By Xavier Häpe (https://www.flickr.com/photos/vier/192493917/) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

28th December 2017, by Mara Dorfmann, Lydia Li, Alexandra Hoffmann, Shan Yi

“What happens when we leave the EU?” – this is the most asked question from British people to Google – interesting and shocking at the same time is, that people from Britain started to ask Google this questions after the Referendum was over and the decision was already made that they are going to leave the EU. To this point it is clear that the citizens of Great Britain were absolutely not well informed about what is going to happen to them, to their country and to their future when they are not longer a member of the European Union. But this refers also to the question if they had been well informed about what is going on in the EU during their membership since 1973.

Not just the British are uninformed

But not only are the EU citizens from Britain not well informed about the processes that are happening in the capital city of the EU. A study from the Austrian Corporation for Politics in Europe (ÖGfE) asked 2510 Teenager from High schools in the school year 2016/17 what they

are thinking about the European Union. And one result of the study shows that 71 per cent are thinking that the EU is “complicated”. This shows as well that even in Austria, especially the young people are not well informed about what is going on in the EU and how important the EU is to their own country.

So when the people in Britain and even in Austria are not well informed about what is happening in the EU, how much of the about 512 Million citizens of the European Union are then well informed about the functions of the EU, what it means to be a member of the EU and which advantages a membership in the EU is causing for every individual?

Non information causes a “NO” to the EU

There are no official EU statistics which show how uninformed the citizens really are but just to guess – not even half of them really know what is really happening in the EU.

The fact that the citizens are not well informed also causes the problem that the discussion about leaving the European Union was not only a topic in Great Britain – even in Austria there have been lots of discussions if a referendum about leaving the EU is needed as well. But why are the citizens so uniformed about their situation in the European Union? Big problems are that the local media institutions are not giving the European Union and its functions a lot of slots in their broadcasting schedules and that the EU and the work in Brussels is too far away of the daily live from citizens all over Europe.

Local Media Stations don’t care about the EU-topics

So the question is: What can be done to change this current and potential dangerous situation? After all we don’t want a repetition of the Brexit. It is clear, that for forming a founded opinion about the EU – not even said if it has to be a positive or a negative one – the citizens need to be informed about the EU-system and the things, which are constantly happening there. What the EU-communication department and the media organisations in the different member states have done until now, it’s obviously not enough. When the Brussels-correspondent Mr. Peter Fritz is talking every week with different ambassadors of the EU-institutions as well as with EU-journalists about current EU-topics, and the Austrian public service broadcaster is bringing the show on the channel ORF III – not ORF 1 or 2, which have a much broader reach – on Thursday at 21.05 p.m., you don’t have to wonder anymore why

the average citizen doesn’t even know about “Inside Brüssel”. Peter Fritz by himself, confronted by us with this ambiguous issue, can’t do more than take an understanding breath and to refer to “management decisions”.

How to get united in Media and Information

The idea, which the German political scientist Andre Wilkens and the economist and politician Jokob von Weizsäcker proposed earlier this year, would circumvent such difficulties. No longer would individual media organisations within one country be the only responsible for reporting on EU-topics. What Wilkens and von Weizsäcker have in their mind, is a supranational public service broadcaster: a publicly financed media channel that is produced in and for Europe. No longer would we as well be trapped in national filter bubbles, which are always containing special national interests and can be manipulated easily.

With an EU-public service broadcaster problems would be dealt on a European level and every member state would get the same information and the same amount of information. Just imagine what effect it would have on democracy, the sensitation of the EU-citizens and the feeling of being one community – “united in diversity” as it is saying the slogan of the EU – which is nowadays unfortunately not always perceptible by the single individuals. According to them, the EU-public service broadcaster should start already in 2019.

But how it is with every political proposal, there are a lot of sceptical voices as well. Of course, it would cost a lot: effort and money. Not least because the EU has 24 official languages (according to the 28, within a short time: 27 member states). But shouldn’t we ask ourselves, what the inclusion of the EU-citizens is worth to us? Because in the end – as we’ve seen it in Great Britain – they can develop decision-making power with extensive consequences. And we should recall that the EU as the world’s largest (!) economic power uses only 6 percent of his budget for the administration: with this percentage the whole complex system, the buildings, the staff and the translation work is obtained. We will see if Wilkens and von Weizsäckers idea can succeed, but we should hope so, every single one of us.

Because the EU is affecting all of us: it guarantees freedom to travel, to work, to study, to speak freely, to live, to love anywhere in the EU, it is the number one actor against climate change, the biggest aid donor and got the Nobel peace prize for 60 years of peace in Europe.

We should preserve it.