Euroculture Report

What’s in Strasbourg? ARTE, The European Cultural TV

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Oier Lobera, Adithya Pillai, Sabrina de Vivo, Carolina Froelich and María de las Cuevas

This year is the 20th anniversary of the Franco-German, European Cultural television-channel ARTE, renowned for its pioneering work in intercultural broadcasting and in its aim of creating a ‘European’ TV channel. Therefore, our project for Eurocompetence II, a course module in the second semester of MA Euroculture to provide students with the competences required to do team working with people from different cultures and to carry out projects in a multicultural sphere, had the challenge of organising a visit to ARTE, as it has a distinct understanding of Europeanness and interculturality, which are highly relevant to the Euroculture Master’s program.

“The cooperation between France and Germany…”

ARTE is intriguing because of the cooperation between the two nations, France and Germany, which have a long hostile history. The project has been far more fruitful than other initiatives of cross-border TV stations in Europe. Having an insight into this ‘European’ channel, (as ARTE promotes itself) was a great opportunity to know more about this successful implementation of the multilingual-cross-border TV programming.

It is difficult to think of a TV channel with no programming for celebrities or reality shows such as The Bachelor or Big Brother. Perhaps it is even more difficult to imagine one with no sports or talk shows. Well, this is ARTE: a channel that broadcasts documentaries, feature films, TV films, music, opera, theatre, informative programmes and much more, always with the common denominator of achieving top quality. The different programmes invite the viewer to discover other people, regions and their ways of life, to experience culture in Europe and to better understand political and social developments in today’s world.

Can a TV channel achieve unity among the people of Europe?

This was the idea that was on the minds of François Mitterrand, Helmut Kohl and Lothar Späth, the founding fathers of ARTE, who believed that a joint television channel should bring French and German citizens closer on a cultural level and also promote cultural integration throughout Europe. Creating a television channel for two audiences was a first in television’s history and is still an exception in today’s global TV market.

After years of negotiations, an interstate agreement was signed on the 2nd of October 1990, by the Ministers of the eleven Bundesländer of the former West Germany and the French Minister of Culture, Jack Lang. Within just a few months, ARTE (Association Relative à la Télévision Européenne) was established as a European Economic Interest Grouping – E.E.I.G. (Groupement Européen d’Intérêt Économique – G.E.I.E.) – in Strasbourg.

“After the Elysée-Treaty…”

For the creation of ARTE, the history and friendship of Germany and France is crucial. After a history of wars between both countries the “Elysée-Treaty” was signed in 1963 in Paris by the French President Charles de Gaulle and the German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer. This treaty determined essential points in the cooperation between the two nations. The major fuel in this cooperation can also be seen in the personal friendship between many of the French Presidents and German Chancellors. This initiative of Germany and France was and still is essential for peace in postwar-Europe helping in the formation of a strong European Union.

ARTE is completely financed through TV licensing fees and therefore is not dependent upon advertising. Strasbourg was chosen as the headquarters of the organisation, which is also the residence of many EU organisations therefore emphasizes the orientation of ARTE towards Europe and the EU. Meanwhile, the ARTE cooperation between the German channels (ARD/ZDF) and the French channels (LA SEPT/ARTE) has been complemented by contributions from Belgium (RTBF), Switzerland  (SRG SSR IDEE SUISSE), Poland (TVP), Austria (ORF), Finland (YLE) and Greece (ERT). This suggests a European dimension, which can still be enlarged.

So why did we visit ARTE?

“ARTE can serve as a best-practice model for cross-culture collaboration in the EU at the media level…”

Cultural exchange and dialogue have been topics in our Eurocompetence II classes. ARTE is an institution which promotes both and can serve as a best-practice model for cross-culture collaboration in the EU at the media level. Our motivation to organise this trip was to have an insight into the working process of ARTE. The discussion with Uwe Lothar Müller, député of the head of the Program Unit ARTE Reportage at ARTE, gave us, the Euroculture students, the chance to receive first-hand information about working in a multi-cultural environment. Furthermore, several students in the Euroculture program are or aspire to be journalists and therefore, might also have ambitions in being employed at ARTE or similar international media organisations. This trip gave them first contacts with the atmosphere at ARTE, thus helping them to become more informed with regards to a potential future career. It is also apparent that to apply for an internship at ARTE, you must be fluent in both German and French, and be very motivated about the understanding the role of the European Union in the global world and intercultural dialogue, skills that we find in the basis of the MA Euroculture Masters program.

“There are three kinds of journalism,” ­explained Uwe Lothar Müller, “the French way, which will rather tend to provoke an emotional reaction on the audience by showing a close shot of something suffering. In my opinion, this kind of journalism might transfer some limits of privacy. On the other hand, we have the German style, which will avoid any kind of emotion. This doesn’t work neither because it is too distant from the reader. Thirdly, we have ARTE’s style that has the best of both. We search for a component of humanity when we inform, but at the same time our aim is to be very rigorous and respectful. We strive to create thought-provoking, emotionally engaging programmes that enrich our multicultural audience’s lives. Our channel should reflect our audience’s interests, passions and dreams.”

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Oier Lobera, Adithya Pillai, Sabrina de Vivo, Carolina Froelich and María de las Cuevas are students of MA Euroculture 2012-14. They studied in Strasbourg for Spring Semester 2013. Currently, they are spread around the world doing an internship or a research track. 

For more information, visit ARTE

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