United Nations

UN in Geneva celebrates 6 decades supporting impartial TV news

The UN Office in Geneva is celebrating a 60-year collaboration with the European Broadcasting Union of public-service broadcasters, which has helped transparent, fair and impartial television news to be seen around the world.

For years, the United Nations and its agencies in Geneva have relied on global news agencies and other media outlets based at the Palace of Nations to get the latest breaking stories out to the world daily. 

But one special partnership with the Geneva-based European Broadcast Union (EBU), ensures that public service news broadcasters across Europe and around the world have access to live transmissions and video news items coming from the UN’s office in the Swiss city, a major source of international news content.

UN Photo/Jean Marc Ferré
A European Broadcasting Union staff member at work at their headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

‘Challenging fake news’

The partnership involves “challenging fake news, leading the transparent and balanced dissemination of facts, and restoring public trust in democratic institutions as cornerstones of public service media,” explains EBU Director General Noel Curran.

The decades-long relationship between the two organizations, whose mandates call for a clear, unbiased, impartial and independent portrayal of the world as it is today, also acknowledges just how effective television can be in serving the public interest and in championing trust, diversity and innovation. 

“At the UN, we cover many forgotten crises that too few other broadcasters carry, from the world’s biggest humanitarian emergency in Yemen, to insecurity in the Central African Republic, Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or mass displacement in the Sahel, that’s linked in a big way to the climate change emergency,” says UNTV news producer Daniel Johnson, who is in regular contact with EBU’s news desk about upcoming stories of interest. 

He’s also a familiar voice for UN News listeners, as the regular presenter of our daily News in Brief, and UN Catch-Up Dateline Geneva weekly podcast.

“In addition to all the UN and international agencies in Geneva, we’re also incredibly privileged to have the Human Rights Council so close too”, said Daniel. “It’s about 60 metres as the crow flies from the UNTV studio – so we can jump in to follow its work, if there’s a big or breaking story there, to ensure that they don’t disappear.”  

Every year, UNTV Geneva produces some 200 edited international news items, which are distributed via EBU’s Eurovision News Exchange. The partnership also extends to events of exceptional interest that promote the multilateral values of both organizations.

UN Photo/Jean Marc Ferré
A European Broadcasting Union staff member at work at their headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

Strengthened cooperation

An additional and recently created partnership that involves both entities is the UN Communications Group for people working in video. After the European group was created – with the EBU providing hosting – it was joined in 2020 by its North American counterpart. 

“In a sense, COVID has made our cooperation stronger, as so many operations have gone ‘hybrid’, and therefore rely on live audio-visual support,” says Michele Zaccheo, Chief of UNTV & Radio and coordinator of the Group.

“When the pandemic started, we joined up to not just fight disinformation on COVID, but to see how we could concretely work together and support each other.”

The EBU’s Social Media Newswire, which the EBU created to offer social media content that is trustworthy enough for broadcast, is similar to Verified, the initiative of Melissa Fleming, UN Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications, and UNTV acted to bring the two initiatives together to work out how they could support each other. 

Looking to the future, the two organizations are looking at ways to further combat hate speech and the denial of genocide, as well as disinformation. “We’re looking at how we’re sharing digital content and online news stories,” says Liz Corbin, Deputy Media Director and Head of News, EBU.

“This ability to keep coming up with ways to help each other, and how to make trusted and reliable news content available to more audiences, is what inspires us.”

For more on the 60th anniversary of the News Exchange, listen to UN Geneva’s special podcast: Behind the lens: how UNTV Geneva broadcasts news around the world.

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