1. INTRODUCTION – BACKGROUND
Pilot project within the meaning of Article 58(2)(a) of Regulation (EU, Euratom)
2018/1046 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union, amending Regulations (EU) No 1296/2013, (EU) No 1301/2013, (EU) No 1303/2013, (EU) No 1304/2013, (EU) No 1309/2013, (EU) No 1316/2013, (EU) No 223/2014, (EU) No 283/2014, and Decision No 541/2014/EU and repealing Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 (OJ L 193, 30.7.2018, p. 1).
The annual work programme was adopted on 20 April 2020 under Commission Decision C/2020/2259.
The project supports the goals of the New EU Youth Strategy and the New EU Agenda for Culture: bring the EU closer to youngsters; address issues of concern to them; encourage them to become active citizens; connect them across borders; fosters social cohesion through culture and creativity; foster innovation, jobs and growth in local and regional IT and creative sectors. Furthermore, it goes in line with the Communication on strengthening European Identity through Education and Culture.
2. OBJECTIVE(S) – THEME(S) – PRIORITIES
Young Europeans consume information foremost online, using sources such as social media and content-sharing platforms. Legacy media are struggling to capture their attention, and there is a gap in communicating cross-border topics to young Europeans, partially because of the lack of a truly transnational media public sphere. According to the most recent Eurobarometer1, only 38% of people feel well-informed about EU affairs. When asked how they look for information about the EU, young people (up to 34) mention non-institutional websites (online newspapers, news magazines, etc.) as often as TV (both 36%), followed by institutional websites (25%), discussions with friends (23%), social networks (23%), daily newspapers (16%) and radio (16%).
This pilot project aims to engage with young Europeans by creating curated online spaces that gather thought-provoking content around themes and topics that are discussed at EU level. These spaces should allow them to compare perspectives from across Europe and empower them to discuss and discover how their interests link to interests of youngsters in other countries, and to relevant EU initiatives. Proposals should foresee selection and production of new content, to inform and engage young audiences across Europe in an open and constructive debate about recent and future life in Europe.
In line with these objectives, applicants should describe their approach to (1) content selection, (2) creation, (3) distribution and (4) moderating discussions.
1. Content selection
Applicants must show a clear understanding of the interests of youngsters in all of the envisaged languages, which can be proven by past experience, desk research and/or polls.
Applicants should indicate the already available information sources that serve these interests and explain how the proposed project adds value to them. Each proposal should try to formulate its unique value proposition for the envisaged target groups.
While this pilot action focuses on the creation of original content and debates, any proposal for an online community may require publication of and/or linking to external content, to have a lively community with daily updates. Applicants should clearly describe how they plan to combine own content and external content, while clearly distinguishing the two.
2. Content creation
Applicants should propose an innovative cross-border editorial process, describing the editorial workflows for the local reporters as well as the editorial oversight. Editorial independence will be guaranteed by a charter of independence that will be part of the agreement between the European Commission and the awarded applicants.
Applicants should propose a professional and multicultural editorial team, and demonstrate how the central editorial workflow takes into account the diversity of society.
Content creation should mainly focus on informative content. It should link topics that are of current interest to youngsters to the institutional decisions that affect them. The content production process should provide for a diversity of views, on matters of relevance and importance across Europe.
Proposals should include a provisional list of topics that can attract various groups while acknowledging diverging opinions, so as to stimulate lively and constructive discussions and debates.
Proposals should create and select content in at least five languages. The expected production quantity must be clearly indicated per format and per language. Applicants should explain how content will be translated and/or subtitled and how input from multiple reporters in different languages will be compared/combined.
3. Content distribution
The produced formats need to appeal to youngsters in their local realities, and therefore applicants should describe how the central editorial coordination feeds into various channels and/or language versions of their own channels, partner websites, blogs and/or social media networks.
Proposals should explain how each piece of content will be adapted/tailored to the different distribution platforms and target groups.
Proposals should describe how a taxonomy/categorisation of topics will be established, to gather content around specific interests.
Proposals must contain an outreach plan, to reach as many young Europeans as possible. The plan should identify the target audiences and relevant multipliers for each language version, and describe ways to encourage them to use the proposed materials. The plan must include clear, realistic objectives for each of the target audiences and include mid- term and final targets.
To maximise the chances of re-publication, applicants will need to identify the needs of partners and potential partners and take those needs into account from the outset when designing the production process. Proposals should clearly explain the workflows, the conditions for involving others and the modalities of collaboration.
4. Moderating discussions
As this pilot aims to inform, empower and engage young Europeans, applicants are invited to consider various ways to facilitate interaction.
Online talk shows and discussions may be part of the engagement strategy, in which case the approach to moderation will need to be explained.
Events may be part of the project if they aim at generating discussion, cost-efficiently. In that case the proposal should include an indicative planning of events and target groups.
