De Jong’s appeal for strong public broadcasting services finds support in European Parliament

17 December 2012

De Jong’s appeal for strong public broadcasting services finds support in European Parliament

Public broadcasting has an important task in the formation of public opinion and in ensuring that there is and continues to be a diversity of opinion represented on television. This is the position taken in the report from SP Euro-MP Dennis de Jong debated today in the European Parliament. ‘In contrast to the Dutch government the majority of political groups in the European Parliament are clearly aware of the important social role played by public broadcasters,’ says De Jong. ‘The EP wants to see a pluralistic and accessible public broadcasting service unburdened by European competition rules. The Parliament also supported my demands for an enquiry into relations pf ownership within commercial broadcasting with a view to preveningt media conglomerates which are currently being formed from having too much power.’

The priority should be a European enquiry into the power and influence of commercial broadcasters in relation to public broadcasters. ‘European rules, enforced in Dutch courts, mean that a commercial channel such as RTL4 can be watched in the Netherlands,’ notes De Jong. ‘In itself there is of course nothing wrong with that, but in recent years commercial broadcasters have become steadily more aggressive in their attacks on the public service. And things would be different if all of the major commercial media in Europe were in the hands of a very few big corporations, as they were in Italy under media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi.’

De Jong also wants to see public broadcasters having the chance to offer information on the Internet connected to their TV and radio programmes. ‘These days you can hardly separate one from the other,’ De Jong points out. ‘Not only does the Internet offer the chance to see programmes you’ve missed, but there’s also a great deal of additional material there, for which television or radio doesn’t have enough time. Everyone is happy with this, but commercial broadcasters who have often made the transition to the Internet later than their publicly owned rivals now suddenly see the latter as “unfair competition”. It is therefore also important that we now confirm that public broadcasters must simply have the right to be fully active on the Internet. ‘

Draconian cuts to public broadcasting budgets in the Netherlands are another expression of the pressure of commercial services. Public broadcasting must, it’s said, return to its core tasks. ‘I’ve seen in the United States what that can mean’ comments De Jong. ‘A marginal broadcaster with mostly unpopular programmes. Public broadcasting must ensure that all social currents are adequately catered for. That needn’t mean unpopular programmes, but visibility for the diversity that such a channel should reflect. That kind of pluralism can never be guaranteed by commercial broadcasters, because they are guided only by viewing figures. Moreover, more and more are falling into the hands of media empires, such as those of Berlusconi and Murdoch. We have seen in Italy how these broadcasters can quickly become an extension of the political ambitions of their owners.”

The SP is in favour of strong public broadcasting services. That means adequate finance, but most importantly recognition of the fact that in this case the usual competition rules cannot be applied. In addition to pluralistic representation, public broadcasting exists to ensure accessibility of programmes which are so important that everyone and anyone must be able to watch without supplementary charges and with as little advertising as possible. The news, for example, or reports of important events and big sporting occasions. Providing guarantees of pluralism and accessibility, that is public broadcasting’s core task.

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