Short reflexion on the EUscreen website:

According to the description in its ‘About’-section, this website aims to be an archive for European television history, allowing researchers, students and the general public access to an unprecedented amount of material from a wide variety of audiovisual archives across Europe []. In the following lines, I would like to comment specifically on two aspects, namely the European ‘scope’ of the website and its definition of “Europe”.

Firstly then, the ‘scope’ of the website: by this, I mean that the immense amount of audiovisual material available is repeatedly labelled as being “European”. On every last page, the letters ‘EU’ or the different varieties of the word ‘European’ are mentioned over and over again. In my opinion, this goes so far as to conceal (especially to the non-academic public) that this particular way of connecting the material is in itself already one possible narrative among many. For instance, I think that the presentation of the material on the website over-stresses the similarities between the individual elements rather than their differences. The side-by-side availability of the material automatically suggests content-related connections between the individual clips where maybe there aren’t any. Of course, the sheer availability of the material means that any researcher (or more generally speaking, every viewer) can also choose to look at the differences. In practice though, I would argue that the visual presentation and virtually every line of text on the website lead the viewer in the opposite direction. A case in point, at least in my opinion, is the image-movie (or trailer) of the website as it is available both in the ‘About’-section on the website itself and on Vimeo []. In that clip (at 1:33 minutes to be specific), the words “Let us be your guide” are displayed. Although not meant that way, this can also point to the fact that the creators of the website choose one way of interpreting (i.e. a ‘scope’ for) the material over the other(s). Of course, they have to offer some sort of narrative if they want the broader public to be able to make sense of the huge amount of resources available. Thus, I don’t mean to judge their way of proceeding, I would merely like to point out that it comes at a price.

Secondly, the definition of which countries and regions constitute Europe in the context of this website caught my attention, which is why I would like to comment on it here. The ‘EUscreen’- project combines material from 30 institutions from 21 EU member states. I am not so much interested in the fact that not all current members of the EU are on the list, even though it is still worth asking why. Rather, I have noticed that two Swiss institutions appear on the list of partners (one of them merely as an associate partner) []. At first sight, this seems logical: with Switzerland being situated in the geographical centre of the European continent, why would one not include it? On second thought though, it reveals that the definition of ‘Europe’ in the context of the website isn’t strictly political. While 30 institutions from 21 countries constitute make impressive list, one has to ask whether it would not be beneficial to have, for instance, Turkish or Russian or Belorussian material available as well. Actually, it might be even better to go one step further and ask why none of these countries are on the list as of yet. Personally, I suspect that this goes back directly to the ‘EUscreen’-project being financed mostly by EU-institutions such as the European Commission. As a student or researcher, additional material from outside the ‘EU28’ would doubtlessly add tremendous value to the website. I wonder though whether this would be possible with the given financial background of the project. Thus, the ‘EUscreen’-website points at one of the pitfalls of digital archives, namely that they require a tremendous budget both to be set up and maintained. In my opinion, it is evident that anyone investing on a large scale into such a project would influence it in one way or another. Again, this is supposed to be more of a diagnosis than an allegation.

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