The great French statesman Charles de Gaulle once said: “It is Europe, it is the whole of Europe, that will decide the fate of the world.” Though de Gaulle is gone, the sentiment lives on, housed in the shining edifices of the European Commission.
Earlier this month I went to Brussels with 14 of my fellow Journalism students from City University. There, we were initiated into the secrets of the Eurocrats and the mantle of responsiblity was laid upon our quivering shoulders.
Despite the unquestionable importance of the EU, we were told, the British public has a skewed perspective on the affairs of Brussels because of the agendas of the media moguls. And it is up to us to fix it.
As Albert Maes, a previous EU ambassador to Jerusalem and lecturer in economics at the University of Namur in Belgium, put it: “The easy solution for the tabloids is always sarcasm.”
Out of a press core of over 1,200 journalists from all over Europe, many British news outlets don’t even have their own correspondents in Brussels. Those that do will often be charged with covering Europe as a whole.
One of the spokespeople we met, who did not wish to be named, said that many of the journalists she dealt with from the UK tabloids were not only rude but massively ignorant about anything to do with the EU.
This is because, to put it bluntly, the EU is boring as hell. No amount of free coffee and walks around stunning white buildings could hide the fact that the domain of the Eurocrats is unbelievably tedious.
Even the most talented British journalists have serious problems sparking interest in the latest regulations on, say, water pollution, even if it does mean that Blackpool beach will be littered with slightly less crap than usual.
Mark Mardell, the BBC’s Europe editor, said: “The job of journalists is to inform and entertain. The EU comes down heavily on the inform side.”
Believe it or not, I am generally pro-Europe. Yet after being told repeatedly how important it was for us, as future journalists, to raise awareness of the EU, I cannot help but feel a certain smug amusement at the revelation in today’s Sunday Times that the EU’s latest online project has received as little attention from its continental audience as it has on British shores.
Launched 18 months ago by the commission’s communications bureau, EU Tube – Europe’s take on the video-sharing website YouTube – has attracted dismal viewing figures. Some videos, such as the Controlling the Use of Chemicals in Europe and the Better Rights for Temporary Workers, have had only a few dozen hits.
Still, there is one success story in the EU archive. The “Let’s come together” video, made to promote the Brussels film subsidy, has reportedly had more than 7m views. The video (above) features clips of couples having sex, watched by a gaping cinema audience.
It seems the Eurocrats have learnt something Rupert Murdoch could have told them years ago: sex sells, no matter where you are.