Euro-sceptics whinge that their case is ignored by Britain's press and TV. They couldn't be more mistaken ...

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The Independent Online
Last week I found myself on a pan-continental television programme arguing against an utterly absurd conspiracy theory. EBN (European Business News) gave a platform to the Campaign for an Independent Britain, an organisation that has engineered a Euro-sceptic Website to counter what it portrays as a sinister conspiracy between meddling Eurocrats and "pro-European" media organisations.

The main target of its broadside was the BBC. "Free Britain" (as the Website is called) claims that the Beeb was among 50 broadcasting organisations invited to Brussels back in January for talks aimed at devising a pro- single currency media blitz which would be backed by a $22m (pounds 14m) budget.

Speaking for the Campaign for an Independent Britain, Lord Stoddard of Swindon said: "The Euro-fanatics get a lot more space than the people who are against further integration. That's why we've decided to go on the Internet."

My response, as you can probably guess, was dismissive. The suggestion that Euro-sceptics cannot put their message across in this country is preposterous. Virtually every national newspaper published in London is ferociously Euro-phobic, not least because most are owned by global empire- builders who are fervently opposed to European integration.

As for the allegation that the BBC is pumping out pro-Euro propaganda, that is simply laughable. Doesn't Lord Stoddard realise that Peter Jay, the corporation's economics editor, is sternly opposed to a single currency? If he doesn't, he must be the only viewer or listener who hasn't cottoned on.

Viewers might not detect any bias in Jay's brief contributions to the Nine O'Clock News, but the former British ambassador to Washington gives full vent to his Euro-phobia when he makes forays into the print media. He also once turned an entire edition of Panorama - apocalyptically entitled "A Country Called Europe" - into a 40-minute party political broadcast for the Referendum Party.

So, if the BBC did send a representative to the aforementioned talks in Brussels - it told EBN it couldn't be sure if it had or not "because of its size" - it most assuredly wasn't its Euro-sceptical economics editor. The European Commission explained that the purpose of the initiative was to encourage broadcasters to carry coverage of European issues such as the daily value of the euro. It denied that the budget was anywhere near as big as Free Britain alleged.

Obviously the EU is engaged in various forms of state-building. I read in issue 1 of the Europe Quarterly - an Edinburgh-based journal whose launch was delayed by a legal threat from a group of right-wing Euro-sceptics - that the European Parliament is considering a subsidised Euro-history textbook. The idea is ridiculed by the historian Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, who writes: "No device is more calculated to inspire rebellion in student minds than exposure to this sort of easily detected propaganda."

The same could be said of the endless succession of junkets for journalists organised by the European Parliament. I have yet to meet a single writer flown over to Brussels or Strasbourg at EU expense who was duped into becoming a Europhile.

The great difficulty for starry-eyed Euro-idealists is that there is no newspaper or broadcasting organisation committed to constructing a pan-European consciousness. Even Europe's intelligentsia (the people who have traditionally practised l'art de penser a l'europeenne) have few forums in which to exchange ideas and argument. As Peter McGowan and Perry Anderson observe in the introduction to a new book of essays, The Question of Europe (Verso): "The overwhelming bulk of writing about Europe remains sub-European in context and consequence ... untranslated and unfamiliar beyond its country of origin."

Andrew Neil declared recently: "I will make The European an essential read for the people running Europe." A highly ambitious mission statement. Pity he marred the much better designed tabloid format by splashing the word ACHTUNG! across the front page of the first issue - a banner headline that must have struck more of a chord with Little English collectors of Commando war comics than with decision-makers on the continent.

Meanwhile, the rest of the "pan-European" media are heavily controlled by American multi-media conglomerates. EBN is a perfect case in point: it is 75 per cent owned by Dow Jones, publisher of the Wall Street Journal (which now has an expanding European edition). The other quarter is owned by Flextech, another American concern.

Yet, for some strange reason, the fact that global empire-builders based in New York or Los Angeles are set to become masters of the digi-verse doesn't seem to bother the Campaign for an Independent Britain.