A couple of months we have walked the streets of Brussels now. Talking to folks working in the Brussels bubble brings new insights. We have talked to a correspondent, a freelance writer, a IT coordinator and a lobbyist. The coming weeks you can expect two more conversations. One with a lobbyist, and one with somebody who is trying to monitor this lobbying business.
To give an oversight, down here a collection of quotes from our interviews so far. You can read the interviews in full, with more context, by clicking on the link at the end of the quote. The idea is to focus on the media and lobbying sector for the coming months. From there, we will see what happens. My guess is these sectors are pretty important to pay attention to right now.
Everyday a lobbyist can postpone legislation, he earns a million more for the company. Their own bonuses continue as well. Its a game of delaying. A couple of months more, a year more, two years maybe. Its a game. – Lobbyist, working in Brussels.
You have a couple of big banks with one goal: world domination. In 1981 the Americans cut AT&T in pieces. There comes a moment when this happens to the banks as well. Its just a story of competition. That is what’s going on in Brussels right now as well. – Lobbyist, working in Brussels.
You have a couple of intellectuals, but most of them just think about the next election, their constituents and hopefully not to much about their own bank account. But, also those folks are present. – Lobbyist, working in Brussels, on politicians in Brussels.
One of the positive notes on the lobby and PR sector is that the sector and its budgets have been growing enormously. If you look at the big companies in the transparency register, some of them are not making big profits, but the majority of them show growth and some of them even doubled their budgets. It’s now or never. If you can’t sell your case right now, you are worth nothing. – Lobbyist, working in Brussels.
Its the only thing we have right now. You are not obliged to register yourself, so in that sense you can raise questions about it. But making it manditory doesn’t solve the problem either, my guess is. There is no capacity to do something with all the information. – Lobbyist, working in Brussels, on the transparancy register for lobbyists.
First of all you have people from different kind of administrative cultures here. Second, you have people who were used to work in other structures, like that of the Commission or the Council. Then you have people who where transferred directly from their Ministry into this building. You have people who have been put into leading positions without any training. All these different cultures with different languages are mixed up together. What a Frenchman says in English, is not what a Dutchman or Spaniard would say. So, you have a problem of interpretation as well. – IT coordinator, working in Brussels.
But with all due respect, those folks are also living a bit on an island. If you want quotes, you should go there. There’s always a politician in front of the Parliament willing to tell you something strong in a bold way. That’s how the media-logica works. One member says something, and the headline is ‘Europe’ or ‘Brussels’ wants this and that. It’s a complex system, its hard politics and difficult. You can’t grasp that in a headline or short story. – IT coordinator, on the media logic between journalists and politicians at the Parliament.
The fact that media back home are showing no genuine interest in Europe when it’s more about substance is something i hear around me from other journalists as well. It’s a general complain. Thats not the case for journalists working at more smaller and local newspapers or correspondents. They already earned their spot. But if you are new, and want to take a more investigative approach, it is very very difficult.” – A freelance writer working in Brussels.
The most important is to find a national point of view depending on the country you want to pitch a story to. Its how the media logic works, otherwise you have no chance to get your stuff published.” – A freelance writer working in Brussels.
Another reason is the payment. If you do some work for TV and make a report, it pays you an average of 300 Euros. Radio pays an average of 72 Euros. Those are numbers you can’t earn a normal living with considering the costs you make producing them. So, i also focus on moderating debates and seminars. Lots of them are unpaid, some are well paid. It’s the economic situation in general that is causing organizations to cut down costs as well.” – A freelance writer working in Brussels.
There is that strange idea that Europe is some kind of animal that lives in Brussels. The whole story that Brussels decided something is just plain bullshit. Every journalist or politician that tells you Brussels decided something, lies. – Brussels based correspondent.
If I have breaking news and I am the first to report in the evening, it is approx. 100 seconds plus a conversation with the host. I answer two or three questions, 60 to 100 seconds each. Combined, you are talking about 4 or 5 minutes max. But, thats big news. Today I ran a story about Syria and the weapon embargo. I had 1.40 minutes. Thats enough. – A Brussels based correspondent on the amount of time he has to pitch stories on the evening news.
Decisions are made by sovereign states, represented by their Prime and other Ministers. Often they lose a debate over a certain subject, sometimes they win it. In the latter case, they sell it as ‘i have done it’. If they lose, its ‘Europe’ who has done the harm. Europe is not a ‘thing’. Its a conference room. – A Brussels based correspondent.
If you ask Dutch public servants here about the debate back home, they will speak about it with anger. But, looking at the other side, i can also imagine the public , for instance, asking legitimate questions about the salaries public servants in Europe receive. I think those are ridiculous high. – A Brussels based correspondent.
Yes, and we have the phenomenon that Commissioners start their own news channels. They have no idea how to do that, but sometimes you run into a video interview with a commissioner made by themselves. There is also a Midday Press Briefing with a ‘menu of the day’. The message they give you is more or less: there you go, we made your work and life a bit easier. They expect we listen to them and use the material. And, if not a lot of journalists show up at the briefing because they get the same standard stupid answers each and every day, they start their own TV station. – A Brussels based correspondent.