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‘In Brussels No One Can Hear You Scream’

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If you are interested in politics, journalism and communications then you are probably a big fan of Borgen – the Danish TV show about a female politician and the reporters, officials and spin-doctors circling around her.

As I was struggling with the opening paragraph of a book chapter I’m writing on reporting the European Union, I remembered a scene from an earlier episode of Borgen – entitled ‘In Brussels No One Can Hear You Scream’ – that speaks volumes about how the EU is viewed by large chunks of the press and public.

Journalist Katrine Fonsmark believes she can reveal who Prime Minister Birgitte Nyborg is going to nominate as the next Danish commissioner to the EU. It is a scoop, so at the daily editorial meeting of her populist newspaper Ekspres, she proposes to run with it to fellow reporter Hanne Holm and Editor-in-chief Michael Laugesen.

This is a transcript of what follows:

Laugesen: No one wants to read about the EU. It’s too complicated and unsexy.

Holm: Complicated? Oh come on, the prime minister is appointing a commissioner.

Laugesen: The Danes know nothing about it.

Fonsmark: So let’s enlighten them. The Commission helps legislate in the EU. Let’s write about it.

Laugesen: People only want to hear about salaries and corruption in the EU.

Anyone who has tried to report the EU for a newspaper outside Brussels will recognise Laugesen’s reaction. But is it necessarily true – let alone right? Does the public only want to hear about ‘salaries and corruption’ in the EU? Is Europe simply too ‘complicated and unsexy’ for readers and viewers?

With just over six months until the next European Parliament elections and the prospect of a referendum on EU membership looming in Britain, these questions matter. So we’d like to know whether you think reporting the EU is ‘mission impossible’ or a challenge journalists and editors simply cannot ignore?