The European Union’s absence from the European media

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The European Union’s absence from the European media

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When watching the news in European channels one will be faced with a plethora of reports on domestic and international developments. Wars, peace, elections, crimes all feature in TV, radio and newspapers in Europe whether happening down the street or in a different hemisphere. One area, however is consistently absent from these same media: the European Union. Indeed it would be rational to claim that Europe is absent from the European media. Although they all spend time talking about developments in various European countries, the politics, debates, decisions, and policies of Europe as a whole rarely feature news hours and when they do appear it is in a small section of the newspaper or a few minutes at the end of the prime time.

The European Parliament recently adopted three reports with proposed reforms about the EU’s future, but no one read them. Jean-Claude Juncker gave a speech on the state of the European Union, but no TV channel broadcasted it. Amidst the European Parliament’s presidential race there was a debate among the candidates but not major TV network hosted it. When the elections were concluded and the new president of the European Parliament (a very important position in the EU) was elected no national newspaper or TV channel featured any extensive piece about him. These are all significant political developments that if happening in national politics would be extensively covered by all major news networks. Yet on the European level no one seems to pay attention (besides a few specialized news websites focusing on the EU).

Studies have shown that the European debate is absent from national news channels. Moreover, other studies have indicated that when the EU is featured in the news it usually concerns negative developments and scandals or issues directly related to national politics. Of course it makes sense that the media will be more interested in “shocking” news and should act as democratic watchdogs that check any authority, including the EU, and expose its missteps. But doing so while ignoring all major achievements is an unfair treatment.

Besides the ample scientific evidence, it doesn’t need to make too much effort to notice this absence of Europe for themselves. One can simply turn on any European channel during news’ hour or pick up any national newspaper to verify the absence of developments and debates currently unfolded in the European level. According to a study, this results to an “absence of a common space for debate on European matters and politics.” Such a space is essential for any democracy to function yet the European debate is largely confined by and defined according to a national prism.

Perhaps the best evidence of that is the European elections. One would expect that in the period leading up to the elections for the European Parliament the national debate would be dominated by issues related to the EU as a whole and that national parties would present their plan and vision for the European Union. However, such is not the case. Many surveys have shown that voters decide who to support based largely on considerations of national politics. For example, it is very common for people to vote for the party currently in the national opposition as a means to express their disapproval of the national government. Moreover, many people abstain believing that their vote doesn’t matter. The result is European elections whose outcome is decided largely by national politics.

The national media is largely to blame for the absence of Europe in their programs. The media’s role as related to politics is to report objectively on the debates and policies affecting people’s lives. The absence of such reporting when it comes to the EU contributes to feelings that it is an undemocratic body which is unaccountable to the people, fueling Euroscepticism. Moreover, it could be argued that the democratic deficit plaguing the EU is very much a result of the refusal of national media to concern themselves with Europe. The media is complicit in the democratic deficit from which the EU is plagued today and in the rise of Euroscepticism that accompanies it. Therefore, it is time that the media starts bringing Europe to Europeans’ screens.

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