March 10, 2009
The following article was first published by Alexandros Koronakis, Editor of New Europe on 22nd September 2008. Should you wish to comment on this article, please leave your feedback below.
Along the lines of several colleagues, I have both positive and negative remarks about the EuroparlTV project. I will however focus on the criticism, the praise in the media around Europe will be ample. The three things that trouble me most about this project are
My first and most important point- is the outrageous expectations. EuroparlTV will absolutely not achieve what is expected- no matter how much help is given by eurofriendly companies, organizations, and media. Having read about expectations of 20-40 of millions of viewers for hot debates- I simply laughed. Just as a point of reference, New Europe, European Voice, EU Observer, EUX.TV, Euractiv, Europolitics, and Parliament Magazine all together do not achieve more than 5 million viewers in a whole month. And all of these media a) cover all of the EU Institutions, b) Have a combined budget which surpasses the EuroparlTV’s 10 million Euro per year, c) Produce at least 10 times as much content in a year, and d) most of these have been in this business producing such news for many years. The only way to achieve such quantities of viewers is to get 20 million monkeys clicking away on a computer whose only icon is EuroparlTV. There are also ways to buy such “monkey” viewership (computer bots visiting the site). Quite cheap at significantly below the 1 million euro advertising budget; also quite fake… The media with an EU specialization serve as an example to show that far too much is expected of EuroparlTV; and it is with these hyperbolic expectations that the budget has been justified.
The target audience(s)
The basic problem that I have with the EuroparlTV design and structure is that it targets people who are looking for it. What I mean by that is that the videos are hosted exclusively on the website- without republication to video sites like Youtube and Dailymotion. The only people who are going to actually go to Europarl TV are a) students and academics looking for research material, and b) the Brussels niche of professionals whose work revolves around the EU Institutions. The other problem is the definition of four “channels”, and the content of the menu– YourParliament, YourVoice, YoungEurope, and ParliamentLive The first channel, YourParliament, is a channel where selected videos are highlighted to project what the people running the site have set as the Parliament’s agenda. The lack of independence of the institution from the website makes this a slight problem. The second channel, YourParliament, is a showcase of issues which EuroparlTV has brought up with a number of citizens across Europe. The selection process of the issues and the screening process of the opinions is not quite transparent. Perhaps an online voting mechanism where issues are chosen by the people would be useful in gauging what is on the peoples’ minds. The third channel, YoungEurope, is one which apparently teaches teenagers how the Parliament works (from what available so far). A useful tool for schoolchildren; but frankly I don’t think it can compete with teletubbies, or whatever it is that is popular- Youtube clips of Hello Kitty will probably be far more popular. The final channel, ParliamentLive remains to be judged. I think this whole channelization is not the right way to go. People who enter Parliament TV will want to find specific themes. To this effect, for maximal reach (and usefulness) – I would structure Parliament TV in a number of dossiers, which each contain a number of videos which are thematically linked. Furthermore, these dossiers could link to the relevant pages on the European Parliament Legislative Observatory, directly providing the legislations and documents linked to the videos in question. Unfortunately it seems to me that EuroparlTV is just another project which will recycle funds through specific circles in Brussels. 40 Million Euro is much civilian tax money.
The opportunity cost
40 Million Euro is indeed not little money. Yes there need to be video coverage of the European Parliament – but only for as many proceedings as are available for live coverage. And yes these videos should of course be made available through a web outlet- but at this cost? Europe needs communication in the member states. Big banners in Brussels, channels catering to the Brussels audience, and events at the Berlaymont are all useful- but they will never reach the citizens of the European cities and regions who are paying the tax money. Ant at the end of the day- if you’re going to do something put some thought into how to make it useful so people can keep coming back. We, at New Europe will carefully be using content from EuroparlTV for our website, and for that we are grateful that it is available. As I have said before it is only through constructive criticism that we can develop for the better. We’ll be here to witness the development of yet another Europroject. I for one, will remain a loyal fan of EuroparlTV. Giving my recommendations and opinions for as long as I find them useful.
The original article can be found here.Stuart Langridge