Local partners should be considered to contribute to reporting, involve local communities, moderate discussions and/or organise events.
Proposals should pay particular attention to cost-efficiency and avoid creating new structures where existing structures can be used.
Grants to third parties are allowed, for instance to organise competitions for young journalists, if the costs are limited and in line with the provisions set out in Article 11.8d of this Call for Proposals and the provisions in the Grant Agreement.
Increased availability of online information, in different languages, around European topics that affect young people across the EU, presented in engaging formats through multiple viewpoints. Daily, thought-provoking content around current affairs, through innovative cross-border editorial processes. Greater awareness about European decision- making processes. Innovative and engaging discussions and events, that help young Europeans exchange views and discover ways to get involved in pan-European projects.
Objectively verifiable indicators
Proposals should include concrete deliverables and set clear, objectively verifiable and quantifiable performance indicators for all activities, incl. content aggregation, content production, content distribution as well as awareness-raising activities. The expected reach must be more precise than the sum of available distribution channels. For example, applicants should not only mention the amount of followers, but provide proof of engagement for similar types of content and specify the type of engagement.
Proposals should address financial sustainability in the long-term and show how the project can be continued independently after the requested period of EU support has ended.
The indicative schedule for the different steps and stages of the selection procedure is:
(a) Publication of the call
15 May 2020
(b) Deadline for submitting applications
22 July 2020 – 24h00 CET
(c) Evaluation period
(d) Information to applicants
(e) Signature of grant agreement(s)
(f) Project start date
1st January 2021
4. BUDGET AVAILABLE
The total budget earmarked for the co-financing of projects under this call for proposals is estimated at EUR 2.5 million.
The maximum rate of co-financing is 70% of eligible costs. Applicants may propose a lower co-funding rate.
The Commission expects to fund up to 2 proposals.
The Commission reserves the right not to distribute all the funds available.
5. ADMISSIBILITY REQUIREMENTS
In order to be admissible, applications must be:
sent no later than the deadline for submitting applications referred to in section 3;
submitted in writing and in electronic format (pdf) (see section 14), using the application form available at https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/news- redirect/676893 ; and
drafted in one of the EU official languages 2.
Failure to comply with those requirements will lead to rejection of the application.
6. ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA
6.1. Eligible applicants
The call is open to a consortium of at least five different entities, each of which may have affiliated entities.
For the purpose of this grant, affiliated entities are legal entities having a legal or capital link with applicants, which is neither limited to the action nor established for the sole purpose of its implementation. These affiliated entities may declare eligible costs as specified in section 11.2.
For that purpose, applicants shall identify such affiliated entities in the application form. The consortium may include:
Natural persons are not eligible except self-employed persons or equivalent (i.e. sole traders) where the company does not possess legal personality separate from that of the natural person.
Country of establishment
Only applications from legal entities established in the EU Member States are eligible.
General notice for UK applicants: In conformity with the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement3 the UK and persons or entities established in the UK continue to be eligible to receive Union funds under actions carried out in direct, indirect or shared management, which implement Union programmes and activities committed under the MFF 2014-2020 until the closure of those Union programmes and activities. When restrictions apply, these will be clearly specified in the call for proposals.
The European Commission expects applicants to gather at least five different4 media organisations from at least five EU Member States. The consortium should propose a professional editorial team with members from at least five EU Member States.5
To assess the applicants' eligibility, the following supporting documents are requested:
6.2. Eligible activities
The following types of activities are eligible under this call for proposals:
Financial support to third parties (e.g. a competition for young journalists)
Suggested start date: 01/01/2021.
The suggested duration is 12 months and should not exceed 15 months.
Extension of duration by amendment could be granted if duly justified in respect to Article II.13 of the General conditions to the grant agreement.
