Looking forward to the Challenge: We Interview the CEO of Euronews

Exclusive Interview

Euronews is opening its third franchise here in Georgia, which will be launched in the summer of 2020. Before Georgia, Euronews opened franchises in Serbia and Albania.

GEORGIA TODAY sat down with Michael Peters, the CEO of Euronews , who is from Lyon, France. Last year, in September he and Giorgi Ramishvili, the Chairman of Silknet’s Supervisory Board , signed a partnership agreement between Euronews and Silknet to officially launch the European mammoth organization here in Tbilisi – Euronews Georgia.

What was the purpose of your visit to Georgia?

To meet up with my partners here in Silknet, and to sum up the status about where we are standing at the moment. We met with the local media, to explain to everyone at what stage we are and where is the process of recruitment and how we are with technology, methods, and additionally to explain when we will launch. The idea is to launch before the end of July, and the idea is to be ready before the elections in October.

You appointed a Head of News during your visit. Tell us about him. And what are your future plans for Euronews Georgia?

Everything is going well, our partners are working very well, particularly Silknet. The place is chosen already where the headquarters will be located, close to Republic.

The process is underway and soon Euronews will be on air. The objective is to launch before the end of July. The biggest step for us was the recruitment of the Chief of News.

We announced the Head of News, Vasilis Bitsis, a Greek journalist and the director of Euronews Greek Service. When we launched the project, we received hundreds of applications for a number of positions. In this country, it’s true that TV media are very positioned. When I first came, I told my peers that this was not our point. I respect every TV and Media, but I want Euronews to be unbiased, and we had to find a person who shared this value 100 percent, which is Vaisilis Bitsis. He has operated and set up Euronews in Greece, so he is very skilled and knows Euronews by heart.

We are also counting on Georgia. One of Vasilis’ missions is to identify, recruit and train someone who will become, in 6, 9 or 12 months, our new Editor in Chief, who will unquestionably be Georgian. This shows that we will never move away from what we say, we will never compromise on these kinds of things.

Georgia being a firmly pro-European country, what contribution will Euronews make in solidifying the political vector of European Integration?

I think in this case, I answer with a lot humility, because it’s hard for me to consider myself as a flagship for the EU cause. I strongly believe that the role of the media is not to be the flagship of any cause; the role of the media is to empower people, to help them to make their own opinion, and to give them all news, all views (the slogan of Euronews). There is no precise mission of Euronews more than this. We don’t come here to teach people about Europe, but as it is in our DNA, when we are here, Euronews Georgia will use a lot of material coming from Europe. Our agency will take the European content and adapt it to the Georgian audience. We will not only take content and translate into Georgian; we will give Georgia a much better flavor of what Europe and European culture are. When we treat the news from the country, or from the region, we will treat in a more European way. We will make it more balanced and quieter.

Georgia will be the only country in the region to have a Euronews office. What made Georgia so appealing for the Euronews heads?

To make it clear, there are other Euronews ‘nationals’ as you mentioned, in these countries. We have Euronews Turkish, but we don’t have Euronews Turkey. We could have had Euronews Georgian, which would just be transcription of Euronews in Georgian. So indeed, to return to your point, Georgia is the first in the region to have franchise – Euronews Georgia.

There are two criteria we always keep in mind. The first is the interest of the country itself. You know better than me, the geopolitical situation in your country makes your nation extremely interesting and sensitive for us, and furthermore, challenging. That’s why we are happy to be here and to tackle these issues. The second criteria is that once you choose a country, you have to find the right partner. What we do here is quite risky, because we give, in a sense, our brand to a local partner, who will then use it in a good or a bad way. So, it’s important to find the right partner, in which you have trust, and which shares the values you have. This is what happened: we found the right country and the right partner Silknet, thus we are happy.

Euronews Georgia will have a hybrid structure combining local and global stories and news. How will the news agency be able to merge “glocal” news into one? And what lessons can this international franchise give to local Georgian news stations?

It’s what we are doing already in all our different editions. For example, that’s what we are doing in Albania. Euronews Albania was launched a few weeks ago. First of all, there will be a lot of content made by Euronews that will be adapted to the market. The good thing is that it’s not the Euronews HQ in Lyon that will decide to produce the content: it’s the local news here that will have total freedom to take whatever they want. It will be for the people here, with their Georgian perspective, to ‘echo’ the news from Europe to Georgia and vice-versa. The local content that we produce will be produced from an international perspective: we are not here to make purely national news. The local content we will tackle will always be factual and adhere to the editorial values of our network. Of course, when there is a big issue in Georgia, we will speak about it, if it’s purely national. Although we will watch how this will have an impact on surrounding countries. Thus, we will bring Europe to Georgia as well as take Georgia to Europe .

Something that is very interesting for you, and in the interests of your country thoroughly, is that this system will pragmatically work the other way. When something very important happens here, we will unquestionably use it for Euronews World. Euronews World will be in a much better position to cover events happening in Georgia, because we will already have a base here. Especially for the upcoming elections, the workings will become practical, as Georgian journalists will be covering the events, reporters from Germany, France and other EU countries will cover it in different languages, engaging the European audience in the internal political or cultural affairs of Georgia.

The arrival of Euroenews in Georgia is expected to have a very positive effect on the media system here. Euronews will offer an objective overview of internal politics and will objectively cover interparty relations.

It’s good that you say this endeavor will be positive. But you will see it’s much more challenging than you think. As I said before, this approach is more of an intellectual approach, and less of a ‘show off’. To make things quiet, although as humans we like ‘spicy’ things, our main mission is to get viewers open-minded and to try give both sides of the story. Many people are stuck in a bubble of opinion, and to get them out of this biased living is not easy and is quite a challenge.

By Beka Alexishvili

17 February 2020 20:15