ARE THE MEDIA DESTROYING EUROPE?
5 September 2013, Potsdam, Germany
Angela Merkel in a Hitler uniform, Wolfgang Schäuble as Gollum, Aphrodite giving the one-fingered salute, the Greeks all swindlers, the Italians idle loafers – to judge from media output over the past two or three years, there’s not much left of European unity and good neighbourliness. Discussions have instead focused on “fascism”, on the “subjugation of foreign peoples”, even on “war”.
“Are the Media destroying Europe?” is therefore the topic of this year’s M100 Sanssouci Colloquium, which will be held on the 5th of September 2013, friendly supportet by the Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation Berlin-Brandenburg, in the historical Raphael Hall in Potsdam-Sanssouci. In an intensive, controversial debate, six top journalists from different European countries will examine issues of the media’s influence on the European integration process and neighbourly relations, of who takes what positions and why, and of what role types of political communication play in this context.
The debate will be moderated by the well-known British presenter Tim Sebastian, originator of the BBC‘s legendary “Hardtalk” interview series and host of “The New Arab Debates” for Deutsche Welle TV.
The discussion and the following award ceremony will be live streamed.
Although the framework of ‘Europe’ was developed by political institutions in Brussels and Strasbourg, “the media are responsible for creating and defining Europe and anchoring it in our minds, hearts and souls.“ (Stephan Russ-Mohl, 2003). Despite some high-quality attempts and examples such as Eurozine, Eurotopic, European Voice, Euronews and joint ventures such as Le Monde diplomatique and the weekly English language supplement of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in the International Herald Tribune, which mainly reaches an educated, cosmopolitan readership, there is still no Europe-wide mass medium that informs Europeans on the same subjects at the same time.
The well-known (mass)media too, largely fails in its function to inform citizens and direct debate on Europe. This is fatal, because, as the Guardian and others have written, politicians from all parties find it easier to "parrot the views of a few less conservative newspapers or repeat them in diluted form. Most owners of these newspapers pay no taxes in the countries they’re published in and regard "Europe" as synonymous with regulations that threaten their interests as owners and wealthy businessmen. Many citizens have become instinctively more careful and pragmatic, not just because they don’t trust the press, but because they get very few leads from politicians.“ (“Europe’s lost voices”, January 10, 2013).
European issues are still only covered if national interests are concerned, true to the motto “act global, talk local”. At the same time, large-scale media corporations such as Axel Springer AG, Bertelsmann, Bauer, the Funke Media Group (former WAZ Media Group), Lagardère Media, News Corp and Mediaset are building European media empires.
Columns, essays and reports all claim there is no longer any question of a united Europe and that the European dream has long since collapsed. Politics has failed, they say, but what has the media’s part been in all this? The debate will clear which role the media have played in creating the current aggressive mood between individual countries. Do they just observe and report on developments, or do they also influence them? How differently do the media from various countries report the same facts? What are the reasons and consequences of these different ways of representing facts and issues? Is it even possible to create a homogeneous European public, or is a united European media a chimera, a fantasy? Given the lack of a single uniting ‘lingua franca’ in Europe, is a European ‘communication sphere’ even possible? If so, how? How can and should the media fulfil its controlling and communication function as the “fourth estate” within the framework of European political decision-making processes? Do the media really show the real pictures? Or do they only looking for scandals?
And finally, will the European integration process affect press freedom? According to the study “High Level Group on Media Freedom and Pluralism”, published in January 2013, a free and pluralistic media landscape is crucial for European democracy.
But there are currently a number of challenges which can potentially restrict journalistic freedom or reduce pluralism, whether through political influence, undue commercial pressures, the changing media landscape with new business models, or the rise of the new media. The HLG acknowledges that the main responsibility for maintaining media freedom and pluralism lies with the Member States. However, the European Union also has an important role to play in upholding the fundamental rights of EU citizens.
The debate will be underpinned with research and facts compiled by participants in this year‘s M100 Young European Journalists workshop. In a four-day workshop held immediately before the colloquium in the Axel Springer Academy in Berlin, they will be making intense preparations for dealing with this topic, researching facts, producing video clips, texts and blogs under the direction of multi-award-winning journalist, filmmaker and coach Christian Stahl. During the debate, they will be actively involved in the debate.
The conference language will be English.
M100 is an initiative of the City of Potsdam and Potsdam Media International e.V. and takes place as part of Medienwoche@IFA.
This year's M100 is supported by the Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, the Federal Foreign Office, Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung, and the ZEIT Foundation.
Cooperation partners include the Axel Springer Academy, Deutsche Welle, European Council on Foreign Relations, European Youth Press, Human Rights Watch, Institute for Politics and Communication, Intajour – International Academy of Journalism, Land Brandenburg, Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation Berlin-Brandenburg, and Reporters without Borders.
Media Partner: Die Welt.