Antonio Arcidiacono (EBU Director of Technology & Innovation)

“I have asked Mario Draghi – one of Europe’s great economic minds – to prepare a report on the future of European competitiveness. Because Europe will do ‘whatever it takes’ to keep its competitive edge.”

This challenge, set last September by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, was accepted by the former Italian prime minister who, as chair of the European Central Bank, famously calmed the markets during the 2012 financial crisis by promising to do “whatever it takes”.

In a speech he gave in Belgium last April, Mr. Draghi summarized some of the main themes in his developing report. It struck me that many of his points about competitiveness and growth in Europe can apply equally to Europe’s public service media companies. As he said, “the world is changing rapidly, and it has caught us by surprise.”

He highlights the fact that other regions no longer play by the rules and are constantly working to enhance their competitive position. Some of the policies and practices they adapt are “designed to make us permanently dependent on them”. Does that sound familiar?

Adding a fourth pillar

Every EBU Member has tried in various ways to respond to the rise of the global tech and media giants. While there have been some notable and inspiring successes, it is a constant battle. To borrow from Draghi’s speech once again: “Our response has been constrained because our organization, decision-making and financing are designed for ‘the world of yesterday’.”

For me, the answer to this massive challenge lies in working together, creating new formats, products and tools sustained by technology innovation. Since I arrived at the EBU, more than five years ago, I have been pushing Members to join forces to innovate to support their ability to reach and serve audiences. We must do whatever it takes to uphold the PSM remit, informing, educating and entertaining. But I also insist on a fourth pillar: innovating … together.

The EBU can achieve great things when we move together in unison, big and small Members working together. Several tangible results have been achieved, from technology and innovation to sport and news.

These range from regaining the Olympic rights from 2026, to the creation of the News Pilot that today counts more than 30 contributing Members, to the defence, at the latest ITU World Radiocommunication Conference in Dubai, of access to essential UHF spectrum for broadcasters.

I would also mention the co-creation effort in projects like PEACH and EuroVOX. I am proud to see many EBU Members as daily users of these tools that we have developed together – millions of connected citizens using systems designed to serve citizens.

There are common threads across these successes, echoed again in the Draghi speech. The first one is about enabling scale. Imagine, once more, he was talking about the global media and tech giants here, rather than geopolitical powers, and you can see the pertinence of his argument:

“Our major competitors are taking advantage of the fact that they are continental- sized economies to generate scale, increase investment and capture market share for the industries where it matters most. We have the same natural size advantage in Europe, but fragmentation is holding us back.”

Or on the provision of public goods, something that resonates strongly with EBU Members:

“Where there are investments from which we all benefit, but no country can carry out alone, there is a powerful case for us to act together – otherwise we will underdeliver relative to our needs.”

If we want to serve European citizens with trusted news, support their educational growth daily, stimulate their critical judgement, and entertain audiences with rich content, we need to unite our forces and to create a new relationship with the global media industry. Concretely this could mean leveraging economies of scale, using a single voice to influence industry, and bringing innovation to fruition, creating new value for citizens.

Let’s do whatever it takes!

This article first appeared in issue 60 of EBU tech-i magazine.


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