Research and media

Coming soon…

AthenaWeb. AthenaWeb.

Futuris. Futuris.

With enough thought into content and form, science and technology topics can be packaged successfully for television, and science magazine programmes can attract enviable audience ratings. They are often limited, however, to covering achievements and issues at the national level. To illustrate the importance of European cooperation in research, the Commission has launched a number of initiatives over the last two years. These include AthenaWeb, a professional online platform for makers of scientific TV programmes, and Futuris, the new multilingual magazine programme on European research, co-produced with the Euronews channel.

AthenaWeb online

Very few European scientific broadcasts look or are seen beyond their own borders. ‘Producers recognise the success of science and research in their own countries (and in the USA), but they often ignore what is happening in other European countries,’ stresses Patrick Vittet-Philippe, audiovisual coordinator within the Research DG and pioneer of these two projects. ‘We want research to be shown in its European dimension. For a number of years, EU framework programmes have enabled a fabric of cooperation to be woven between universities, research organisations and businesses within the continent and beyond. It is crucial for scientific television to reflect this reality (1).’

In order to improve distribution of audiovisual materials across Europe and to facilitate access to scientific images, the Commission launched the AthenaWeb platform two years ago. Aimed at professionals in tele-visual scientific communication, this network has built up an online database of nearly 750 titles – the best of scientific television in Europe - that can be accessed via high-quality web streaming. Close to 7 500 professionals have registered on the site, where they can recommend productions, adapt topics for local audiences, view, purchase and exchange images, and above all, produce new programmes.

Having already been awarded the QuickTime 2006 prize, AthenaWeb won the Argos prize for best scientific website at the International Image and Science Festival (Paris, October 2006) ‘for the quality of its educational and cultural approach, the richness and diversity of its contents and the sophistication and relevance of the links offered’.

That says it all. Or just about, as AthenaWeb is also looking to the future, actively preparing for the revolution of ‘Broadband TV’. AthenaWeb’s ambition is in fact to become the leading European television channel in 2007 for science on the Internet. The site will offer new functionality for professionals and the public, with the opening of several new areas aimed at both educational and scientific target audiences, as well as a range of innovative services for young people and professionals.

Futuris on screen

Last year, the Research DG embarked on a second initiative by launching a scientific co-production partnership with Euronews. Simultaneously transmitted in seven languages, this European television channel is received in 120 countries around the world, reaching 188 million homes, and is watched by more than 7 million viewers every day.

Futuris is a fortnightly magazine programme on European research, repeated daily (2). It consists of 8-minute sequences and presents projects in all areas of research (health, environment, industrial technology, etc.) with a direct impact on everyday life and that provide answers to society’s more global questions.

Futuris got off to a flying start with audience figures of more than 15 million over a 2-week period (1.5 to 2 million via Euronews and 12 to 14 million via repeats on other channels) and these are steadily increasing. In addition to a Japanese version, a Mandarin version for broadcast in China is also being prepared.

‘Public television has a duty, in principle, to respect the triple obligation to inform, educate and entertain. Nevertheless, science does not often appear in channel schedules,’ says Patrick Vittet-Philippe. Initiatives like Futuris, and scientific film co-productions launched last year by the Research DG, enable the balance to be redressed and contribute towards greater visibility of science and European researchers to the general public.’

  1. All quotes from Patrick Vittet-Philippe.
  2. Futuris is also accessible via the 74 channels of the UER, independent television channels and to scientific communication professionals, who can use it as an image bank and source of information. Futuris episodes via web streaming are accessible on many Internet sites (Euronews, Europa, etc.) and selections are available free of charge on DVD (e-mail any requests to