Lucian Sârb is the Director of News and Programmes at euronews. He was one of the panel members at the POLIS Conference at the London School of Economics last Friday, where the panel discussed ‘how the European media failed to report the loss of democracy in the wake of the euro crisis’.
The European broadcasting company euronews is quite extraordinary on itself. It broadcasts in eleven different languages. No reporters in their news pieces: all the pieces are dubbed with a voice-over to ensure the language diversity.
euronews’ news selection is global, as is their audience. They report on the world from a self-acclaimed ‘European perspective’.
There must be something interesting to learn from a director of news that works across borders, supported by a multicultural news crew. I had a discussion with Lucian Sârb after the panel discussion, and asked him about this particular editorial approach.
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What does the ‘European perspective’ actually mean for your coverage?
Lucian Sârb: “Most importantly, the European perspective gives us the opportunity to report more objectively on phenomena in a certain country. We deliver the news without anchors. It’s just images and voice – just the facts, in ten or twelve minutes.”
“But we also work with a multicultural and multilingual group of journalists. That changes your coverage. We work in a sort of hub, which brings about a lot of different angles and perspectives on stories.”
“For example, when we cover the labour market in Italy, we often choose a German or a Spanish expert to analyse this issue. Or we bring in other views, such as people who have experienced similar things.”
“We don’t aim to focus very deeply on Italian politics. The story has to make sense to our global audience. We need to report the kind of details that make sense in Latin-America or Asia as well. If we take in too much detail, we’ll lose viewers in other parts of the world.”
Transnational European media have difficulties of reaching a very broad audience, though. How can you make your European coverage interesting, and attractive?
Sârb: “Today, that’s easier than three years ago. The local audience is more interested in what’s going on, not only in Brussels but also in other countries.”
“When we report in the PIGS countries (Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain), you report for the citizens of these countries, but it is also relevant and important to other European citizens. We do that test with each story we put on our agenda.”
“If you take the usual angle on European stories, and you speak about the institutions, the parliament or the council… Forget it! You need to find issues that are close to human beings. You have to humanise the story, and then put it into context.”
Do national media carry a certain responsibility, by having failed to do this in the past?
Sârb: “With national media, the rule of proximity comes into play. It’s always more important what’s going on in their countries, than what’s going on in Europe.”
“There is a huge responsibility, but most national media are part of the market. All the channels and the press are fighting to survive and keep their audience. If you talk with an editor on what they put into their news selection, it’s mostly the shareholder obliging him to reach the audience.”
“I think the big problem, and the bulk of responsibility, goes to the public broadcasters. They are funded by the citizens, and they should concentrate more on covering the EU.”
“The elections for the European parliament are coming up in June 2014. I bet that all the national debates will deal with local issues for ninety percent.”
While politics and certainly economics have gone transnational in the EU, the media or social movements didn’t transform with them.
Sârb: “I agree. In the case of the upcoming elections, media have the aim to make people understand that this is not about national politics.”
“But the EU also lacks the overview to deal with this. For example, in 2014 the leader of the European socialist party PES should make a tour across Europe to support his campaign. That’s the case in the United States. And it would help people understand the European phenomenon.”