European public service broadcasters unite for ‘Keep Media Good’ campaign

Eurovision organiser EBU, led by Noel Curran, sends message amid industry upheaval

‘Ambitious’ campaign: EBU director-general Noel Curran. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

‘Ambitious’ campaign: EBU director-general Noel Curran. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

Public service broadcasters across Europe have come together for a new campaign to promote the positive impact of public media at a time of political uncertainty, funding crises, “fake news” and fast-rising online streaming giants.

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has launched the “Keep Media Good” campaign, the first of its type, initially across nine countries including the Republic.

Some 289 short films have been made from the personal testimonies of people who have been “inspired” by public service media. The multilingual campaign will run on social media, while RTÉ, as a member of the EBU, will also show a television ad from it.

“A campaign like this has never been done before,” said EBU director-general Noel Curran, who was director-general of RTÉ between 2011 and 2016.

“Particularly at this moment when Europe is questioning itself and there are some upheavals, we are trying to make the point that we are serving the European content industry and are part of a broader European movement with a shared set of values,” he said.

The “ambitious” campaign is designed to stress the investments that EBU members make in European culture, especially to those younger audiences who grew up in the more fragmented media market of today.

EBU members invest about €18 billion annually in European content, which is more than twice the combined worldwide spending by Netflix and Amazon on original content, it points out.

Public service media organisations are the highest spenders on original content in 13 of the EU-15 countries, while they produce “a much broader range of content” than the on-demand players, said Mr Curran, who started in his Geneva-based role in September.

“There’s a real point of difference for us.”

‘Huge gas giants’

The launch of the campaign follows a warning last week by BBC director-general Tony Hall that British content was under “serious threat” as a result of competition from Netflix and Amazon.

Mr Hall described the BBC as “tiny” in the “vast solar system” of the media market “compared to the huge gas giants of the US”.

Investment levels by US-owned over-the-top (OTT) streaming companies in European content has also surfaced as a key theme in the EU process to revise the Audiovisual Services Media Directive.

The legislation, which will be finalised in early 2018, may specify content production quotas, while it is also expected to give member states the ability to impose levies on on-demand services.

Best known among viewers for organising the Eurovision Song Contest, the EBU is an alliance of public service media organisations that has 73 members in 56 countries in Europe, as well as 33 associates in Asia, Africa and North and South America.

It also operates a news exchange service, negotiates for sports rights on behalf of members and lobbies governments to promote and protect public media funding and freedoms.