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Europe

A Franco-German Media Cooperation for Europe's Sake

At the end of this week's Franco-German summit, France and Germany's most-senior cultural officials call for expanding joint media projects in order to build support for the European Union.

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The right kind of programming might help protect the "european consciousness"

French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder met in the eastern German city of Schwerin earlier this week to focus on pesky issues, such as European agricultural reform, that have been a thorn in their countries' relationship.

But in the shadow of the pressing political issues, France and Germany's highest cultural policy appointees met to discuss a more successful arena of the Franco-German relationship: joint media efforts.

At the close of the summit, Schröder's cultural affairs advisor, Julian Nida-Rümelin, and French Cultural Minister Jean-Jacques Aillagon issued a joint statement calling for greater pan-European media cooperation.

Such tandem efforts, Nida-Rümelin said, are crucial in light of a trend of "dramatic nationalization" occurring across the continent.

"Increasingly, the European consciousness is disappearing in the minds of many," he warned.

One of the key tools for creating a public that views itself as "European," he said, is to support international television programming.

Supporting a belief, not matter the cost

As a first example, Nida-Rümelin cited Arte, the bilingual joint French-German television station that has broadcast the best of public television in both lands for the past 10 years. The countries currently spend more than 325 million euro ($319.9 million) a year to produce Arte.

Despite the fact that Arte only draws a 1 percent audience share in Germany, and 3 percent in France, the cultural advisor described it as a success and said that it should be expanded to include other European Union countries, especially the Eastern European accession states.

Deutsche Welle and Radio France International, the countries' foreign broadcast services, also provide opportunities to develop a common European voice, the cultural leaders said.

A Franco-German broadcasting cooperation

Nida-Rümelin argued that the current restructuring of Deutsche Welle provided the opportunity to open up a debate over how the broadcaster could better cooperate to develop programming with its neighbor in order to provide a unified voice on European issues for broadcast in other regions of the world.

Deutsche Welle currently operates with an annual budget of 285 million euro; Radio France International receives 130 million euro in funding.

Aillagon also suggested that both countries should work more closely with Euronews, the joint news channel founded by a handful of leading European public broadcasters in 1993.

The station is now operated by independent British news producer ITN, but national public broadcasters in Spain, Portugal, Italy, France and Finland are also contributors.