Are EU-mass media useful to influence the EU?
Who influences without first gathering information about how the outside world is viewing your interests, acts as a Don Quixote, without chance. Most interest groups mostly rely for their EU information on their federation or professional interest organisations in their home country or their European Federation (EUROFED). These have only an antenna on ‘their’ Brussels DGs and some other EU bodies. Sometimes even on some stakeholders outside the industry. Thus, most of what can be important in the EU eludes them, because opportunities and threats often come from outside their own sector. Finding a solution to this problem is to broader look around.
How? Replace the antenna on Brussels with a radar that constantly gathers information from other DGs, policies and groups of stakeholders, including the supply of issues and agendas from deep within the EU Member States. What is happening there may soon change the formal EU agenda. The Juncker Fund has already been overtaken by the migration issue. Deep in the EU member states, the people in their living rooms have become important and distrustful stakeholders. Who is monitoring them and who influences them? So, even better is to replace the EU-radar by a network of satellites around the world. What is happening today in the US, China, Russia and WTO (there happens a lot), can change the EU tomorrow. Globally organized groups (from Greenpeace to Shell) already useful global satellites.
Are mass media a potential network with useful EU information? Take for example the Dutch media. The ‘old’ media (not to mention the “new”) are reporting about the EU in a very incomplete and unreliable way. Without basic knowledge of the EU, they bring mostly thin chatter and myths. Like the fact that the Netherlands are ‘EU president’ in first part of 2016. No, the Netherlands only presides the General Council and its underlays, nothing above it or outside it. I do not reproach all this to the media. As retail channel, they have to survive by attracting customers with exciting stories about ‘Turbulent Holland’ and about the EU only if the Netherlands are prominent (sometimes) or discredited (common). Yet I still read daily Dutch media for EU news. Between the lines of a mere Dutch message I sometimes find a word or phrase that informs me that more is going on and that this may be related to the EU. These words or phrases I then check in better sources such as professional websites, academic studies and private networks. So, the Dutch media belong to my broadest radar on the EU, even if the EU-word is missing. However, he who also reads many foreign media (www.eufeeds.eu), gets a satellite view of the EU.
All that information is still unusable for influencing. It is raw material for understanding an issue, as “intelligence” is needed for a promising strategy with a plan of action. This is the real “homework”. So firstly seek these words and phrases in the mass media. Replace the antenna with a radar into the living room of EU citizens and start to download global satellites. By doing this, the upcoming EU opportunities and threats will become visible. Influencing them is the next step.
by Prof Rinus van Schendelen
Em. Professor in Political Science and PA-Advisor in Brussels
Author of ‘The Art of Lobbying the EU’ (Amsterdam University Press, 2013)