Why Public Service Broadcasting
Eastern vs. Western Europe: Circumstances and Challenge
Catalin Preda (Romania)
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2.9. European Broadcasting Union - EBU

2.9.1. History, evolution and data about EBU

Radio organisations from some European countries founded the International Broadcasting Union - IBU, with the purpose of uniting their radio-systems and for co-operating in developing new programme producing and transmission techniques.
On 12 February 1950, in Torquay (England), 23 radio and TV organisations from Europe and around the Mediterranean Basin signed the instrument setting up the European Broadcasting Union and, in so doing, dealt the death blow to the International Broadcasting Union beset by the problems of post-war Europe and upheaval in the European political arena.
At the start of broadcasting, governments felt that because frequencies were scarce it was in the public's interest to keep a very tight rein on their utilisation. With the advent and spread of satellites, plus their extension in many countries via cable distribution networks, the scarcity argument lost much of its weight and politicians tended to reject what was considered a monopolistic situation; hence, the move towards placing broadcasting a competitive environment. EBU has moved with the times, but has remained aware, along with the public service broadcasters that constitute its membership, that culture is not a commodity like any other: radio (and TV) must primarily be treated as society issue.
Since 1989 the EBU's radio programme exchanges, under the name of Euroradio, have made increasing use of a mix sattelite-terestrial network. EBU also rapidly increases its co-operation with the former communist states in Eastern Europe, strengthening the ties especially in the fields of know-how and technology transfer, and in programme exchanges.
Following the upheaval of Eastern Europe, on 1 January 1993 took place the unification of the EBU with the OIRT - the former radio and TV organisation of the communist countries in Eastern Europe. In so doing a single broadcasting organisation was formed, spanning west and east. From the original 23 founder members, the EBU has today grown to 115 members in 78 countries, which makes it the largest professional association of national broadcasters. Amongst the 115 members, 63 are active members in 48 countries and 52 associate members in 30 countries.
EBU has embarked on an important and profound process of reorganisation. It was a policy of active commercialisation of EBU's network that was aimed to simplify and speed the decision-making process, and which had the effect of alleviating the financial burden of EBU members.
The reorganization process was completed at the end of 1995 - beginning of 1996. Activities are now refocused on three objectives: professional association (documentation and information, forecasts on the audiovisual environment, lobbying, communication), operations (transmission network, acquisition of sports rights, programme exchanges) and study and development (programme coproductions, general interest projects). In this process EBU's committees (radio, television, technical) reporting to the Administrative Council were streamlined and a number of permanent working parties were abolished or given fixed objectives and limited duration. New activities, to meet the changing audiovisual climate, were launched by variable-geometry project groups, in other words, groups involving only broadcasters taking part in specific projects. As a result of this reorganisation the EBU's activities in the professional association, study and development sectors are now funded by fixed membership fees and operational activities (Euroradio, Eurovision) are now self-financing.

2.9.2. Legal framework

The Statutes of The European Broadcasting Union

  1. Legal basis and seat

    • EBU is an unlimited duration professional association of broadcasting organizations which is governed by Swiss law (because EBU is based in Geneva-Switzerland) and by these Statutes.
    • The association exists to contribute to the reinforcement of the identity of the peoples of active members' states, in accordance with human rights and in particular freedom of conscience, opinion and expression, while safeguarding fundamental values such as tolerance and solidarity.
    • The association has legal personality and no profit-making purpose. However, to attain its objectives it may pursue activities of commercial nature.

  2. Objectives and means of action

    • The objectives of the EBU are to serve the interests of its members in the programme, legal, technical and other fields, and in particular to support its active members in their mission to serve the interests of the general public in the best possible manner.
    • Acting under the control of its active members, in the three mentioned fields, the EBU pursues the following objectives in particular:

      1. Professional Association

        • to represent and defend the interests of its active, and where possible, its associate members, in every domain and by any appropriate means;
        • to act as professional interlocutor with European institutions and organizations and, where appropriate, to contribute to the drafting of legal instruments and the establishment of standards and norms relating to broadcasting, with a view to safeguarding and furthering the interests of its members;
        • to establish and maintain relations with other associations of broadcasting organizations and with other professional organizations or bodies;
        • to collect, process and distribute information and data related to its objectives;
        • to prepare and take all measures designed to assist the development of broadcasting in all its forms;
        • to provide its good offices for ensuring that all its members respect the provisions of international agreements on any matters relating to broadcasting.

      2. Operations

        • in general, to provide services to all or some active members, as required, and, where applicable, to third parties;
        • to co-ordinate and support radio and television programme exchanges among its active members, in particular in the framework of Euroradio (and Eurovision), and to promote coproductions and any other form of co-operation among its members and with other broadcasting organizations or groups of such organizations;
        • to maintain and operate a network for multilateral and unilateral transmission;
        • to assist its active members in negotiations of all kinds and, when asked, to negotiate on their behalf;
        • to grant non-member broadcasters and other third parties contractual access to EBU services.

