Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Mark Mardell’

Reporting Europe

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 8th February, 2016

Boulton and EnglishOne of the most depressing things about Britain for native Europhiles such as myself is the way most of the mainstream media — especially newspapers — fuels antagonism to the European Union. But will that affect the outcome of the forthcoming IN/OUT Referendum? I suspect it will, though not necessarily to the extent of giving victory to the “LEAVE” camp. But it was useful to get a range of different perspectives today from academia as well as from Press and broadcasting colleagues at an excellent seminar at the British Academy: “Reporting Europe: The UK Media and the EU”. Sponsored by the Economic and Social Research Council’s The UK in a Changing Europe Initiative, the day-long event brought in such figures as Mark Mardell of the BBC (keynote speaker), Adam Boulton from SKY, Anton La Guardia from the Economist and former Labour government Minister Charles Clarke with plenty of lively discussion with attendees. I hope the University of East Anglia/ESRC will publish the proceedings as one can hardly do justice to such a wealth of contributions. One valid point made was that when the first UK journalists (including me, for Reuters) covered the European institutions from 1973 onwards, they were almost all enthusiastic; John Palmer of the Guardian springs instantly to mind. But when Boris Johnson had his inventive (in every sense of the word) stint as Brussels correspondent of the Daily Telegraph the pendulum swung the other way. The British press corps in Brussels has shrunk and is now mainly made up of people happy to provide knocking copy based on often dodgy “facts”. Of course, people tend to read newspapers that concord with their already held political opinions, so the Europhobia of the Daily Express or the Daily Mail may not actually convert anyone to the LEAVE side of the Referendum debate, though it is likely to reinforce their opinions and make them more likely to go out and vote. But the plain truth is that despite 43 years of EC/EU membership,most Britons are largely ignorant of what the EU is and what it does. No government in Westminster has had the courage to tell them. So people do rely on the media, particularly television, which is maybe less pernicious than some of the newspapers. This makes it all the more important that people who are in the REMAIN camp speak up and in particular get the message across through social media.

[In the photo: SKY’s Adam Boulton and Mark English from the European Commission’s London Representation]


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Writing the Truth about Europe

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 30th April, 2008

Last night, I attended the first UACES-Reuters Reporting Europe Awards, at the splendid Reuters building in Canary Wharf — or, to be more precise, the headquarters of the new company Thomson Reuters, as it became less than a fortnight ago. It’s nearly 25 years since I worked for Reuters in Brussels, but the need for accurate information about the European Union is just as imperative now as it was then. Alas, swaths of the British press prefer to peddle lies and myths. The keynote speaker at the awards ceremony, Niall FitzGerald, Deputy Chairman of Thomson Reuters, gave an amusing but also rather depressing run-through of some of the more grotesque stories of recent months. This was doubly depressing, in that firstly popular organs such as The Sun and the Daily Mail still peddle such misleading rubbish, and that secondly such a high proportion of the British public reads this gleefully, so they can indulge in a good bit of Brussels-bashing down at the pub or the golf club.

But the point of the new awards is to celebrate good, fair and accurate reporting of European issues, and it was reassuring to see just what a strong short-list of nominees the judges had to choose from: Bertrand Benoit of the Financial Times, John Peet of the Economist, the blogger J Clive Matthews and the BBC’s Europe Editor, Mark Mardell were the commended runners-up. However, the award went to my former colleague Allan Little, BBC World Affairs Correspondent — and well deserved too. As we approach the Euro-elections of June 2009, thank God there are some informed and sane voices among the cacophony of scare-mongers and xenophobes.


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