Here are the results of an intereting survey (pdf) on “Media relations and Europe – from the journalist’s perspective”. It was carried out by APCO, a public affairs consultancy in partnership with Journalists at Your Service (J@YS). Although the sample was relatively small (121 respondents = 10% of Brussels press corps) there are quite some interesting facts to be found (Please note that this is just a personal selection, I recommend you to have a look at the survey results!):
- Half of the reporters covering European affairs have been doing it for less than 5 years.
- Only 10% read EU blogs
- Many journalists say their audiences are interested in the EU but not well informed about it, and that journalists’ bosses are hardly any better informed than their readers, viewers and listeners.
- 43% of the polled journalists would like to learn more about “The balance of power between EU institutions”, only 13% want to learn more about the Single Market, the budget and trade issues.
- A relative minority of journalists cover issues related to business regulation, fisheries, development and humanitarian aid.
- Almost half of the journalists produce one or more stories a day.
- What are the most important sources for story ideas? Blogs are seen by 3% as “very important”, by 4% as “often important”, 30% say Blogs are “sometimes important” and the majority of 63% say they are “not important”.
- European Institutions get quite good grades for the quality of the information they provide.
- Webcasts and podcasts as well as conference calls are relatively unimportant for EU journalists.
- The best communicator of European affairs is… the European Commission, but at the same time a solid majority of journalists surveyed feel it does a poor job of communicating with the public.
Click here for more results of the survey (pdf).
Jean-Claude Juncker, PM of Luxembourg made a few interesting comments at a conference that took place in Brussels just one day before the European Council:
“Politicians give the impression that Europe is being built against their will. Governments always try to explain in their countries that they have won against Europe”
And asked about a possible Plan B…
“In fact the Lisbon Treaty was the Plan B of the project for a European Constitution. If we still change the text, it will be a very small B”
And he goes on explaining the reasons for the mess we are in:
“Europe is not sufficiently proud of what it does (…) and the reason is that no government in particular can claim the merits from these achievements. Since governments like to attract the public’s attention only on their own achievements and not on common achievements, nobody speaks about common achievements.”
Let’s hope he will also have a word with his collegues at the European Council! Oh yes, and he seems to be a reader of this blog…
… to the citizens seems to be a huge problem.
One could assume that at least in Ireland, the only country that will hold a referendum on the Treaty, things are slightly different. But apparently this is not true! This article (What exactly are we reforming in this treaty?) shows us all the problems of the Treaty /EU in a nutshell: Lack of a professional communication strategy, arrogance of EU officials, no consolidated version of the rather complicated Treaty and journalists that are not doing their job properly!
– Problem No.1:The European Commission Representation in Dublin clearly fails in explaining the Treaty. Not only were they not able to answer some of the questions, but they also showed a degree of arrogance that makes it hard to become a supporter of the Treaty (and eventually the EU)! It is another proof that the Commission does not have the slightest idea how to communicate professionally. Commission Representations in the member states are seen as ‘official embassies’ of the EU! Therefore, it should be in the interest of the European Commission to make the case for the EU and the Treaty in a convincing way. The upcoming referendum in Ireland should make training of the Commission staff in Dublin a priority! Or to put it more dramatically: Dublin might be the only place in the EU where people actually want to know details about the Lisbon Treaty!
– Problem No.2 is of course the complicated nature of the Lisbon Treaty which also makes it more difficult to explain (but that should not be understood as an excuse!). Of course the reason for this is the failed constitutional treaty and the problematic idea that the new treaty should be similar in content but with a different form. It is believed that only a stripped down treaty that looks very technical and incomprehensible (= “non constitutional”) can win the support of all member states and, at the same time, prevent as many referenda as possible.
– Problem No. 3: The missing consolidated version of the Lisbon Treaty. Ralf Grahn put together a list of existing consolidated versions of the Treaty which is probably the most comprehensive list to date. I guess there are three reasons why the EU has not published consolidated versions: firstly, a lot of legal details have to be clarified, secondly, a translation in all languages takes quite a while and, thirdly, I think the EU institutions have an interest to preserve the “technical look” (see above) as long as possible.
– And problem No. 4: Journalists that are unable to find facts. Of course I understand the point Vincente Brown wants to make in his article. But in a way he is doing it in such a typical manner. I agree that the Commission Representation behaved in a very unhelpful way, but why is it not possible for journalists to distinguish between the Commission in Brussels and Dublin? Why did he not phone the various information services of the Commission? What about the journalistic principle to check more sources? Maybe he would have found that website! Somehow I am sure that he just wanted to “test” the knowledge of the Dublin Representation so why does he not say that clearly in the article? I also agree that the treaty is not easy to understand: the language of the treaty is very legal and compared with other treaties also the structure is confusing and complicated. But can we not expect from journalists to read the treaty a bit more carefully? Because he would have found the following article (admittedly very hidden in the treaty!):
The Treaty establishing the European Community shall be amended in accordance with the provisions of this Article.
1) The title of the Treaty shall be replaced by “Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union”.
Anyway, if he still has problems with the TFEU he should start reading EU blogs!
OK, here are some rumours straight from Brussels:
Apparently Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for information society and media, has quite an impressive self-promotional strategy. Of course she is a very important Commissioner who has a very busy schedule; no doubt she is in charge of a very important portfolio and has achieved quite a lot! She has been a member of the European Commission since 1999 (!) … yes .. indeed she is a VIP! (And I don’t know whether she is considering a third term…)
But being a VIP is difficult and to work with them is even more problematic! So how to deal with VIPs? If you are organizing a conference, seminar or something similar and you want her to speak at this event, make sure that you invite other VIPs preferably ministers, other (also former!) Commissioners, well known MEPs, and CEOs that run global enterprises …. oh yeah and don’t make the mistake to invite anyone who might oppose Reding’s policies! It is obvious that Ms Reding does not want to sit on a panel with people that are “only” important but lack the “V”(incl. specialized staff, mangers, scientists, advisers…let alone citizens)! If you have doubts whether somebody is acceptable as a panelist I am sure her cabinet can help you! By following these rules it is very likely that Ms Reding will eventually speak at your event!
Somehow not a very convincing communication approach! But rumours are not facts.