A pan-European version of Love Island would boost the European project

, by Juuso Järviniemi

A pan-European version of Love Island would boost the European project

Anyone who has studied social sciences knows that mass media helps create a sense of belonging together. When everyone reads the same newspapers and watches the same TV channels, an ‘imagined community’ is formed almost automatically. This is how European nations were brought together in the past two centuries. As for European-wide media, it’s still a work in progress – but reality TV might help.

Who really reads The Economist?

The media that already crosses borders is mainly targeted towards well-educated and cultured consumers. People who want to read economic and political analysis every day can already access a pan-European public space by reading The Economist or Politico Europe. Rather than saying a European public sphere doesn’t exist, or that it’s ‘thin’, it’d be more accurate to say that it exists but only for internationally-minded elites.

If we really do want to create a “Europe of citizens”, this gap between social classes is untenable. As long as your old schoolmates don’t read or watch anything with a pan-European focus, you’ll never stop hearing the argument that the European project is not driven by the people.

Let me entertain EU

News and high-brow analysis are necessary, but that’s not everything that mass media has to offer. Entertainment is an entirely different layer that is almost completely absent from the current pan-European media offer – apart from the fact that we all watch the same American films and series. European TV series are made for national audiences, and at best TV channels occasionally purchase a foreign production. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Every May during the Eurovision Song Contest, we wish we could experience this kind of a coming together of Europeans more often than just once a year. So if you want to bring Europeans together in front of their TV screens on a typical Wednesday evening, what do you need? That’s right, a series.

Love Island Europe

Reality TV formats are international, but instead of producing a show that crosses borders, the same format is exported into one national silo after another. Though knowing that people in the neighbouring country are also watching their own version of The Voice or Big Brother might create a certain sense of brotherhood, we shouldn’t settle for that.

The Big Brother franchise has already brought down national barriers in different parts of the world. More than ten African countries took part in Big Brother Africa which aired for nine seasons, in 2003 and again in 2007–2014. The Serbian version of Big Brother developed into a regional show, with contestants joining in from neighbouring countries.

Big Brother might now be ‘so last season’, but Love Island is in. The British format, where young people pair up with each other in a Spanish villa, is spreading across Europe after its enormous success in the UK.

I dare to claim that Love Island Europe, with contestants from all over Europe, would be an instant hit. Viewers would be curious to see how the contestant from their home country gets along with the others. Slight difficulties in intercultural communication would make for funny moments. Making the show European would create just the right mix between a familiar format and the attraction of novelty.

Since the onset of reality TV, European couch potatoes have been following the same trends but on separate tracks. As we’re entering the 2020s, we’re finally ready to unite in front of the same TV screen. All we need is for someone to stand behind the camera.

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