Competition remains tough from private broadcasters, who also are hurt by falling advertising revenues as they wait for the economic recovery to take affect. Public networks also vie with private ones for digital frequencies as they are handed out. The fight for audience is fierce from the Internet as well.
But this month, EBU’s focus has been in Athens. At the same time Eurovision technicians were helping the protesting journalists, EBU President Jean-Paul Philippot and lawyers met with Greece’s finance minister June 14 to demand that ERT be reopened and to offer assistance in restructuring and reforming the broadcaster.
The finance minister dismissed them, saying they were infringing on Greek radio telecommunications law by assisting the rogue journalists and threatened EBU with legal proceedings. So far, that hasn’t happened, but EBU officials say they would help again.
“What happened in Greece could happen anywhere,” said Wrabetz, who is also Director General of Austrian public broadcaster ORF. Last year, Portugal considered privatizing its public broadcaster. Last week, UK Conservatives lauded the Greek move, suggesting it was time to scrap BBC.
Training Broadcast Journalists; instilling ethics
EBU regularly trains staff in member stations, instilling strong journalistic values and ethics. Many European public broadcasters have a history of government interference that kept those ethics from being instituted. In Greece, Portugal, and Spain, media were heavily censored by dictators until the mid-1970s. State TV in Eastern and Central European nations were influenced by communist governments until the 1990s.
So last year, EBU members agreed to a set of principles—impartiality and independence, fair and respectful, accurate and accountable—that have been translated into a code of conduct and signed by nearly all 74 members. EBU’s next step, due later this year, is to provide broadcasters with a self-assessment test.
“The EBU provides best practice examples to help turn state TVs into public service broadcasters,” said Hans-Martin Schmidt, a spokesman for German’s public broadcaster. Because of EBU’s experience in Eastern Europe, Tunisia asked Eurovision to help that country, emerging from the Arab Spring, with its TV network. EBU trainers accompanied Tunisian journalists as they reported on the latest elections. They have also traveled to Zagreb this month, to help the broadcaster in Croatia, soon to be the EU’s latest member.
Meanwhile, back in Athens, Papathanasiou said he would welcome EBU’s help in convincing the Greek government to end political interference and establish an independent, quality network.
Transmission of Tuesday’s FIFA game went well. Because they have been occupying the building, the livestream has only been able to transmit talking heads, so Tuesday was a breakthrough for the pirates, who were able to offer real content for viewers—content distributed by Eurovision. Wednesday, it broadcast a track and field event, also with the help of EBU.
“It almost feels like a real station again,” Papathanasiou said.