EU pays journalists to get coverage.
The International Herald Tribune has revealed that the European Parliament has for years been paying subsidies to journalists to encourage them to make the monthly trip to Strasbourg to cover parliamentary debates. The funding for journalists can include payment of a first-class round-trip train ticket or an economy-class plane ticket to Strasbourg from any of the 25 EU countries and a daily stipend of 100 euros to cover hotel, food and entertainment over two days. About 60 journalists from across the bloc are invited to Strasbourg each month under the programme. One broadcaster said, "The parliamentary sessions are stultifyingly dull, so the Parliament does whatever it can to make it easier for us to work here, including paying for our journeys and providing plush facilities. I would never get my Parliament reports on the air if the Parliament wasn't paying for it."
Another broadcaster told the IHT that perks such as these had prompted journalists to refuse requests by editors to write stories on members' privileges and travel expenses at the Parliament. "How can I expose such perks when I myself am benefiting from them?" the journalist asked. It is not just the European Parliament which lavishes gifts on journalists. In February, Austria, the current holder of the EU's presidency, invited 62 Brussels-based journalists to Vienna, paying for their lodgings in a lavish Hilton hotel and hosting a complimentary dinner in an 18th-century baroque castle where a soprano sang Strauss operettas - all on the tab of the Austrian government. Nicola Donig, spokesman for the Austrian Presidency said, "It was a worthwhile investment." (5 April)