The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision is, among other things, owner of a unique collection of material of the channel Europa TV. To gain more insight into this channel, Sound and Vision asked master student Marloes Stapper from Utrecht University to perform research into this collection. In this dedicated blog post Marloes will tell us about her findings and research.
In the 1980’s and 1990’s there were three experiments with a European multilingual channel: Eurikon TV in 1982, Europa TV in 1985 and Euronews in 1993. Eurikon TV and Europa TV stopped broadcasting after about a year. Euronews on the other hand still broadcasts to this day. Of these three channels, the least is known about Europa TV – a pity because Sound and Vision has many videotape recordings of their broadcasts. When I started doing my internship for this archive, they asked me to look into this almost forgotten experiment.
Figure 1: Logo Europa TV
Europa TV provided daily broadcasts from October 5, 1985 until the end of November, 1986 in cooperation with the European Broadcasting Union and the public broadcasters NOS (the Netherlands), ARD (West Germany), RAI (Italy), RTE (Ireland) and RTP (Portugal) for viewers in Western Europe. From these broadcasters and countries, the Dutch government and the NOS were the only ones that offered financial support. However, all of the cooperating broadcasters sent in their programs – often already shown on national channels – to Europa TV. Some of Europa TV’s programs were produced especially for the channel. After about a year Europa TV was cancelled by the Dutch because of a lack of viewers and financial problems. The budget that was meant to last for three years had been used completely and the other countries refused to pay their part of the share.
When looking into the content of Europa TV, the news show Worldwatch caught my attention. Each broadcast of Worldwatch lasted five minutes. Its opening line during the first months of broadcasting was: “This is Europa’s Worldwatch with news that can be predicted about tomorrow”. Therefore the show mainly focused on the events happening the next day. Apart from the opening, Worldwatch also had an unusual visual presentation. There was no news host, only a voice-over. The language that the voice-over spoke could be changed by adjusting the audio frequency. In this way the news could be received in Dutch, English, Portuguese and German. The visual presentation was characterized by a globe which per item zoomed in on the country involved and subsequently some photos of the people involved in the news event or from the location where the event would take place.
Figure 2: Stills of an item about Zimbabwe
From the documents that Sound an Vision has of the founders of Europa TV, I learned that Worldwatch was produced especially for Europa TV and that it was meant to bring the news from a European perspective. The documents emphasized that Europa TV´s news would in no way be a competitor for the national public broadcasters news shows. I wanted to know how Europa TV gave way to these ideas and therefore I decided to do a comparative analysis between Worldwatch and the Dutch news from the NOS.
I focused my research on one event in particular: the Reykjavik Summit between Ronald Reagan, leader of the United States and Mikhail Gorbachev, leader of the Soviet Union. I chose for this political event because it was globally seen as one of the most important political events of 1986. By comparing the transcripts of the news of the days around and during the Summit I found out that Worldwatch was really focused on staying as objective as possible. When it came to the Summit, they only talked about how the United States and the Soviet Union felt about each other and which topics would be discussed. The NOS News, however, used a less objective perspective around the Summit. It created a divided worldview between East and West in which the West was over-represented and portrayed as good, while the East was met with distrust. This showed that they framed the news from a Western viewpoint.
Concluding from these results it can be said that Worldwatch created an objective basis that could be supplemented with national perspectives from the NOS News regarding the Summit. Based on this research I cannot conclude that the relationship between the content from NOS News and Worldwatch was always like this. However, some first observations into the meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement or the referendum in Denmark show similar patterns. Nevertheless, more research needs to be done into these cases. It would also be interesting to see how news from other public broadcasters that were involved in Europa TV measure up to Worldwatch.
- Europa TV VHS-tapes. Collection K. J. Hindriks. Sound and Vision, Hilversum, the Netherlands.
- Mann, James. The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan: A History of the End of the Cold War. New York: Penguin Group, 2009.
- “Pan European News Programme.” Box 2, document 2.11. Collection K. J. Hindriks. Sound and Vision, Hilversum, the Netherlands.
- Papathanassopoulos, Stylianos. “Towards European Television: the Case of Europa-TV.” Media Information Australia 56.1 (1990): 57-63.
- Polonska-Kimunguyi, Eva and Patrick Kimunguyi. “The Making of the Europeans: Media in the Construction of Pan-National Identity.” International Communication Gazette 73.6 (2011): 507-523.