"Modern European politics cannot exist without independent and honest media. They are both direct associates in political processes and third-party fixers of events making up the bricks of the political history of Europe of the XXI century". - writes Joshua O. Kozerod, professor of political history at Zerah business school (Malta and Luxembourg), vice-president Centre for European democracy studies.
" I have had to invariably emphasize the role of modern journalists and publishers working in Brussels covering daily developments in the EU authorities, during our classes with students on the history of political parties and doctrines.
Mr Colin Stevens, President of the Brussels Press Club and publisher of the EU Reporter, is a master of political journalism. He has been working in Brussels for decades, being an example for young people, growing political scientists, and journalists.
Hence, I decided to nominate him for the title of Doctor of Letters - honoris cause - of Zerah Business School for meritorious recognition of his leadership and organisational behaviour in European journalism. I am glad that the School’s Board of Regents supported his candidacy unanimously.”
" I am delighted to accept this honorary doctorate" said Colin Stevens, "and see it as an award not just for me, but for my entire journalist team at EU Reporter."
Colin Stevens is publisher and editor in chief of eureporter, and president of the Press Club Brussels, president of the European Association of Press Clubs, and also President of the World Federation of Press Clubs.
EU gross box office topped EUR 7 billion in 2017 for third year running
Based on provisional data, cumulative GBO in the EU Member States topped the EUR 7 billion benchmark once again, reaching an estimated EUR 7.02 billion in 2017. While dropping 0.3% on the previous year, this still represents – not adjusted for inflation – the third highest level ever recorded. With the pan-European average ticket price stable at an estimated EUR 7.1, the decrease in GBO was mainly driven by a slight decline in cinema attendance, as admissions dropped 0.8% to a total of 984 million (-7.6 million tickets sold), still marking the third highest level in the EU since 2004. (source - EUROPEAN AUDIOVISUAL OBSERVATORY)
Measured in local currencies, GBO grew in an uneven manner across the EU, as it increased in 19 and decreased in 6 of the 25 EU markets for which provisional data were available. Geographically speaking, GBO growth was strong in Central and Eastern Europe, recording a solid upturn in the Slovak Republic (+EUR 5.5 million, +18.9%), Lithuania (+EUR 2.7 million, +15.2%), Poland (+PLN 104.9 million, +10.8%) and Romania (+RON 25.0 million, +10.3%). Out of the five major EU markets, a moderate rise in the GBO was registered in Germany (+EUR 33.1 million, +3.2%) and the UK (+GBP 50.7 million, +4.1%), while revenues remained relatively stable in France and Spain.
“In turn, Italy showed a significant dip in GBO (-EUR 82.6 million, -11.9%), driven by a sizeable downturn in admissions, primarily to national films. GBO revenues also dropped slightly in Denmark (-DKK 39.9 million, -3.6%) and Austria (-EUR 2.6 million, -1.9%).”
Outside the EU, Russian GBO soared by 9.5% to RUB 53 283.8 million, boosted by an unprecedented increase in cinema attendance (+10.0% to 212.2 million tickets sold), and this made Russia the biggest European market in terms of admissions last year. In Turkey, GBO takings increased 25.9%, rising to a record-breaking TRY 871.0 million, driven by an exceptional growth in ticket sales (+22.1%).
As in previous years, US studio titles dominated the EU box office chart, representing 19 out of the top 20 films in 2017. The litst was topped by the franchise animation film Despicable Me 3 (32.3 million admissions), followed by Disney’s live action reboot of Beauty and the Beast (29.8 million) and Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (28.8 million). Interestingly, Despicable Me 3 was the only title to cross the benchmark of 30 million admissions, while no film had touched this threshold in 2016.
Family animation features continued to perform well, accounting for six out of the top 20 titles, including The Boss Baby (18.6 million admissions), Sing (15.2 million), Cars 3(11.3 million) and Coco (9.8 million). Confirming another well-established trend, franchise titles dominated the EU charts in 2017, as 15 titles out of the top 20 (and 8 titles out of the top 10) are reboots, sequels or spin-offs, such as The Fate of the Furious (21.7 million admissions), Fifty Shades Darker (20.3 million), Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (19.7 million) and It (17.9 million).
GB inc war drama Dunkirk was the only non-US film to rank in the top 20, with 17.2 million tickets sold. Excluding European films financed with incoming US investment (EUR inc), no European title reached 10 million admissions in the EU with the top performing European film, UK family comedy Paddington 2 generating 9.1 million admissions.
#EUReporter more influential and trusted than The Guardian, Der Spiegel and Le Monde
The annual survey of which are the most-read or watched media and social media for news on EU issues – and which are viewed as the most influential – was unveiled in the ComRes/Burson-Marsteller 2017 EU Media Survey on What Influences the Influencers.
Burson-Marsteller CEO Karen Massin and ComRes Associate Director Meghan Oliver outlined the preferred EU news sources and social media channels used by Brussels policy-makers and opinion formers, and how these compare in influencing their decisions.
The survey invited respondents to identify the EU and national media that they most often read or watch, the social media they most frequently use and to assess the influence that these sources and channels have on their day-to-day work
EU Reporter polled significantly as an influencer at 9%, between Linked In (12%) and Instagram (7%).
“The main takeaway for EU Reporter is that when it comes to EU news, the survey shows that EU Reporter is more influential (and trusted) than national titles such as The Guardian, Der Spiegel and Le Monde.
"EU Reporter received more votes than all three of these titles,” said Burson-Marsteller Communications Managing Director Dennis Abbot.
“In general, media that specialise in coverage of EU news, large or small, out-perform national titles among decision-makers and other influencers in Brussels” he said. “It's clear that policy-makers want to hear the news from source and not through a national filter.”
