The International Federation of Journalists today warned that dramatic policy changes in Denmark and Portugal are signs of a "deepening crisis" that threatens to overwhelm the public broadcasting sector in the European Union.
"As political forces tighten their grip on the public networks in Italy, changes now proposed in Portugal and Denmark signal a deepening crisis for public broadcasting throughout the European Union," said Aidan White, General Secretary of the IFJ.
In Denmark, a new draft media law for radio and television outlines plans to privatise the public network TV2. The draft will go before Parliament in early June and the law should be implemented as of 1 January 2003. Some major Danish newspaper owners are already speculating on how to take advantage of the privatisation.
In Portugal the government is currently ready to introduce major changes in the public broadcasting system by transforming the current public network RTP into a single channel without advertising resources. The staff and the Sindicato dos Jornalistas, the IFJ-affiliated union of journalists, have attacked the government's project, which they say is giving in to powerful lobbying by corporate pressure groups from the communication and advertisement sector.
The Danish Union of Journalists has also expressed its skepticism over the privatisation of TV2 by saying that the remaining public network Danmarks Radio would not be able to compete with private broadcasters. The Union also warns again political influence. "We need editorial freedom, not more undue outside influence" they say.
The IFJ and its regional group, the European Federation of Journalists, are strongly opposing these developments and they support resistance by unions in Denmark and Portugal. "Despite the long tradition of public service broadcasting, independence and pluralism in Western Europe, private sector predators are being invited to make rich pickings at the expense of quality and the public interest," said Aidan White, "The foundations of public broadcasting are being shaken in the European Union."
Commercial pressure and political interference have dramatically increased in recent months, says the IFJ. "The conflict of interest over control of broadcasting in Italy and the developments in Denmark and Portugal suggest that action by the European Union to defend public broadcasting values is long overdue," says the IFJ.