It is of course no secret that the tabloid press in the UK applies a very relaxed definition of the word truth. But that fact is taken to another level when it comes to their reporting of the EU and one of the free London morning papers offered me a stark reminder the other day. That particular publication, which focuses on financial services and is usually distributed to City and Canary Wharf workers on their way to the office, dedicated its front page on 7 July to a story on a European Parliament vote on proposals for the setting up of the new European Supervisory Authorities. I’ll spare you the details on the draft legislation and what it means for the supervision of financial markets in the EU. Instead I’ll focus on the fact that the ‘paper’ made it sound like the EP had sneaked in at the last minute amendments to the document, amendments that suggest that all 3 new entities will have to be based in Frankfurt (currently one is based in London, one in Paris and one in Frankfurt). I do not expect objective reporting from that paper so their omission of the arguments behind the EP’s proposal is no surprise. But to call the EP’s position a surprise move is pure fiction since the EP proposals have been public for a while.
It is very possible that its reporters do not know the facts, very likely actually since this newspaper is, by it’s own admission, not worth the paper it is printed on (which is why it is given for free). But I fear that the reason behind this misreporting (and the whole article for that matter) is to portray this particular EU institution as a back-stabbing and power-grabbing monster.
That is consistent with attitudes vis-a-vis the EU across the yellow press (and in some cases even beyond). There is a persistent campaign of misinformation, most of these papers have taken it upon themselves to misreport pretty much everything that comes out of Brussels. They are responsible for most of the euromyths that for years now have been distorting the facts on what the EU does. I am fully aware that the process of European integration is not everybody’s cup of tea, I accept well argued and substantiated points of view and I am happy to debate with anyone that disagrees with me. But I take issue with this well co-ordinated campaign aimed at lying to the British people, taking their right to know the facts away from them in the most cowardice way.
The situation is of course made worse by the fact that the rest of the UK press (with some rare exceptions) mostly ignores the EU; their excuse is that it just does not sell newspapers, it is too far away and too complicated. So in most cases they tend to stay clear, leaving plenty of free space for the tabloid press to spread their lies. This inability (or unwillingness) to provide the public with objective information on the EU constitutes a market failure, in the sence that the market is failing in comprehensively providing an essential service to its customers, a service that in this case is of paramount significance because the EU is hugely important for the UK’s economic prosperity and success in the international scene. So, like in the case of other market failures, especially when it comes to the provision of a public good (which objective information obviously is), the state needs to step in and provide the British people with the necessary education that will shift the debate not in favour of a particular point of view but towards a more balanced understanding of what the EU is, how it benefits the UK and how it can help us deal with challenges like climate change, economic development, research, energy security, international crime and terrorism, to name just a few.
The European Movement has for years been in the forefront of objectively informing the debate on European integration. We invite the government to join us in inaugurating a new era of understanding and debate on the EU. An era free of the Dark Ages type of ignorance and misunderstanding that the tabloid press mythology has imposed on the British people.
Petros FassoulasAuthor : European Movement UK