The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) which is unrelated to the European Union was formed 12 February 1950 by 23 broadcasting organizations from Europe and the Mediterranean rim at a conference in the Devonshire coastal resort of Torquay, England. The EBU now has active full members from forty-eight countries, associate members from thirty more countries, and four other approved participants. Members are radio and television companies, most of which are government-owned public service broadcasters or privately owned stations with public missions. Full active Members are based in countries from Algeria to the Vatican State, including almost all European countries. Associate members are not limited to those from European countries and the Mediterranean but include broadcasters from Canada, Japan, Mexico, Brazil, India and Hong Kong, as well as many others. Associate Members from the United States include ABC, CBS, NBC, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and Turner Broadcasting.

The EBU is a nongovernmental international association, based in Geneva and governed by Swiss law and its own statutes. It is the successor to the first international association of broadcasters, the International Broadcasting Union (1925), which was also based in Geneva. Its principal aims are to promote cooperation between members and with broadcasting organizations throughout the world and to represent its members' interests in various fields, including legal, technical, and programming. The EBU is administered by a General Assembly, which meets annually and elects an Administrative Council composed of fifteen active members. A president and two vice-presidents are chosen by the Assembly from among the representatives of the members making up the council. Council membership is for four years, with re-election permitted. Because the EBU is based in Switzerland, the Swiss member, Société Suisse de Radiodiffusion et Télévision (SSR), has a permanent seat on the council. Four permanent committees, the Radio Programme Committee, the Television Programme Committee, the Legal Committee, and the Technical Committee, report to the council on the work of their working and ad hoc groups. Day to day operations are carried out by the Permanent Services staff, headed by the secretary-general.

One of the major activities of the EBU is the Eurovision scheme, consisting of program pooling and joint purchasing operations. Eurovision was the idea of Marcel Bezençon, once director of the SSR and president of the EBU. Eurovision was and is a television program clearing house which facilitates the exchange of programming between national networks throughout Europe. One of the early successes of the EBU was the relay on 2 June 1953, of the transmission of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II to France, Belgium, The Netherlands, and Germany. The official birth of Eurovision as an international television network occurred 6 June 1954, when the famous Narcissus Festival from Montreaux, Switzerland, opened a series of live transmissions, the "Television Summer Season of 1954."

Eurovision brings news and program events to European viewers on a daily basis. It is a network comprised of a mixture of permanent satellite and terrestrial stations. Its programs are identified by a starburst logo and an excerpt of the introduction to Te Deum, a work of the 17th century composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier.


Courtesy of EBU

The most important regular Eurovision activity is the daily news exchange, providing full members and associate members with much of their non-domestic and European news. Material is fed into the exchange by members and nonmember broadcasting unions which also take from the exchange. The news exchange began on a trial basis in 1958 and became regular in 1961. It has now been supplemented by a multilingual channel known as Euronews. Euronews is designed to provide Europeans with world and local news coverage from a European viewpoint. On 1 January 1993, the Euronews channel began broadcasting on 5 terrestrial circuits and 12 satellite circuits in English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish. Euronews is a post-production channel, with none of its own reporters in the field. It has access to Eurovision material and news agencies for its content.

Another major Eurovision activity is its sports programming, including such events as the European Basketball Championships, European Athletics Cup, and European Swimming Championships. Eurovision operates a joint purchasing scheme for international sporting events. When members from two or more EBU countries are interested in a sporting event, they request coordination from the EBU, which either carries on negotiations itself or deputizes a member to do so on behalf of the EBU. Members may not carry out negotiations for national rights after joint negotiations have commenced, unless the joint negotiations fail. If the joint negotiations succeed, the rights are acquired on behalf of the interested members, who share the rights.

In 1989, The European Sports Network/Screensport Network, a commercial satellite channel, filed a complaint with the Commission of the European Communities alleging that the joint purchasing scheme for sporting events violated the competition (antitrust) law rules of the Treaty of Rome. After provisions were made for non-members access to the programming, the Commission granted the EBU a five-year conditional exemption from the requirements of the competition rules. However, in 1996, the Court of First Instance of the European Community nullified the decision; the joint purchasing scheme awaits further litigation.

-Clifford A. Jones


Brack, Hans. The Evolution of the EBU Through Its Statutes From 1950 to 1976. Geneva, Switzerland: European Broadcasting Union, 1976.

Eugster, Ernest. Television Programming Across National Boundaries: The EBU and OIRT Experiences. Dedham, Massachusetts: Artech, 1983.

Type, Michael. "Facing the Future With Confidence: The EBU Celebrates 40 Years of Achievement." EBU Review: Programmes, Administration, Law XLI, No. 1(1990).