Charles Abel, a member of the British Guild of Agricultural Journalists, was one of the participants in the AG-PRESS ‘CAP and Innovation’ press trip, held in November 2013.
During the study trip, journalists spent one day learning about the CAP and Innovation (the EIP – European Innovation Partnership) from colleagues in DG AGRI. They also visited the press services of the Commission, European Parliament and Council.
On the second day, they visited two farms in Belgian Flanders: one pig farm and one goat farm – both with a different innovative approach. This is his account of the trip…
KEEPING up to speed with Brussels developments is a doddle – if you’re signed up to DG Agri’s slick e-hub, says Guild member Charles Abel.
“Brussels hosts the world’s second largest concentration of media interest after Washington, so it is no surprise to find it is well equipped to offer quotes, images, video, streaming TV and answers to queries,” says Charles, former head of content at Farmers Weekly and now a freelance editor, writer and media skills trainer.
Travelling to the home of mind-bending Trappist beers and moules-frites takes less than two hours from Eurostar’s Ebbsfleet park-and-ride facility near Dartford. But journalists, broadcasters, PR and marketing execs needn’t move from their desks to access valuable print, web, TV and radio content.
Ag-Press.eu is the e-platform at the heart of DG Agri’s media offering. “Don’t be put off, it’s really rather good,” Charles comments. “Registering is a lot simpler than filling in an IACS form and is well worth the effort. The e-hub gives fast access to a huge array of EU content – be it CAP reform, policy implementation, or even case studies.” Over 800 European journalists use the service already.
Managed by DG AGRI’s enthusiastic Press & Media team its information is updated daily, and registered users get a ‘Weekly Update’ e-mail on Thursday afternoons. A useful memory jogger!
There are links to video clips to drop into websites and a comments forum, so you can see what other European journalists think of EU policy – and perhaps more importantly their concerns. Journalists from Croatia, Slovenia, Germany, France and Spain, in Brussels at the end of November, all considered the site a useful resource.
DG Agri’s greatest media asset is Roger Waite, the affable European Commission spokesman for Agriculture and Rural Development. He genuinely wants journalists to put questions to him, and his team, by e-mail or phone (email@example.com / +(32) 2 296 14 04).
Roger readily gives attributable comments, and off-the-record context too – a welcome breath of fresh air for those less familiar with EU policy-making. But don’t expect unguarded scoops – Roger is a shrewd operator with years of experience.
His answers remain exclusive for around two weeks and are then posted, together with the original questions, on Ag-Press.eu, for the knowledge and use of all Ag-Press members. Further quotes from Commissioner Dacian Ciolos, or Roger, are published regularly.
A particularly useful part of the e-platform is the area flagging the most recent Tweets, including those with the hashtags: #ciolos #capreform #enaj #cap2013 and #COMAGRI, and a Facebook area with ‘EU-Agri’ posts. Roger has over 3000 Twitter followers.
Ag-Press.eu has galleries for videos, photos and audio clips from key EU events, including study and press trips. All are available for re-use.
The News section is automatically updated as items are added to the Newsroom of the EC’s central EUROPA press facility, saving the need to trawl through reams of unrelated content.
Other pieces are added when relevant and interesting, ensuring most official documents are readily available. Items listed in December included Commissioner Ciolos’ WTO views, protected geographical indications for Pembrokeshire early potatoes and co-operation with China on biotech research.
CAP Reform Updates appear in a separate section, where all the important and official documents on CAP reform can be found, including council conclusions. The update posted on 25/10/2013 – CAP Reform – an explanation of the main elements, is a particularly useful roundup.
To keep track of the ever expanding lexicon of Brussels-speak there is a handy glossary.
Media facilities at the European Commission, Parliament and Council are also comprehensive. Professionally staffed TV and radio studios in the European Commission’s Berlaymont Building are available for use by all media, businesses and even members of the public.
“There’s no cost and we don’t mind if it is pro-EU or not, the main thing is to make it easier to put the EU in the media,” explained Frederic d’Hondt, head of Europe by Satellite (www.ec.europe.eu/avservices).
Two satellite channels cover key EU meetings, while all content, translated into English, can be downloaded from its website.
Similar media services are on offer at the European Council, explained Xavier Pavard, agriculture/fisheries press officer (Xavier.firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @xpavard), with free broadcast-quality content available to media professionals via www.eucouncil.tv Similar services are also available at the European Parliament (email@example.com).
Ag-Press.eu is a slick and useful media resource, staffed by a team that aims to please. If you get the chance to meet them, try visiting moules restaurant Chez Leon near the Grand Markt followed by a few of the 2000-plus beers on offer at the nearby Delirium Café. Exotic brews like the Duchess of Bourgogne may not be to everyone’s taste. But they just might help to bring an extra insight into the workings of the Brussels policy machine. You wouldn’t be the first to try…
Roger Waite, European Commission Spokesman for Agriculture and Rural Development
Phone: +(32) 2 296 14 04