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Thursday, 3 January, 2002, 09:51 GMT
Why Fleet Street fears Europe
One reason Prime Minister Tony Blair is not leading a wholehearted campaign in favour of the euro, writes BBC News Online's Chris Horrie, is fear of upsetting the UK's ferociously anti-European press.

Press barons such as Conrad Black (owner of the Daily Telegraph), Lord Rothermere (Daily Mail) and Rupert Murdoch (Sun, News of the World, Times and Sunday Times) are ideologically opposed to closer ties with Europe.

They share the classic conservative intellectual idea that "the English speaking peoples" represent an historic, far-flung but unified global nation. Europe, inevitably dominated by France and Germany, is the historic rival and enemy.


In The Sun or The Times you see a portrayal of Germany that is rather dominated by a vocabulary from the war... that's partly because these papers are foreign owned and their underlying political philosophy is anti-European

Sir Paul Lever, British ambassador to Germany
At one time these ideas struck a chord with British newspaper readers. The Sun was forever harping on about lazy and corrupt Euro "Wops"; cruel and stupid German "Krauts" and filthy, cowardly French "Frogs".

The paper once opined that the only thing the Spanish had ever given to the world was syphilis and the inquisition.

This kind of talk plays less well with a younger generation with broader horizons - except when it comes to football, where all the clichés are routinely rolled out as a sort of joke.

More important now is the commercial agenda of the press barons.

Big market = big sales

A company's main attraction to Europe's is the prospect of selling its wares to a huge market.

Sun front page
Sun's support for Labour has been crucial
This might work for efficient UK spoon-manufacturers or the tourism business, but not for newspapers or TV because they use English.

So, in business terms, there is no European "up-side" for the UK popular press. The only attempt to produce an English language newspaper for Europe as a whole - Robert Maxwell's European - was an ignominious failure.

At the same time, there is a huge "down-side" in closer European integration - mainly in the form of tighter state regulation.

Threats include European mandated "social" legislation like the maximum working time directive and the minimum wage.

Privacy right

Many people have an image of the media employing highly paid presenters, but in truth its depends on the likes of newsagents and truck drivers to distribute papers and call centre workers to gather pay-TV subscriptions.


Listen very carefully Herr Lafontaine, we will say this only once... Foxtrot Oskar.... F***!...O**!

Sun editorial on Oskar Lafontaine's 1998 proposal to scrap the UK's European tax veto
Strict enforcement of the provisions of the European Social Chapter would hit the bottom line of media empires very hard.

But there are other business reasons for the press barons' ferocious Euroscepticism.

The European Convention on Human Rights, now incorporated into UK law, includes a statutory right to privacy.

In a test case in December Amanda Holden and Les Dennis sued a tabloid for "invasion of privacy" under the law after it printed "snatch" paparazzi pictures.

The Sun
'Most dangerous Man in Britain' - Sun attack 'pro-Euro' Blair
The main effect of a European-style privacy law, experts believe, will be to allow celebrities to charge more for pictures of themselves.

Holden and Dennis were awarded £40,000 for the intrusion. Dozens of other celebrities have said they will be looking for similar payments.

At the same time "harmonisation" of tax rates could mean UK newspapers lose their zero-rated VAT status - long seen as a pay-off to the newspaper industry for their political support.

Just as threatening is the prospect of tighter regulation of ownership of European newspaper and TV channels. All the UK press barons have big investments in America.

American interests

UK governments have in recent years taken a soft line on newspaper ownership by North American "foreigners".

Murdoch - more interested in China
Murdoch - more interested in China
The EU is unlikely to be as permissive, presenting the danger that businessmen like Mr Murdoch may one day have to sell off his American interests if he wants to hang on to his European ones.

Many of Rupert Mudoch's attempts to further establish himself in continental Europe have come to grief.

One problem is he has no newspapers in Europe and so no special influence.

He is also up against adept political operators like Italian pay-TV mogul, and now prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, who have superb insider political contacts and know their way around the European Union's regulatory minefield.

Mr Murdoch's attempt to set up a pan-European pay TV channel linked to the launch of a new European Soccer Super League, fell apart two years ago after he failed to agree terms with Mr Berlusconi.

And last month a similar bid to buy into the German pay TV market came to nothing.

With potentially more lightly regulated non-EU markets like China and India crying out for American-style English-language TV, the UK's Anglo-American press barons see only problems in a more integrated Europe.


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