EU Reporter was particularly popular as a trusted source of news and information amongst MEPs and other politicians on both main online news and social media.
Regarding social media usage, EU influencers are most likely to say they use Facebook. Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) say that use it at least once a week, followed by Twitter and YouTube (both 53 percent), LinkedIn (37 percent) and Instagram (17 percent).
The data highlights that MEPs in particular favour Facebook, with nine in ten (93%) saying they use the network at least once a week. POLITICO and the BBC are the most-read or watched media by policy-makers and opinion formers in Brussels – and readerships of both have increased since the previous EU media survey, published in January 2016.
Nearly two-thirds of Brussels influencers say they read POLITICO at least once a week. More than half say the same about the BBC.
Nearly half of respondents read the Financial Times and The Economist. Euronews, which was not covered in the previous survey, is watched or read by more than a third of policy-makers and opinion formers
Speaking at the launch of the survey, Karen Massin commented: “The European Union has been at the heart of major political developments and tumultuous change in the past year so it is not a surprise to see significant increases in readership among EU news outlets. The surge in social media use by Influencers, particularly via YouTube and LinkedIn, is another striking finding. The results underline that to make your voice heard in the Brussels conversation, you need to think integrated and engage with both the media and social media.”
ComRes Associate Director Meghan Oliver added: "It was great to partner again with Burson-Marsteller Brussels to understand media influence on Brussels influencers. It is interesting to note that readership across many titles increased this year. At the same time, consumption does not necessarily correlate with influence – readership alone doesn’t guarantee cut-through with influencers."
Hate speech and #FakeNews: the crackdown continues
A year after the European Commission created an online “code of conduct” for the world’s four biggest Internet companies, online racist and xenophobic sentiment shows no sign of slowing down. Or at least that’s what the European body found a year after its adoption. Twitter in particular has failed to meet EC standards for removing hate speech online within 24 hours, taking action in less than 40 percent of incidences in which content has been flagged. In contrast, Google and Facebook have succeeded in taking down at least 50 percent of flagged content. Making matters worse, the onslaught of online hate speech has paired itself with the rise of the far right and of “fake news”, more often than not used to accompany hateful content on social media - writes Colin Stevens
The rise of far right voices, both online and offline, throughout western politics is at least partly to blame for the dismal state of online debates. The election of President Trump coincided with a rise in incidents of racist or anti-Semitic vandalism and violence in the US, with many drawing links between these acts and Trump’s all too familiar Twitter rhetoric. In the same strain, the triggering of Brexit’s Article 50 in the UK prompted a spike in hate speech online, with police forces across the country ramping up intelligence gathering and increasing protection for vulnerable communities in anticipation of real-life attacks. One broadcaster in the UK was removed from her post at a radio station following her online call for a “final solution” following the Manchester Arena terrorist attack; announcement of her removal was met with both applause as well as remorse for the perceived blow to freedom of speech.
Amid the controversy, hate speech represents just half of the story: the prevalence of so-called “fake news” sits on the other side of the coin that currently poisons the well of online debate. The small Macedonian town of Veles shot to Internet stardom when news outlets got wind of the fact it was home to more than 100 pro-Trump websites, many of them posting fake news stories – such as articles ostensibly proving that Barack Obama was born in Kenya or that Hillary Clinton wanted Trump to run because he is “honest and can’t be bought”. The fake news trend made its way to the White House, with Trump himself slamming a range of critical media stories as “fake news”; amid reports of internal strife within the Trump administration and speculation of unsavory ties between the Trump family and Russian power brokers, Trump has repeatedly taken to Twitter to declare “fake news” the “enemy”, making online debate impossible and discrediting critics in one fell swoop.
Even major media corporations have not been able to duck controversy. In April 2017, a story of an incident between a Russian warplane and a US Navy destroyer surfaced on a Russian satirical website, and spread quickly via Facebook. Within a few weeks, news organizations and websites around the world picked up the story, with UK outlets The Sun and The Daily Star running sensational headlines to spread news of the reported incident until it was ultimately picked up by FoxNews.com. The incident, though based on a similar event in 2014, had never occurred.
The Washington Post was caught in the headlights in late 2016, after it circulated a story about US “fake news” outlets promoting a Russian agenda during the presidential election- a story lauded as an earth-shattering expose by some, and shoddy journalism by others. Months later, the same outlet ran a story about Russian hackers infiltrating a US electricity grid that spread rapidly through global media outlets, before The Post was forced to issue a retraction within two hours of the original post.
Accusations of “fake news” have reached as far as the courtroom, with Russian aluminium magnate Oleg Deripaska suing The Associated Press for libel. The storied news agency is accused of defaming him by running a story in March that alleges that in 2005, Paul Manafort pitched to Oleg Deripaska a business proposal that promised to promote the interests of the “Putin government” and undermine anti-Russian opposition in Europe and former Soviet republics. The news agency offered no proof of the actual work, leading Deripaska to publish a series of open letters in the pages of the Wall Street Journal, denouncing AP’s coverage. The legal battle is currently unfolding in the U.S. The news agency recently asked the court for more time to respond to the suit, raising questions about whether it’s claims are as watertight as claimed in the March piece.
Years after the first "fake news” story emerged, the phenomenon shows no signs of slowing down. Though Google and Facebook continue to expand measures to combat its proliferation, such as the introduction of “fact check” tags on search results and emphasizing the need for discernment online, there is no easy fix. Further, as European governments move to pass legislation fining technology companies for inaction, China appears set on using the umbrella of “fake news” to rewrite the story of Tiananmen square. And herein lies the crux of the debate: freedom of expression online must surely be recognized as a hallmark of democratic politics. However, with falsities overshadowing more and more the truth – sometimes with dramatic consequences - that freedom of expression should not be taken for granted anymore.
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