EU auditors scrutinize EU Commission's annual 24.5m € support to NBC affiliate Euronews

Source: ECA - eca.europa.eu

EU support helps Euronews to broaden its coverage of European affairs, but funding needs to be better monitored, say EU Auditors.


The EU’s support of an average of €24.5 million a year has helped Euronews to develop a unique business model and broadcast programmes on EU affairs in a number of languages, according to a new rapid case review by the European Court of Auditors. However, most citizens in the EU are unable to access it, as the channel is not a public service broadcaster in any Member State. Moreover, the auditors identified shortcomings in the way the European Commission monitors the performance of Euronews against agreed objectives and commitments made.
Euronews was created in 1993 by ten European public broadcasters to reinforce European identity and integration, and the EU has provided it with financial support since then. In recent years, it has changed its ownership structure by acquiring private investors. The auditors analysed the funding of the channel from 2014 to 2018 and how the Commission monitored its partnership agreement with Euronews for the period 2017 to 2020.
EU funding is a fundamental part of Euronews’ income and represents around a third of its annual turnover, say the auditors. Its contracts with the Commission between 2014 and 2018 amounted to €122 million, an average of €24.5 million a year.
The auditors found that Euronews could not maintain its geographic and linguistic coverage without support from the EU. However, they warn that most citizens in the EU are unable to access it, as the channel is not carried on all networks – cable, satellite and digital terrestrial.
“The EU provides a major source of revenues to a TV channel that is mostly privately owned,” said Mihails Kozlovs, the member of the European Court of Auditors responsible for the review. “The European Commission should verify annually if Euronews complies with the commitments on preserving its editorial impartiality and a European perspective. But we found no formal link between these commitments and the Commission’s criteria for annually awarding the funds.”
No Member State has accorded Euronews a public service mandate and none provides it with direct funding. Following an independent assessment that the channel does perform a public-service role, the Commission has considered it a specialised body of general European interest in the field of information. Since 2010, therefore, the Commission has signed partnership agreements with Euronews and awarded it grants – without a call for proposal – in line with the then-applicable EU financial rules. However, these rules changed in 2018.
The Commission has introduced a performance-reporting framework for its funding of Euronews. However, it does not have a system to verify whether Euronews is achieving the objectives agreed in the partnership agreements. The Commission also has no formal mechanism in place to coordinate the specific contracts its services sign with Euronews. This reduces transparency of the financial support provided to Euronews and accountability, say the auditors.
Notes to Editors
Euronews’ main shareholders at the end of March 2019 were Luxembourg-based Media Globe Networks (60%) and the US network NBC (25%). EU and non-EU broadcasters and local authorities own the remaining 15%. It currently broadcasts in eight EU and four non-EU languages. The Commission uses around 80 % of its annual budget for multi-media actions to support the channel. The availability of robust data on Euronews’ audience is limited.
A rapid case review presents and establishes the facts surrounding a specific issue; it is not an audit. This review has been carried out at the request of the European Parliament to examine whether the way the EU funds Euronews is efficient and transparent and whether this funding is used solely to fulfil the mandate given to the channel.

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