European Commission criticised over Euronews performance shortcomings

Written by Martin Banks on 15 May 2019 in News
News

But the French-based news channel hits back at EU auditors report which says “most citizens” in the EU are unable to access its content.

Photo credit: Euronews


The report by the European Court of Auditors (ECA) says Euronews is “not a public service broadcaster in any member state.”

It raises other issues, saying the channel “could not maintain its geographic and linguistic coverage without support from the EU” and that the European Commission, in the past, had signed partnership agreements with Euronews and awarded it grants “without a call for proposal.”

The ECA, which analysed a total of €122m in funding for the channel from 2014-2018, goes on to say that the Commission “does not have a system to verify whether Euronews is achieving the objectives agreed in the partnership agreements.”


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However, on Wednesday, a Euronews spokesperson replied to the ECA report, telling this website that, “the rapid case review is a review of the European Commission, not of Euronews.”

The spokesman went on, “Euronews complies with its reporting commitments: in its annual work programme submitted to the European Commission, Euronews presents all the objectives set by the Framework Partnership Agreement and how it intends to meet them during the upcoming year.”

“The funding allocated to Euronews is under a lot of scrutiny by the European Commission. It is subject to numerous financial audits performed by independent auditors every year and to specific evaluations to assess the impact of the different actions.”

The spokesman said, “The fact that Euronews is privately owned does not impact its historical mission of European general interest in the field of information, thanks to a specific governance that has been implemented since 2015, giving strong and unique powers to an editorial board controlled by the public shareholders (broadcasters).

“Regarding distribution, it is wrong to say as the review does that ‘most citizens in the EU are unable to access’ Euronews,” the spokesman told The Parliament Magazine.

“The Commission should verify annually if Euronews complies with the commitments on preserving its editorial impartiality and a European perspective. But we found no formal link between these commitments and the Commission’s criteria for annually awarding the funds” The European Court of Auditors' Mihails Kozlovs

He added, “TV distribution reaches 171 million households in Europe, of which 140 million are in the 28 countries of the EU. These 140m households cover 67 per cent of all households in the EU28.”

The ECA, in its report, said the EU’s support of an average of €24.5m a year had helped Euronews to develop a “unique business model” and broadcast programmes on EU affairs in several languages.

The auditors identified “shortcomings” in the way the Commission monitors the channel’s performance.

Euronews was created in 1993 by ten European public broadcasters to “reinforce European identity and integration” and the EU has provided it with financial support since then. In recent years, the channel has changed its ownership structure by acquiring private investors.

Euronews’ main shareholders at the end of March were Luxembourg-based Media Globe Networks (60 per cent) and the US network NBC (25 per cent), according to the ECA.

“The funding allocated to Euronews is under a lot of scrutiny by the European Commission. It is subject to numerous financial audits performed by independent auditors every year and to specific evaluations to assess the impact of the different actions” Euronews spokesman

EU funding, said the auditors, is still a “fundamental” part of Euronews’ income and represents around a third of its annual turnover.

The auditors warned, though, that “most citizens in the EU are unable to access it, as the channel is not carried on all networks – cable, satellite and digital terrestrial.”

Mihails Kozlovs, the ECA member responsible for the review, said, “The EU provides a major source of revenues to a TV channel that is mostly privately owned.”

“The Commission should verify annually if Euronews complies with the commitments on preserving its editorial impartiality and a European perspective. But we found no formal link between these commitments and the Commission’s criteria for annually awarding the funds.”

The ECA said that since 2010 the Commission had signed partnership agreements with Euronews and awarded it grants – without a call for proposal – in line with the then-applicable EU financial rules. These rules changed in 2018 and the Commission has now introduced a “performance-reporting framework” for its funding of Euronews.

The report says, “However, the Commission has no formal mechanism in place to coordinate the specific contracts its services sign with Euronews.”

This reduces transparency of the financial support provided to Euronews and accountability, say the auditors.

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at The Parliament Magazine

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