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Recognizing Changes and Values.


When the EBU was formed, 41 delegates representing 23 countries came together to create an organization of value. The Union's "most essential task" was defined as being "the defense of the interests of broadcasting in the technical and legal fields." Early priorities were copyright, technical development and the formation of a committee for cooperation on programming and program exchange. Has anything really changed in 50 years?

Living in the age of cyberspace and a networked world, we tend to think that everything is different from the way it was. But is it really?

Governments and regulators are under pressure to completely ignore the differing nature of public-service broadcasters and leave them to be swallowed up by commercial operators. EBU members, now more than ever, need to make clear how they differ, how they are of value to the public, and demonstrate their requirement for public funding.

EBU's core business of defending the interests of broadcasting in the technical and legal fields remains as valid today as it was in 1950. EBU members and the Permanent Services engineers have defined common standards for many of radio and television's key technologies.

Advocating and developing open standards helps ensure in the future that quality broadcasting remains accessible to the wider public, and not just to sections of the population who can afford to pay a high price for it.

As the European Union has grown [it] has necessitated the creation of an EBU office in Brussels which is in a position to maintain continuous personal contact with EU decision-makers.

Television and radio have undoubtedly helped to popularize many sports. Perhaps we are victims of our own success? The fundamental aim of ensuring that many millions of television viewers are able to share in the excitement of watching a national team win or lose remains the same as it was in the 1950s, but it is becoming more difficult to guarantee that this happens. The acquisition of sports rights has been important for the EBU right from the start. EBU members came together for the first time to negotiate rights to the 1954 World Cup.

When the EBU was set up, the cost of sports rights and the battle to acquire them certainly bore little resemblance to today's situation. Prices have escalated and the stakes have risen as sports coverage may mean winning or losing audience share. The solidarity of members in holding together and negotiating for the good of all has been impressive in the past, and we hope that in spite of market pressure, it will remain so in the future.

EBU's first program exchange of any scale took place in 1953 on the occasion of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. The Eurovision network has journeyed a long way since then, traveling along a road that brought to viewers' homes the funeral of Pope Pius XII and man's first walk on the moon. The Eurovision news exchange provides members with up-to-the-minute daily news. In addition, EBU special operations sends equipment and specialists to the field so that members can report directly on world news or sporting events.

Especially over the past 10 years, EBU's membership has expanded to countries in Central and Eastern Europe. There is also ongoing support in the form of expertise and financial incentives for members in disadvantaged regions. Since 1994, an EBU program to train journalists and technicians has been running successfully. Television and radio have been joined by another contender for viewers' and listeners' time and money -- the Internet. EBU member broadcasters are being forced to reassess their role and the values they bring to their audiences.

So is change affecting the EBU and its values? As we have seen, many of the core values of members and of the EBU as an organization remain the same. The EBU continues to play a unique role in the business of its members. While retaining the important principle of solidarity in the defense of members' interests, we have changed and adapted to offer valuable services to members operating in an evolving environment, and we have all the tools to continue doing this in the future.

Jean Bernard Miinch (pictured above) is secretary general of EBU.
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Publication:Video Age International
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:4E
Date:Apr 1, 2000
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