BLOG published on 15 Jan 2020

Protecting Europe's digital sovereignty is key for next generation

This year, we celebrate 70 years since the founding of the EBU.

It’s a moment to pause and reflect on how far we, and public service media, have come in the intervening years and to look ahead.

When delegates from 23 countries in the European Broadcasting Area first met in the small English seaside town of Torquay, the continent was still reeling from the aftermath of the second World War.

The EBU’s predecessor, the International Broadcasting Union, had been effectively taken over by Nazi Germany, and had lost credibility in the eyes of the Allies. There was an urgent need for broadcasters to come together to foster exchange, mediate disputes over emerging technology and play their role in forging a new vision for Europe.

At the first meeting, all the talk was of radio. In 1950, television was still in its infancy. Despite it being over 20 years since the first television broadcasts, only a handful of broadcasting organizations in Western Europe had the capacity to make their own television programmes. And all these countries took very different approaches, using different and often incompatible line systems.

The EBU played a formative role in bringing public service broadcasters together to standardize their systems and encourage international cooperation so that millions of viewers throughout the continent could benefit from this new technology – bringing them trustworthy news and information, cultivating understanding and giving them a wider window on their world.

Now, as we enter the new online era, the EBU’s role is just as crucial as it was 70 years ago. Our Members' investment in European content, trusted independent news and in the European creative industry is second to none. We must ensure that this unprecedented investment continues to be supported by national funding models.

We must also work to ensure that the rise of global platforms does not restrict consumers’ access to the very content they most trust, value and rely on. There is an urgent need to secure Europe’s digital sovereignty so the next generation can continue to benefit from strong public service media that upholds our common values and empowers our citizens.

Global online platforms have evolved from distributors to powerful gatekeepers, disrupting the way European content is displayed, attributed and remunerated.

If we are to protect Europe’s proud tradition of a free and independent media, we need policies that are fit for the future - the platforms' responsibility should be in line with their ability to influence public opinion and they should not be given control of our Members' content. In order for people to easily find and access high-quality, reliable information and programming, we would like to see regulation that guarantees the prominence of public value content on all major platforms and ensures clear brand attribution.

We also want our Members to be able to benefit from the data platforms collect about the use of their content and services so they can continue to meet the needs of all audiences.

Our Members are bound together by their shared belief in the positive contribution that high-quality media can make to society. Public service media organizations are part of the social, cultural and democratic fabric of Europe and just as critical now as they have been at any point in their history.

Europe needs a fair and transparent online environment if we are to protect its digital sovereignty and ensure future generations can continue to enjoy access to trusted news and information and a rich plurality of views.

Written by

Noel Curran
Director General

+41 22 717 2005