The European Broadcasting Union (EBU; French: Union Européenne de Radio-télévision, UER; German: Europäische Rundfunkunion, ERU) is an alliance of public service media organisations, established on 12 February 1950. The organisation is made up of 116 member organisations in 56 countries, and 34 associate members from a further 21 countries. It is best known for producing the Eurovision Song Contest. It also hosted debates between candidates for the European Commission presidency for the 2014 and 2019 parliamentary elections but is unrelated to the European Union itself.
EBU Members are Public Service Media (PSM) broadcasters whose output is made, financed and controlled by the public, for the public. PSM broadcasters are often established by law but are non-partisan, independent and run for the benefit of society as a whole.
EBU Members come from as far north as Iceland and as far south as Egypt, from Ireland in the west and Azerbaijan in the east, and almost every nation from geographical Europe in between. Associate Members are from countries and territories beyond Europe, such as Canada, Japan, Mexico, India and Hong Kong. Associate Members from the United States include ABC, CBS, NBC, CPB, NPR, APM and the only individual station, Chicago-based classical music radio WFMT.
Membership is for media organisations whose countries are within the European Broadcasting Area (EBA), as defined by the International Telecommunication Union, or who are members of the Council of Europe.
Members benefit from:
The EBU's highest-profile production is the Eurovision Song Contest. The EBU also organises the Eurovision Dance Contest, the Junior Eurovision Song Contest, the Eurovision Young Dancers competition, and other competitions which are modelled along similar lines.
Radio collaborations include Euroclassic Notturno – an overnight classical music stream, produced by BBC Radio 3 and broadcast in the United Kingdom as Through the Night – and special theme days, such as the annual Christmas music relays from around Europe. The EBU is a member of the International Music Council.
Most EBU broadcasters have group deals to carry major sporting events including the FIFA World Cup and the inaugural European Championships. Another annually recurring event which is broadcast across Europe through the EBU is the Vienna New Year's Concert.
Eurovision Media Services is the business arm of the EBU and provides first-class media services for many media organisations and sports federations around the world.
The theme music played before EBU broadcasts are Marc-Antoine Charpentier's Prelude to Te Deum. It is well known to Europeans as it is played before and after the Eurovision Song Contest and other important events.
The EBU was a successor to the International Broadcasting Union (IBU) that was founded in 1925 and had its administrative headquarters in Geneva and technical office in Brussels. It fostered programming exchanges between members and mediated technical disputes between members that were mostly concerned with frequency and interference issues. It was in effect taken over by Nazi Germany during the Second World War and when the conflict ended in the eyes of the Allies it was a compromised organisation that they could not trust.
In the spring of 1946, representatives of the Soviet radio committee proposed forming a new organisation; however, at the same time preparations were being made for an inter-governmental “European Broadcasting Conference” (EBC) in Copenhagen in 1948 to draw up a new plan for frequency use in the European Broadcasting Area (EBA). It was considered necessary to have an organisation that could implement the “Copenhagen Wavelength Plan” but there was disagreement among broadcasters and particularly a fear expressed by the BBC that a new association might be dominated by the USSR and its proposal to give each of its constituent states one vote. France proposed that it would have four votes with the inclusion of its North African colonies. Great Britain felt it would have little influence with just one vote.
On 27 June 1946, the alternative International Broadcasting Organisation (IBO) was founded with 26 members and without British participation. The following day the IBU met in General Assembly and an attempt was made to dissolve it but failed; though 18 of its 28 members left to join the IBO. For a period of time in the late 1940s both the IBU and IBO vied for the role of organising frequencies but Britain decided to be in involved in neither. The BBC attempted but failed to find suitable working arrangements with them. However, for practical purposes, the IBO rented the IBU technical centre in Brussels and employed its staff. The BBC then proposed a new solution based on the IBO changing its constitution so there will be only one member per ITU country, thus ensuring a Western majority over the USSR and its satellite states. In August 1949 a meeting took place in Stresa, Italy but it resulted in disagreement between delegates on how to resolve the problems. One proposal was for the European Broadcasting Area to be replaced by one that would exclude Eastern Europe, the Levant and North Africa.
After Stresa, a consensus emerged among the Western Europeans to form a new organisation and the BBC proposed it be based in London. Meetings in Paris on 31 October and 1 November 1949 sealed the fate of the IBU and IBO, but it was decided not to allow West Germany to be a founder of the new organisation. On 13 February 1950 the European Broadcasting Union had its first meeting with 23 members from the ITU defined European Broadcasting Area at the Imperial Hotel in Torquay, England. The first president was Ian Jacob of the BBC who remained at the helm for 10 years while its operation was largely dominated by the BBC due to its financial, technical and staff input. The most important difference between the EBU and its predecessors was that EBU membership was for broadcasters and not governments. Early delegates said EBU meetings were cordial and professional and very different from the abrupt tone of its predecessors. West Germany was admitted in 1951 and a working relationship forged with the USSR’s Organisation for International Radio and TV (OIRT) which existed in parallel with the EBU until its merger in 1993. (Source: Diffusion, Journal of the EBU, ‘50 years of the EBU’, Winter 1999/2000).
In 1967, the first concert in the International Concert Season of the European Broadcasting Union was broadcast from the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London.
The objective of the EBU's technical activities is simply to assist EBU Members (see below) in this period of unprecedented technological changes. This includes the provision of technical information to Members via conferences and workshops, as well as in written form (such as the EBU Technical Review, and the EBU tech-i magazine).
The EBU also encourages active collaboration between its Members on the basis that they can freely share their knowledge and experience, thus achieving considerably more than individual Members could achieve by themselves. Much of this collaboration is achieved through Project Groups which study specific technical issues of common interest: for example, EBU Members have long been preparing for the revision of the 1961 Stockholm Plan.
The EBU places great emphasis on the use of open standards. Widespread use of open standards (such as MPEG-2, DAB, DVB, etc.) ensures interoperability between products from different vendors, as well as facilitating the exchange of programme material between EBU Members and promoting "horizontal markets" for the benefit of all consumers.
EBU Members and the EBU Technical Department have long played an important role in the development of many systems used in radio and television broadcasting, such as:
On 11 June 2013, the Greek government shut down the state broadcaster ERT, at short notice, citing government spending concerns related to the Euro crisis. In response, the European Broadcasting Union set up a makeshift studio on the same day, near the former ERT offices in Athens, in order to continue providing EBU members with the news-gathering and broadcast relay services which had formerly been provided by ERT.
The EBU put out a statement expressing its "profound dismay" at the shutdown, urged the Greek Prime Minister "to use all his powers to immediately reverse this decision" and offered the "advice, assistance and expertise necessary for ERT to be preserved".
Starting on 4 May 2014, the New Hellenic Radio, Internet and Television broadcaster began nationwide transmissions, taking over ERT's vacant active membership slot in the EBU. On 11 June 2015, two years after ERT's closure, NERIT SA renamed as ERT SA which reopened with a comprehensive program in all radio stations (with nineteen regional, two world-range and five pan-Hellenic range radio stations) and four TV channels ERT1, ERT2, ERT3 and ERT HD (now ERT Sports HD).