ASSOCIATION OF EUROPEAN  JOURNALISTS

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Minutes of the 2015 Annual General Meeting

The AGM was held at Europe House, 11:15-12:30 on Friday, 29 January 2016

 

The meeting was attended by ten members of the section: William Horsley (Chairman), Margaret Hughes (Secretary),  Mike Springate (Treasurer),  Peter Norman, David Barker, Firdevs Robinson, Nevsal Hughes, Michael Lake, Colin McIntyre and Jonathan Fryer.  Regrets were received from Rick Thompson, Celia Hampton, David Lennon, Anthony Robinson and Roger Broad.

Chairman William Horsley opened the meeting with his report on 2015, which highlighted continuing high attendances at lunchtime meetings, thanks partly to the Section having secured prominent speakers from outside the UK through the efforts of members acting on a voluntary and unpaid basis. He underlined the sterling work of Celia Hampton running AEJ UK’s excellent website. David Barker confirmed that he would in future do his best to support her in this task. The meeting unanimously voiced its appreciation of Celia’s work.

William stressed that the popularity of Europe House as a venue with other organisations meant dates for our meetings had to be booked increasingly far in advance, reducing substantially the AEJ’s flexibility in arranging its schedule.  He welcomed David Lennon’s willingness  to continue as events director, helping the Section officers attract guest speakers; and Peter Norman’s recent support in seeking out speakers, including the prospective 26 February speaker, Lord Adonis. William outlined plans, recently confirmed in outline with the journalism studies department of City University London, for the Section to accept several students at each of our meetings during the year ahead.

Turning to the AEJ’s international dimension, the Chairman touched briefly on a few key points from his written report that may matter to the UK Section, including the appointment of Lieven Taille of the Belgian Section as the AEJ’s Brussels Representative, with ambitions to organise more events around Europe as well as in Brussels. Lieven Taille was exploring the possibility of a tie-up with others including judges or officials from the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg for a possible event in London on a theme related to the impact of European law on the UK.

 

 

It was agreed that the theme was inherently of interest and the Chairman would keep members informed of any developments.

The meeting welcomed Secretary Margaret Hughes’s report, and the fact that Section membership in 2015 was kept at 40 fully-paid up members and three honorary members.

A discussion about potential speakers followed. William outlined existing plans, including two bids in play with leading European figures: the Finnish minister of finance, former prime minister  and respected Brussels insider Alexander Stubb, and the current OSCE Secretary-General Lamberto Zannier. Their responses are being sought before other bids are opened up. There was much support for inviting one or more speakers with outside perspectives to speak in the near future about the forthcoming UK referendum on EU membership. Alex Stubb fits that category, as would the Irish Ambassador to London, Dan Mulhall. David Lennon would ascertain his availability. 

Our next fixed meeting date is 15 April. The Chairman mentioned, for members’ convenience, that the other dates currently reserved for our next several meetings are 6 May and 6 June. Future dates are subject to change, but confirmed fixtures are posted on the website as soon as known.

David Barker suggested that the Section might look for opportunities to join with other organisations to stage a bigger event around the theme of the UK’s important vote on Europe, although it was recognised that time is short to organise something like that before the likely referendum vote in June.

It was also noted from the floor that such endeavours could be time-consuming and could represent a considerable workload for members acting in their own time on a voluntary basis, while prospects of success were uncertain. The meeting agreed to explore the possibilities on that understanding.

Treasurer Mike Springate outlined his report for 2015 and explained that a tentative proposal to lower the lunchtime meeting fee to £20 from £25 was being put to members for discussion because on recent evidence we could afford to do so without risk to our solid financial position, at least for a trial year;. Existing arrangements, whereby young journalists can attend meetings for £10 and invited students attend for free, would remain unchanged.

 

 

After deducting the 2014 catering liabilities, the catering account showed an overall deficit on our meetings in 2015 of £89.89 and so met the European Parliament’s requirement that the AEJ must show no net gain on events while using rent-free rooms in Europe House.

Some members urged caution about any lowering of the entry charge for meetings.  It was argued that extra funds might be needed for unexpected or one-off costs arising from cooperative ventures with other organisations or from having to hire a room for an important speaker whose schedule would not fit with the dates provided by Europe House. Others remarked that the present £25 seemed rather expensive for the light lunch on offer; and William mentioned that he had sometimes been told  that £25 was more than some would-be participants would readily pay for a professional lunch. However, warm endorsement was expressed by most of those present for the proposition that the Section would benefit greatly from the presence of journalism students from City or elsewhere, and that the invitations should be made on the basis of inviting the students to lunch with us at our events free of charge. William undertook to advise members further about details of the arrangement when known.

Meanwhile, it was agreed to hold the present fee of £25 for six months, after which the option of reducing the regular entry charge for lunches to £20 would be reviewed in the light of developments, in consultation with members.  It was agreed there could be further scope for efforts to economise on lunch outlays, without reducing the quality of the offering, by, for example, taking steps to cut back the number of wine bottles left half-finished at the end of meetings by serving the wine from a single place instead of having bottles spread around the tables as at present; and reducing order of cakes or desserts to avoid unnecessary leftovers.

Election of officers: Former Section chairman Rick Thompson had written to propose the re-election of the Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer for another year. The nominations were proposed and seconded by members present, including Colin McIntyre, David Barker and Peter Norman. The three UK Section officers were duly re-elected by acclamation nem con.

Peter Norman