The “Offs” are a very common practice in Brussels

October 3, 2011

Margot Perrier is working with French correspondents for Radio France internationale in an European affairs office, in Brussels. Her job consist in looking for information, proposal writing topics and forms for the team and interviews. She explains how the sources of its informations are chosen to be compatible with the requirements of the French radio.


What types of sources do you use for your daily research of information? How are they more useful than others?

My work is based on three kinds of sources.

First, the European Commission, through the midday, which is a press conference which takes place every day at half past twelve in the commission. Spokespersons explain the last decisions of the Commisison. I also use news releases and other forms of communication.

The “Offs” are a very common practice in Brussels. The Commission president, Barroso, banned the press access to the Commission except through the spokespersons and the press attached. So journalists use many “off” from the NATO. They often discuss with a NATO general without saying a name in their final papers.

But if an anonymous source is okay for a newspapers, for a radio journalist or a news agency it’s harder. We need to have a voice in the radio, so we need someone who can speak to the microphone. We have to use the “off” as a comment from the journalist.

Finally, observatories and think tank organizations and lobbies are important for us. Indeed, European issues are very technical, so we need specialists to give more explanations to the audience. And a  rule of Radio France is to always speak French at the microphone. That’s why they are very useful to deal with a topic because they often speak French.

The average citizen is not at the microphone. There’s no sidewalk micro. This is a job very institutional.  But, in a general way, it is difficult to give very specific sources, they depend on the currently topic.


Can you give an example of a source that you are currently using ?

It is the plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg (Editor’s note : from the 26th to the 29th of september). The first source of info is the parliament itself and the spokespersons. Then, I use press releases and experts.


Do the other media use the same sources?

No. The other media like tv, newspapers or press agency do not use the same support because they don’t need French person and people who talk openly to the micro. They can use more “offs” in the comments of journalists and english sources. They are more free to choose their sources.

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