Written by Luciano Morganti & Heritiana Ranaivoson
On the 9th and 10th of November 2017, the 8th edition of EuroPCom, the European Public Communication Conference, was held at the Committee of the Regions in Brussels. More than 1000 communication professionals attended the conference which has become, few years since its inception, the ‘must-attend’ annual event for communication managers and experts from local, regional, national and European authorities, as well as, in the most recent editions, academics, researchers and practitioners in the broad field of public and institutional communications.
One of the defining and most prominent features of EuroPCom is that it is organised by the European Committee of the Regions in close cooperation with the European Parliament, the European Commission, the Council of the EU and the European Social and Economic Committee. A special moment in the conference is the European Public Communication and the Special Prize Awards. The first was given this year to the Province of Antwerp for its campaign “Pop Up Europe”. The Special Prize Award to the “WhyEurope” project in recognition of its innovativeness and for its capacity to boost citizen engagement for the EU.
Fake news and the role of public broadcasters in communicating Europe
Two EuroPCom’s sessions were dedicated this year to discussing Fake News and the role of Public Services Broadcasters in communicating Europe.
The session dedicated to fake news was entitled Media literacy in the post-truth era – surviving in a world of fake news and misinformation. Media literacy was defined as “the capacity allowing one to access, critically understand and interact with media” (See report: Mapping of Media Literacy practices and action in EU-28). The session explored this concept in a (current) situation where the proliferation of misinformation and fake news is having profound consequences in our life. Victoria Main, Vice-President at Cambre Associates Belgium, set the stage of the discussion by contextualising the discussion and clarifying that the term has been around for a long time (besides misconceptions) and clarifying that fake news claim to be true what is not and, as an active audience, it is up to us to know how to navigate through them.
Tom Law, Director of Campaigns and Communications at Ethical Journalism Network, stated that journalism is not free speech, it is actually a restraint on speech as all journalist should be constrained by a framework of values – namely accuracy, independence, impartiality, humanity and accountability – and they should write guided by the public interest. A set of questions can help readers to interpret the value and bias of news: what is the status and motives of the author, how far is their reach, how does the news item benefit the author interests, is it meant to harm others, does the content incite violence, who is negatively affected and is there a pattern?
Ingo Heijnen, Senior Vice-President at Hill & Knowlton Netherlands, warned that we are only at the beginning of the fake news era and efficient solutions still have to be explored. Solutions are not easy as fake news can be published by anyone, their audience is scattered, emotions might be more important than facts and time is a key factor when reacting to fake news.
The discussion focused on the benefits of journalism promoting media literacy and ethical standards and on the needs for the EU to allocate resources and strategies in response to misinformation and fake allegations.
Communicating Europe – The role and impact of public service broadcasters session discussed firstly the quality of information online and offline and advertising and the responsibility for public broadcasters to control positioning. Public broadcasters have a fundamental role in informing us and making us aware of the Europe we live in. Another broad topic of discussion was focusing on the best strategies to reach those citizens that are less or not interested in EU affairs.
Christophe Préault (Managing Editor, Toute l’Europe, France) reminded the audience that the public has a lot of questions about the EU and is in need of explanations. Clara Rivero, a Spanish journalist covering European issues since 1968, stated that it is fundamental to get to know the EU well in order to avoid prejudices. One of the problems according to her is that it is today difficult to find professionals with a good knowledge of the EU because media do very little to send journalist on the spot and give them the possibility to get to know facts where they originate. Informing “from” Brussels might be the much-needed added value.
Max Beverton, Public Policy Manager for Sky (UK), stressed the trust that audiences put on media to reflect on the EU and the importance of systems that regulate TV platforms and advertisers. He said that in a mixed ecosystem of public and private broadcasters, there is an important need for a strong debate about the responsibilities of platforms from which Europeans get information. Regulations are and should be a fundamental framework when reporting and they should set the standards for a balanced coverage.
The panel agreed on the importance of simplifying the European message and on the need to present the EU and its institutions in a simpler way.
The MediaRoad Policy Hub and the ongoing discussion on Fake news and the changing landscape for the media sector
The changing role and the changing landscape for public service broadcaster in the EU and the challenges posed by the spread of Fake news in the media environment are, amongst others, important topics for the MediaRoad project started only a few months ago in September 2017.
Recently, the MediaRoad consortium has answered the European Commission Fake News consultation and, during the first week of March 2018 has organised, with the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), a conference on Media Innovation in the Age of AI, social media and fake news.
The Policy Hub of the MediaRoad project aims at creating an ecosystem for the development of a long-term policy vision for the whole European media sector, focusing on audiovisual, radio and social media. To achieve this aim, it will organise a series of consultations, targeted workshops, reports and research updates. The actions will address a stakeholder pool including broadcasters, technology companies, social media providers, production companies, journalists, policy experts and research institutes.
The broad scope of the participant and stakeholder pool will ensure that policy and research collaboration occurs across the media landscape – from technology, content production, social media and research – and include existing and emerging players. This is crucial to ensure policy responses comprehensively address the effects of media convergence.
Based on ideas gathered from participants and stakeholders, the Hub will provide short- and mid-term input to policy-makers at EU and national level, and enable the formulation of policy.
Luciano Morganti is Professor at the VUB in the Communication Department where he teaches in the international master New Media and Society in Europe. He teaches courses related to New Media, the European Public Sphere, and Internet Governance. He is a visiting professor at the College of European Political and Governance Studies department and the Development Office. Luciano graduated in Philosophy at La Sapienza Rome (1994), he has a master degree from the College of Europe – Bruges (1997) – European Advanced Studies – Human resources development and a master degree from the ISC – Saint Louis – Brussels (2002) – Interactive Multimedia Project – Cybercommunication. He obtained his PhD from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (2004) – Communication Studies. His main research interests are the European Public Sphere and Citizens Participation, Internet Governance and the changes brought by New Digital Media to our societies. @MorgantiL; @BrusselsTalking
Dr Heritiana Ranaivoson is Senior Researcher and Project Leader at imec-SMIT-Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Belgium). He holds a MSc in Economics and Management from the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Cachan and a PhD in Industrial Economics from Université Paris 1, Panthéon-Sorbonne. He has led several projects for European Commission, Unesco, Google, etc. His main research interests are cultural diversity, media innovation, wearables and the economic impact of digital technology on cultural industries.
Photo: © European Union / Denis Closon