Friday, 16 January 2009

Going down the EU Tube: Brussels videos shunned

The European Union’s answer to YouTube, the internet video sharing phenomenon, has backfired, with audiences shunning many of the clips intended to promote pet subjects in Brussels.

Eighteen months on from the creation of EU Tube many of the videos posted on the website have attracted only a few dozen viewers.

An EU Tube video entitled Controlling the Use of Chemicals in Europe has been watched 56 times. Another film, Better Rights for Temporary Workers, has attracted 70.

EU Tube’s attempts to adopt street language have also misfired, with ventures such as a three-minute “euro-rap”, which urges young viewers “you gotta be a part of” a united Europe.

“Get on our team, you know what I mean,” the rapper sings, surrounded by teenagers brandishing the EU flag. “It’s the return of the blue. See I’m going to move across from Germany to Paris, oui. We get united and take a stand in solidarity. I speak in all ’hoods.”

One visitor, Opaz, writes: “It’s like Nazi Hitler Youth propaganda with aggressive music. Be a part of what? The destruction of our nations, homelands and security so that the rich can own and control us. Overlords of EU go to hell!”

EU Tube also displays a bizarre 30-second animation featuring an amorous chess piece and a condom to illustrate safe sex. “Chess love – safe sex is a game for two,” the video concludes.

The channel was perhaps seeking to emulate the success of one of its most popular videos: a three-minute series of clips of people having sex, ending with the words “Let’s come together”. The video, intended to promote the Brussels film subsidy, received more than 7.1m hits.

EU Tube is funded out of a €207m (£196m) communication budget from Brussels. So far the channel has attracted 7,391 subscribers. The community has a population of 500m.

The website is one of dozens of examples of EU marketing documented in a 160-page dossier compiled by Open Europe, the eurosceptic think tank.

The report claims the EU is spending €2.4 billion a year on lobbying, press officers, advertising and other types of “propaganda” including scholarships. It also says the EU sends out more than 1m promotional brochures, balloons and pens each year.

Other schemes funded by the taxpayer included:

— An event for young people on the Isle of Wight, justified on the grounds that students there might have below-average contact with their European peers: “This can make them seem insular and antiEuropean.”

— A film featuring young people waving EU flags to the tune of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, in support of the Young European Federalists.

— Funding of €7m to enhance public awareness of the common agricultural policy.

Lorraine Mullally, director of Open Europe, said: “Taxpayers should not be footing the bill for vain PR exercises to make us love the European Union.”

A spokesman for the European commission in London said: “This is not propaganda, we are simply providing information.” He added that the commission “did not recognise” the €2.4 billion figure.

ByRobert Watts and Georgia Warren Sunday Times – 28 December 2008

© Sunday Times