      3. Study and Development

        • to foster and, where appropriate, coordinate the study of all questions relating to broadcasting;
        • to develop projects aimed at strengthening active members' competitiveness, both individually - with strict respect for the EBU's principles of solidarity - and collectively.

    • Membership, right to vote and right of eligibility

      • There are two categories of EBU members: active and associate.
      • Only active members have the right to vote and the right of eligibility. The right to vote may be delegated to another member. Each active member has 24 votes. Where there are two or more active members in a given country, they together have 24 votes, shared internally in proportion to their membership fees, unless agreed otherwise between them.

        Euroradio membership: "Euroradio" is a radio programme exchange system orgznized by the EBU and based on the participating members' ("Euroradio members") undertaking to offer each other regularly, and on a basis of reciprocity, their coverage of musical and other events taking place in their countries and of potential interest to other Euroradio members. Euroradio covers both programmes coordinated by the EBU and members' own individual programme offers.

      • Associate membership of the EBU is open to broadcasting organizations or groups of broadcasting organizations from a country which is member of the International Telecommunication Union situated outside the EBU Area which provide in their country, with the authorisation of the competent authorities, a broadcasting service of national character and national importance offering varied programming.
      • Group membership: a group of broadcasting organizations qualifies for EBU membership as a single member if it is a de jure or de facto association of broadcasting organizations from the same country which individually or, as regional organizations, collectively qualify for EBU membership.

2.9.3. The EBU Structures

  1. The General Assembly

    • Is the supreme body of the EBU and possesses all the powers necessary to achieve the Union's objectives.
    • The General Assembly meets once a year in ordinary session, and may in addition meet in extraordinary session.
    • Participation in extraordinary sessions of the General Assembly is limited to active members. The President of the EBU may limit the size of the delegation that each member can send to the General Assembly.

  2. The Administrative Council

    • Consists of 19 members elected for a period of four consecutive financial years. Each member has one vote. Eighteen seats are filled by election in the General Assembly from the active members, the remaining seat belonging as of right to one of the active members of the country where the seat of the EBU is situated - Switzerland.
    • The Administrative Council meets at least twice a year.
    • Among the attributions of the Administrative Council there are:

      • holds between the ordinary sessions of the General Assembly all the rights and powers of this body, except those which are expressly reserved to it by the Statutes or by an explicit decision;
      • decides on organizational matters, recommends to the General Assembly the organisation of Committees and sets up Study Groups in addition to the EBU Statutes Group and the EBU Finance Group;
      • establishes the budgets for the following financial years, draws up and arranges for the auditing of the accounts of the last financial year;
      • appoints and, should the need arises, dismisses the Secretary General and the Directors of the EBU;
      • approves the Staff Regulations;
      • supervises the activities of the Committees.

  3. The President and the Vice-Presidents

    • From among the representatives of the Administrative Council members, the General Assembly elects for a period of two consecutive financial years a President and three Vice-Presidents, who also assume these respective functions on the Administrative Council.
    • The President exercises general control over the functioning of the EBU. Between the meetings of the Administrative Council, he decides all urgent matters falling within the competence of the Administrative Council, assisted, to the extent possible, by the Presidency composed of the Vice-Presidents and the Chairmen of the Committees.

2.9.4. The perspectives of public radio broadcasting in Europe

    The EBU politics:

    As decided by the Ministers participating in the last European Ministerial Conference on Mass - Media Policy, held in Prague on 7 - 8 December 1994 under EBU auspices:

    • a strong public service broadcasting system must be maintained and developed in an environment characterised by an increasingly competitive offer of programmes, services, and rapid technological change;
    • the public service broadcasters must be permitted to provide, where appropriate, additional programme services such as thematic services;
    • new communication technologies are giving rise to profound changes in broadcasting, which require them to develop clear principles for sustaining a system of public service broadcasting capable of evolving in the new technological context.
    • the public service broadcasters should be encouraged to contribute to the development of research and experimentation in new communications technologies in close collaboration with industry, taking account of the interests of consumers.
    • together with public service broadcasters, States should examine at regular intervals at the European level the impact of technological change on the role of public service broadcasting at both the national and trans-national levels.

    Bearing in mind the possibilities offered by existing European structures, European states should facilitate co-operation between those public service broadcasters wishing to collaborate and from alliances in areas such as programme exchange, the production of programmes, technological research and development of multilateral public channels.

    The next European Ministerial Conference on mass-media policy will be hosted by Greece, in 1997.

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