Saturday, February 25, 2017

This document doesn't intend to be a complete "manual" on communication of EU Presidencies, but recommendations for optimal arrangements - based on "best practices" of previous Presidencies -, and a short list of basic requirements which are expected to be fulfilled during the six months.

The main points covered are:

  • accreditation
  • overall frame for media activity
  • basic information flow, briefings
  • working conditions at informal councils (in the country of the actual EU Presidency)

1. Accreditation

According to the known best practice, the procedure should have two phases:

  • At the beginning of the Presidency journalists fill in the form the actual Presidency issues on the forthcoming events, marking those meetings they wish to attend during the six-months period.
  • When the marked council sessions are approaching - 5-7 days before - a mail is to be sent to each journalist (who originally registered), confirming the acceptance of their accreditation, AND ASKING THEIR CONFIRMATION for their attendance.

2. Overall framework

Keeping the calendar:

The six-months event calendar of the Presidency is expected to be kept. In case - due to unavoidable reasons - the timing or place of some event should change, the Presidency must use without delay all the available communication channels to inform the press. If this happens right before the event, the Presidency is expected to offer compensation for reserved tickets and hotel deposits already paid by correspondents.

3. Information flow

Briefings, press conferences:

  • Please make sure that prior to ministerial councils all Presidency briefings are duly held.
  • During briefings and press conferences please give equal opportunity for all journalists to ask questions without language or any other - nationality or other - considerations.
  • For pre-Council background briefings it is recommended that the Presidency should offer detailed and concrete presentation - and Q&A session alike -, and to avoid the simple repetition (let alone: reading out) of the written background note which is taken by journalists anyway.  
  • As for timing of press conferences at EU Council (or European Council) meetings: it is most recommended that the Presidency should take newspapers' and news-programs' deadlines into consideration.
  • During press conferences please leave enough time for questions as well.
  • SMS: please either give a clear mandate to the EU Council's press service to send messages whenever it seems appropriate, or/and the Presidency should task its own staff member(s) to manage the sms-flow without delay.

4. Working conditions at informal meetings

On the location:

Please be aware of the physical parameters of the chosen place as it directly determines the possible media arrangements. If the conference room is relatively small then it doesn't leave space for TV crews, photo reporters from all member states to take their picture on the meeting itself ("tour de table"). At this point let's remind the Presidency that pictures only from the host-broadcaster are not sufficient. At least one national camera needs access to the event.

Registration, badges:
Ensure quick and punctual procedure with clear system

Security checking:
Just as many as inevitable, no duplications please (for example: no laptop-checking in row).

Security zones:
Please always designate "Mixed Zones" as well. Interviews with ministers (or with whomever) are much easier to organize (for both sides) if there is a mixed zone,  which Reporters can access from the yellow zone and politicians from the red zone.

Briefing rooms:
In addition to the properly equipped Presidential press conference room, a number of briefing rooms are also needed for other delegations. Their number varies according to the event. At Summit(s) obviously all delegations need one. According to our experiences, at least 15-20 separate rooms are needed for Gymnich and for informal ECOFIN. In other cases their number can be much lower. Also: the size requirement of the rooms varies from country to country. It is worth checking the number of journalists that have attended similar types of events before and their distribution between different countries.

Opening hours:
Please be aware that in most cases media can start working when the final press conference ends. Thus the opening hours of the press centers should follow in a flexible way the working rhythm of the council (if it lasts longer, keep the centers open also for longer. In general: after the final press conference at least 3 undisturbed hours should be given for journalists working on the spot.). It is even more so in the case of electronic media: sometimes they have to deliver their report to the late news, which means that their work can last till the evening. This is even more important at 3rd-party-summits: Colleagues from Asia or America have to take into account the time-zone they are coming from. And a final remark: a large part of the press corps work with voice, thus it is unacceptable for them to get noisy conditions around due to the gradual dismantling of the press premises while correspondents are still busy there.

