,
AFP has decided to develop this activity as a totally separate entity from editorial; the contract is being managed by a wholly-owned subsidiary of AFP and by a specially formed unit to avoid any possible conflict with its traditional role as a news agency.

Yes AFP is a big concern, but a contract worth 10s of millions is going to have an impact, it ain't poluet feed after all. No matter how high those Chinese walls are. It is a wholly owned subsidiary, thus the profits go to the same place, the photographers will work for both the subsidiary and for AFP and so on.

So, it would be only natural if some editorial is toned down. Indeed as 5 of the 15 board members are either representatives of the French government or representatives of French State TV or Radio it would hardly be a surprise.

Another door swings shut.

Barton-Smith also spots a corker - AFP dson't seem to understand the difference between the European Council and the Council of Europe, but hey, with that amount of cash, who cares.


Anonymous said...

You suggest that some tens of millions from the Commission will tone AFP's editorial down, and then compare them to Murdoch or Berlusconi. But surely the complaint against those two is that their influence tones down government policy in their favour. You can't have it both ways...

Gawain Towler said...

I don't believe that it will have an impact on AFP's editorial rapidly,nor in a big way, but in the marginal area it is hard, very hard to stiuff tow fingers up to somebody who is laddling the spondoolies in your direction to that extent.

My comparison is that those two have inordinate poer and are the boo boys of the media jungle, the EU is garnering enormous influence with nary a squeak from those who set themselves up as defenders of free speech. Where is Index on Censorship on this? Where is the IFJ.

If you listen carefully you can here it. Yes there it is, the sound of silence.