7. EXCLUSION CRITERIA
The authorising officer shall exclude an applicant from participating in call for proposals procedures where:
(a) the applicant is bankrupt, subject to insolvency or winding-up procedures, its assets are being administered by a liquidator or by a court, it is in an arrangement with creditors, its business activities are suspended, or it is in any analogous situation arising from a similar procedure provided for under EU or national laws or regulations;
(b) it has been established by a final judgment or a final administrative decision that the applicant is in breach of its obligations relating to the payment of taxes or social security contributions in accordance with the applicable law;
(c) it has been established by a final judgment or a final administrative decision that the applicant is guilty of grave professional misconduct by having violated applicable laws or regulations or ethical standards of the profession to which the applicant belongs, or by having engaged in any wrongful intent or gross negligence, including, in particular, any of the following:
(i) fraudulently or negligently misrepresenting information required for the verification of the absence of grounds for exclusion or the fulfilment of eligibility or selection criteria or in the performance of a contract, a grant agreement or a grant decision;
(ii) entering into agreement with other applicants with the aim of distorting competition;
(iii) violating intellectual property rights;
(iv) attempting to influence the decision-making process of the Commission during the award procedure;
(v) attempting to obtain confidential information that may confer upon it undue advantages in the award procedure;
(d) it has been established by a final judgment that the applicant is guilty of any of the following:
(i) fraud, within the meaning of Article 3 of Directive (EU) 2017/1371 of the European Parliament and of the Council and Article 1 of the Convention on the protection of the European Communities' financial interests, drawn up by the Council Act of 26 July 1995;
(ii) corruption, as defined in Article 4(2) of Directive (EU) 2017/1371 or Article 3 of the Convention on the fight against corruption involving officials of the European Communities or officials of Member States of the European Union, drawn up by the Council Act of 26 May 1997, or conduct referred to in Article 2(1) of Council Framework Decision 2003/568/JHA, or corruption as defined in the applicable law;
(iii) conduct related to a criminal organisation, as referred to in Article 2 of Council Framework Decision 2008/841/JHA;
(iv) money laundering or terrorist financing within the meaning of Article 1(3), (4) and (5) of Directive (EU) 2015/849 of the European Parliament and of the Council;
(v) terrorist offences or offences linked to terrorist activities, as defined in Articles 1 and 3 of Council Framework Decision 2002/475/JHA, respectively, or inciting, aiding, abetting or attempting to commit such offences, as referred to in Article 4 of that Decision;
(vi) child labour or other offences concerning trafficking in human beings as referred to in Article 2 of Directive 2011/36/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council;
(e) the applicant has shown significant deficiencies in complying with main obligations in the performance of a contract, a grant agreement or a grant decision financed by the Union's budget, which has led to its early termination or to the application of liquidated damages or other contractual penalties, or which has been discovered following checks, audits or investigations by an authorising officer, OLAF or the Court of Auditors;
(f) it has been established by a final judgment or final administrative decision that the applicant has committed an irregularity within the meaning of Article 1(2) of Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 2988/95;
(g) It has been established by a final judgement or final administrative decision that the applicant has created an entity in a different jurisdiction with the intent to circumvent fiscal, social or any other legal obligations of mandatory application in the jurisdiction of its registered office, central administration or principal place of business;
(h) it has been established by a final judgement or final administrative decision that an entity has been created with the intent referred to in point (g);
(i) for the situations referred to in points (c) to (h) above, the applicant is subject to:
(i) facts established in the context of audits or investigations carried out by European Public Prosecutor's Office after its establishment, the Court of Auditors, the European Anti-Fraud Office or the internal auditor, or any other check, audit or control performed under the responsibility of an authorising officer of an EU institution, of a European office or of an EU agency or body;
(ii) non-final judgments or non-final administrative decisions which may include disciplinary measures taken by the competent supervisory body responsible for the verification of the application of standards of professional ethics;
(iii) facts referred to in decisions of persons or entities being entrusted with EU budget implementation tasks;
(iv) information transmitted by Member States implementing Union funds;
(v) decisions of the Commission relating to the infringement of Union competition law or of a national competent authority relating to the infringement of Union or national competition law; or
(vi) decisions of exclusion by an authorising officer of an EU institution, of a European office or of an EU agency or body.
7.2. Remedial measures
If an applicant declares one of the situations of exclusion listed above (see section 7.1), it must indicate the measures it has taken to remedy the exclusion situation, thus demonstrating its reliability. This may include e.g. technical, organisational and personnel measures to correct the conduct and prevent further occurrence, compensation of damage or payment of fines or of any taxes or social security contributions. The relevant documentary evidence which illustrates the remedial measures taken must be provided in annex to the declaration. This does not apply for situations referred in point (d) of section 7.1.
7.3. Rejection from the call for proposals
The authorising officer shall not award a grant to an applicant who:
(a) is in an exclusion situation established in accordance with section 7.1; or
(b) has misrepresented the information required as a condition for participating in the procedure or has failed to supply that information; or
(c) was previously involved in the preparation of documents used in the award procedure where this entails a breach of the principle of equal treatment, including distortion of competition, that cannot be remedied otherwise.
The same exclusion criteria apply to affiliated entities.
Administrative sanctions (exclusion) may be imposed on applicants, or affiliated entities where applicable, if any of the declarations or information provided as a condition for participating in this procedure prove to be false.
7.4. Supporting documents
Applicants and affiliated entities must provide an original signed6 declaration on their honour certifying that they are not in one of the situations referred to in Articles 136(1) and 141 FR, by filling in the relevant form attached to the application form accompanying the call for proposals and available at https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single- market/news-redirect/676893 .
This obligation may be fulfilled in one of the following ways:
(i) the coordinator of a consortium signs a declaration on behalf of all applicants and their affiliated entities; OR
(ii) each applicant in the consortium signs a declaration in its name and on behalf of its affiliated entities; OR
(iii) each applicant in the consortium and the affiliated entities each sign a separate declaration in their own name.