Madrid Declaration on Public Broadcasting (EBU)

Senior managers from the European Broadcasting Union and the largest European public broadcasting organisations met in Madrid on 24 January. Following a meeting with Spanish First Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, they met the panel of experts appointed to look into the new Spanish broadcasting law and held a joint press conference. The Madrid Declaration, signed by Arne Wessberg (EBU), Fritz Pleitgen (ARD), Caroline Thompson (BBC), Marc Tessier (France Televisions), Flavio Cattaneo (RAI), Carmen Caffarel (RTVE) and Markus Schachter (ZDF), was issued at the press conference.

The full text of the Declaration is available on the website of the EBU.

Declaration agreed by the European public broadcasters at their meeting in Madrid on 24 January 2005

As a result of the meeting in Madrid on 24 January 2005, at the invitation of the President of the Spanish Senate, the chief executives of the German (ARD and ZDF), British (BBC), French (France Télévisions), Italian (RAI) and Spanish (RTVE) public broadcasters, and of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), a professional association that brings together 72 active members, mainly public broadcasters, from 52 countries as well as 46 associate members from 29 countries, have agreed to make public the following joint declaration:

The public service broadcasters play a vital role for democracy, social cohesion, cultural diversity, pluralism and for the construction of a communications space open to all. The dual broadcasting systems, with strong public broadcasters together with private operators, are an integral part or the European model of society. The activity of the public service broadcasters is and should continue to be a fundamental guarantee of plural and independent information, of wide-ranging programmes for all groups within the public, of editorial policies that show respect for cultural identity, of renewal of creative talent and its output, of providing the best understanding of social reality and of investment in programmes produced at the local level.

As an alternative to the growing trends towards concentration in the audiovisual and multimedia sectors, as well as towards homogenization and risks of loss of quality in the material produced, it is becoming increasingly necessary to rely on strong public broadcasters, which overlap different realities in their own and other countries, offering their respective citizens a wide range of radio and television programmes designed to achieve the greatest social benefit.

Moreover, the introduction of technological advances and new audiovisual and multimedia services should not contribute to building a digital divide between two groups within society. Therefore, the public broadcasters should be basic forces supporting social cohesion, and provide real and free access for the general public to the different programme contents and the new services, fulfilling a key role in their development, being distributed over the different technical platforms and becoming a leading presence in digital terrestrial television, as well as in the various formats and mediums.

For the proper execution of the important public role entrusted to them, the public broadcasters, given the greatest organizational, economic and managerial independence possible – and according to the system that each country may choose, in line with the Amsterdam Protocol – must have the capacity and means to acquire every kind of audiovisual rights and to produce programmes of the highest quality, as well as have at their disposal public funds, either directly and/or from licence fees, which if dependable and guaranteed and together with the commercial income, will enable them to plan their activities over a number of years and appropriately.

With this in mind, at a meeting in Madrid, the public broadcast operators have learnt with great interest the news of reforms that have begun in RTVE, with the hope that this process will allow it to strengthen its status and image as a public service broadcaster and propitiate a society that is more democratic, free, and socially fair.

In the dawn of the 21st century, it is essential that the organization, the tasks and the finance assigned to RTVE as public broadcaster are designed and set in a legislative frame that allows it to perform its role:

- Providing a service for the combined listening and viewing public, with the attention and respect expected by the great majority, as well as by the minorities, and editorially totally independent of the influence of economic, political, religious and other interest groups.

- Having the capacity to fully and diversely play its role in an advanced democratic society as is to be found in Spain, where the influence of the communications media is constantly increasing.

- And being able to depend on funding that is adequate and sufficient to implement and develop the all the services and activities which as a public service broadcaster it is obliged to provide.

Arne Wessberg

European Broadcasting Union – EBU

Markus Schächter

Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen – ZDF

Caroline Thompson

British Broadcasting Corporation – BBC

Marc Tessier

France Télévisions

Flavio Cattaneo

Radiotelevisione Italiana – RAI

Fritz Pleitgen

Arbeitsgemeinschaft der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten der Bundesrepublik Deutschland – ARD

Carmen Caffarel

Radio Televisión Española - RTVE.