Catering hours:
The same goes for catering. News Agency, TV- and Radio-Reporting today go around the clock and continue also at lunch-time. So please avoid limited opening hours of restaurants or cafeterias, given the fact that usually no other means exist close to the working area to take meals or refreshments.

Working areas:

  • It is preferable to place all work premises on the same level and in the same hall. According to "best practice" experiences, it is always desirable to get short distances so that journalists and organizers (or spokespersons) can move from one place to another without bottlenecks. (Warmly advised to avoid the necessity to use elevators when one tries to reach places.) For the same reason it is also recommended to put media workstations and briefing rooms as close to each other as possible. The same goes for the media cafe. On the other hand it is better to separate the restaurant, keeping its noise away from the working area. And finally: it is important to get sufficient number of toilets on the premises.
  • The estimation of possible number of journalists coming to the event is crucial in order to ensure the optimal number of working places, enough briefing rooms etc. This document includes an ANNEX which shows media attendance of different informal meetings during the period of different presidencies. Based on the figures a basic calculation can be made. These figures, however, should be used with caution. While there seems to be a tendency that Gymnich, Ecofin, JAI or sometimes Defense attract the most interest, in the light of political actualities this may change. For example, during the debate of the CAP-reform meetings of Ministers for Agriculture may bring more journalists than usual etc.. The best if organizers have some reserve in terms of places and technical equipment. Also, for the same reason it was recommended under the "Accreditation" point that Presidencies should use the two-step method for registration.
  • Please provide wireless AND sufficient cable connections (not all journalists have WiFi). As for WiFi: please test it in advance if it can serve higher number of users at the same time.
  • Provide fixed phone-lines and fixed telephones as well, in an optimal case as many as the number of seats in the area.
  • Offer enough copy machines, and also either connection from individual laptops to printers, or at least 10 screens with connections to printers.

Electronic media:

  • For radio correspondents: at least 12-15 RNIS/ISSDN lines at each informal council
  • Enough working cabins of sufficient size and as well isolated as possible against disturbing noise is crucial. They should be equipped not only with the necessary technical equipment (CCTV or pool signal, LAN, Tel), but also with tables big enough for four workplaces (for TV; Radio needs only two). And - sometimes forgotten - TV needs at least 3-4 chairs in a cabin.
  • For TV crews it would be useful to get the equipment for copying videos.
  • Stand-up-positions: it is desirable to get attractive stand-up-positions, which should give a view to the site of the meeting. Important:
  • the stand-up-positions should always be placed in the yellow security zone
  • the distance between TV-cabins and stand-up-positions should not be too long.
  • TV- + Photo-Pools: Check-in should be as close as possible to the actual event, and after it a quick return to the editing-suite must be possible. Very often our camera-people have to waste time because of unnecessary security measures.
  • TV-Crews still work with heavy equipment. For this reason it is desirable to get the opportunity to bring all the equipment with cars or taxis to the media center. And after an event access to cars should be possible again. And in the meantime: given the fact that all this is very expensive equipment: The cabins should be possible to lock safely.

Some additional recommendations, (especially for foreseen bigger events), kind of "ideal standards" for working conditions:

  • Internet band-width (both fixed and Wifi) should be big enough to support  streaming
  • An SMTP server (server for outgoing mail) would make work easier, particularly for photographers
  • Modern faxes and photocopy machines can also be used as network printers
  • Streaming and MP3 of events (if not already provided by EbS) are very useful. Streaming should also support 3G mobile phones. MP3 should be of sufficient quality as to be used by radio broadcasters (128 kbit/sec minimum). For example if a lot of people plan to speak Czech, it would be good to encode in the MP3 also a translation in English, using a stereo recording: left for the original sound, right for the translation.

Transport:

Bus shuttle with clear timetable and/or good information service on the city transport (if it is available from the press centre area) is basic. Ensure also that a taxi service is available at realistic prices.

5. "Trouble shooting" at informals'

 In order to ensure quick "trouble shooting" mechanism on the spot, both API and the Presidency are to name a "liaison person" who will be present at given informal meetings and able to get in contact with each other if necessary.