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Charles Abel discovers fast track to Brussels news

Published on 15th December 2013

Charles AbelKeeping up to speed with Brussels developments is a doddle – if you’re signed up to DG Agri’s slick e-hub, says Guild member Charles Abel (pictured outside the EU Parliament building), who attended a press briefing arranged through the Guild and the European Network of Agricultural Journalists (ENAJ).

“Brussels hosts the world’s second largest concentration of media interest after Washington, so it is no surprise to find it is well equipped to offer quotes, images, video, streaming TV and answers to queries,” says Charles, former head of content at Farmers Weekly and now a freelance editor, writer and media skills trainer.

Travelling to the home of mind-bending Trappist beers and moules-frites takes less than two hours from Eurostar’s Ebbsfleet park-and-ride facility near Dartford. But journalists, broadcasters, PR and marketing execs needn’t move from their desks to access valuable print, web, TV and radio content by logging on to Ag-Press.eu, the e-platform at the heart of DG Agri’s media offering.

Ag-Press EU logo“It’s really rather good; registering is a lot simpler than filling in an IACS form and is well worth the effort,” Charles comments. “The e-hub gives fast access to a huge array of EU content - be it CAP reform, policy implementation and case studies.

Over 800 European journalists already use the service, which is managed by DG AGRI's enthusiastic press and media team. It's content is updated daily and registered users get a Weekly Update e-mail on Thursday afternoons - a useful memory jogger!

There are also links to video clips to drop into websites and a comments forum - journalists at the DG AGRI briefing from Croatia, Slovenia, Germanh, France and Spain all considered the site a useful resource.

Roger WaiteDG Agri’s greatest media asset is Roger Waite (pictured), the affable European Commission spokesman for Agriculture and Rural Development - and a Member of the Guild. He genuinely wants journalists to put questions to him and his team.

Roger readily gives attributable comments, and off-the-record context too – a welcome breath of fresh air for those less familiar with EU policy-making. But don’t expect unguarded scoops – Roger is a shrewd operator with years of experience.

His answers remain exclusive for around two weeks and are then posted, together with the original questions, on Ag-Press.eu, for the knowledge and use of all Ag-Press members. Further quotes from Commissioner Dacian Ciolos, or Roger, are published regularly.

A particularly useful part of the e-platform is the area flagging the most recent Tweets, including those with the hashtags: #ciolos #capreform #enaj #cap2013 and #COMAGRI, and a Facebook area with ‘EU-Agri’ posts. Roger has over 3000 Twitter followers.

Ag-Press.eu has galleries for videos, photos and audio clips from key EU events, including study and press trips. All are available for re-use.

The News section is automatically updated as items are added to the Newsroom of the EC’s central EUROPA press facility, saving the need to trawl through reams of unrelated content.

Other pieces are added when relevant and interesting, ensuring most official documents are readily available. Items listed in December included Commissioner Ciolos’ WTO views, protected geographical indications for Pembrokeshire early potatoes and co-operation with China on biotech research.

CAP Reform Updates appear in a separate section, where all the important and official documents on CAP reform can be found, including council conclusions. The update posted on 25/10/2013 - CAP Reform – an explanation of the main elements, is a particularly useful roundup.

To keep track of the ever expanding lexicon of Brussels-speak there is a handy glossary.

EC media facilities

Media facilities at the European Commission, Parliament and Council are also comprehensive. Professionally staffed TV and radio studios in the European Commission’s Berlaymont Building are available for use by all media, businesses and even members of the public.

“There’s no cost and we don’t mind if it is pro-EU or not, the main thing is to make it easier to put the EU in the media,” explained Frederic d’Hondt, head of Europe by Satellite.

Two satellite channels cover key EU meetings, while all content, translated into English, can be downloaded from its website.

Similar media services are on offer at the European Council, explained Xavier Pavard, agriculture/fisheries press officer (Twitter: @xpavard), with free broadcast-quality content available to media professionals via a website, with similar services also available at the European Parliament.

Ag-Press.eu is a slick and useful media resource, staffed by a team that aims to please. If you get the chance to meet them, try visiting moules restaurant Chez Leon near the Grand Markt followed by a few of the 2000-plus beers on offer at the nearby Delirium Café.

Exotic brews like the Duchess of Bourgogne may not be to everyone’s taste. But they just might help to bring an extra insight into the workings of the Brussels policy machine. You wouldn’t be the first to try…

Contacts:
www.ag-press.eu
Roger Waite, European Commission Spokesman for Agriculture and Rural Development
roger.waite@ec.europa.eu
Phone: +(32) 2 296 14 04

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