SPEECH published on 14 Jun 2022

EBU DG Noel Curran welcome address to the Media Summit 2022

It's been quite a two years – Covid then war in Ukraine.

Covid tested us in lots of ways – informing the public, people management, managing health, managing fear, managing remote working, managing Covid protocol productions.

Fundamental and let's face it very new challenges.

War in Ukraine challenges us differently but just as profoundly. The repercussions have gone to the heart of what we are. 

It has raised questions of solidarity and membership. For us, just like every other international organization, it has put a spotlight on fault lines that, if we’re honest, probably already existed between regions and countries. 

It has raised questions about our values and how we protect them.

It will pose severe financial challenges across membership fees and also in areas like Sport in the years ahead as we try to unwind contractual obligations made in a different world, that was actually only a year or two ago. 

And remember while all this has been going on – the market hasn’t stopped changing. 

The consolidation in the media industry continues apace – just look at the Warner Brothers Discovery merger, an extraordinary deal that will have big implications across Europe. 78% of SVOD subscriptions in Europe are now controlled by US companies. Amazon now has EUR 81 billion in cash reserves alone Apple 53 billion. Incredible.

Audiences trends also have developed. The public haven’t said, let’s stop changing our viewing habits until after Covid and after the war. Let’s take a break. In fact, they’ve accelerated those changes.

We should not underestimate the impact of all this. I certainly don’t. 

But look at what else the last two years have shown us. 

It has shown us that the connection public service media (PSM) has with our audiences is not broken. It has strengthened.

It has shown us that the old dinosaurs of public service media, as we’re portrayed, can adapt, can change radically and quickly. 

Just look at how we responded to remote working, remote production, new strands of programming, the changes in age-old production models that Covid forced on us, the accelerated move to digital. 

I stood in an auditorium in Rotterdam, at the height of the pandemic and again in Torino last week and watched the biggest live music show in the world being broadcast brilliantly despite Covid. I watched the explosion in its social media coverage, its digital impact and the innovations that delivered that. Don’t tell me we can’t adapt.

All our social media strategies have also evolved. We’ve seen our Members launch new VOD platforms, specialist channels, increase investment in areas like data specialism and seek new partnerships with each other but also with the commercial sector. 

One of the main and most refreshing questions I increasingly get asked by Director Generals now is ‘what strategies are other organizations adopting for Tik Tok’. That’s great to hear and I would like to hear more of it and we would like to give you the answers.

The EBU has also changed radically and I believe for the better in that period and I want to thank everyone who’s been involved in that. As our research with our Members has shown us, we’ve become more reactive, more agile, more focussed and more collaborative in how we work. 

Our news operation has adapted and responded and become a central part of how the public have learned about the crises while also launching a new news platform with A European Perspective.

Our Media department, working with you the Members, have stepped up and innovated with content exchanges, increased emphasis on co-production, international radio and music campaigns, and so much more. 

Our Digital and Technology communities have continued to look to the future talking to the platforms, looking at AI, starting the dialogue on Metaverse and so much more.
And there is also so much that I’ve see now in the membership that continues to encourage me for that future.

I see our news crews working in danger zones in Ukraine and under draconian media laws in Moscow and I see the connection they still have with their audiences.

I see the solidarity our Members have shown in sharing experience and knowledge during Covid and more recently in stepping up and supporting Ukraine and our broadcaster UA:PBC.

I see the way our membership worked together on the Olympic bid, the biggest bid ever by PSM that we have submitted in partnership with Discovery. Whatever the outcome of this bid, the co-operation and professionalism of the approach was as good as we’ve ever seen.

And I also see some interesting market dynamics. Who would have thought that Netflix would have had the year it’s had? Who would have thought that the markets would now be questioning the business models of those companies we assumed were on a one-way ticket to world domination?  

And after the years of hype for these new entrants, who would have thought that people would suddenly start positively re-evaluating the uniqueness and important of having a broad content offering – one that covers all genres, that includes new production and archive, that gives binge opportunities but also crucially a strong element of live broadcasting – be that news, Sport whatever. 

And as I always say, hello there, that’s what we do. We now need to capitalize on this.

And EBU wants to help. All of these areas are part of the EBU response to your challenges as we now concentrate on three main areas: Content, Advocacy, Transformation. 

But let's not kid ourselves. The challenges remain. 

We need to keep changing. 

We need you, the producers, the editors, the managers in this room to push that change. 

You are the change accelerators. Keep pushing us all and each other. Keep the pressure on us. That’s the biggest service you can do PSM.
 

Written by

Noel Curran
Director General (EBU)