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BB -09 today kicks off with a look at local perspectives on public service media. This session is an overview of the variety of experience coming from the world, and how it might be applicable elsewhere. The speakers come from Korea, Madagascar, Kenya, the Phillippines, and the ethnic media experience in New York.
1. Kim Myoungjoon of MediAct in Korea works on empowerment to help support social change. he emphasizes the role of media activism – both alternative and mainstream. Kim notes that Korea has undergone rapid technological change, development, such that 100 mb download speeds are common; communications infrastructure better than in the US. Traditionally, there have been four areas of media activism in Korea:
-independent film and video
-trade union movement in mainstream media
-NGOs and citizens press reform
-Internet activism for alterantive media and advocacy
Since ’90s, trends in Korea are deregulation of media and an increase in media participation, together with democratization and neoliberal economic policy. Kim describes an activist agenda – public broadcasting and creating the concept of viewship rights. Longer-term agenda for media change with MediaAct is the institutionalization of public service media and citizen participation of the media.
2. Lova Rakotomalala, Co-founder, Foko-Madagascar and Author, Global Voices Online, talks to us about how social unrest in Madagascar has overwhelmed other news stories. The crisis kicked off around a land deal scandal to grant land to a South Korean country, facilitated by President Ravalomanana. On March 17, there was a military-driven coup that gave power to the mayor of Antananarivo, Andry Rajoelina.
Lova explains that several radio channels used to mobilize and polarize political positions. If local media played a role in the crisis, there was nearly no coverage overseas. Lova makes the argument that this crisis should matter to the rest of the world, because it happened because of the interconnected nature of development. Lova notes that there is a great deal of resentment toward the international community, and suspicions of favoritism in Madagascar. Much of this is based on agricultural policy, with development based on land deals that grant international businesses access to good agricultural land.
Lova also discusses Foko Madagascar. He quotes Michael Tyson – “Everyone has a plan until he gets punched in the mouth,” when explaining how Foko’s mission has changed from training and personal stories to filling in the gaps of international coverage – writing reports, taking pictures, and documenting the crisis, both on Foko and on Twitter. Now, 55 reporters produce content for Foko. It has also become a tool to reach out to mainstream media, with reports on CNN and the Wall Street Journal. Foko is also using frontlineSMS and Ushahidi platforms to aggregate and organize their content. Lova notes that Foko has more reporters in cities throughout the country than any other media.
In Madagascar, of 20 million people, only 160,000 have Internet access. and 2.2 million have cell phones. Radio remains the primary source of information.
Citizen journalism and cyber-activism have led to a backlash by security forces, with people being harassed and attacked. Additionally the government now proposes to regulate Internet content. Lova proposes the need for a vigorous defense of blogger’s rights.
3) Juana Ponce de Leon, Executive Director, New York. Community Media Alliance. The Alliance works with ethnic media in New York, translating and amplifying the needs of local ethnic media audiences in the New York area.
Most of these media outlets are small. 84% of ad revenue comes from local revenue, which means that migration to online presence is slow. Of 200 ethnic media in NYC, 36% were static, another 1/3 were beginning to create some interesting models, and the last 1/3 just post text. The Alliance is seeking how to help these small media create better online presence, including looking at Internet radio.
The Alliance works to connect ethnic media to the government, to MSM, and activist communities. An example of this kind of connecting work around the census. In New York, over 200 languages are spoken, yet the last NY census was only conducted in seven languages. Yet in New York, there is traditionally a low participation rate.
4) Daudi Were of Mentalacrobatics. Why democracy is so important for development. Daudi thinks that democracy is often poorly defined. He wants to focus on democracy as “government by discussion.” In traditional African society, discussion was at the heart of decision-making; the purpose of of which is to avoid conflict. From East Africa we have the example of the Baraza, and from South Africa, the Indaba, as forums for community discussion.
Today, Daudi thinks that the actions and interests of government officials are opposed to discussion. Yet blogging and online speech has the potential to return discussion to the center of African experience. Daudi proposes that content and community together are what makes interesting online material – another way of saying that it’s the discussion that needs to be emphasized, rather than information in isolation.
Daudi explains that the technological challenges of the digital divide are “overcome by relevance.” As people find a need for particular kinds of information, they seek out the paths to find it.
While these speakers are sharing local and national perspectives, it’s curious to see how each of them describes links into global communities as crucial for their function.
5) Anthony Ian M. Cruz of TXTPower begins by focusing on Filipino mobile phone use. A peripatetic people of 90 million, 70 million use mobile phones. TXTPower uses texting as a tool to mobilize citizens for activism and rights. TXTpower begins by looking at access to mobile use and texting, to ensure that costs remain fair. Anthony describes how in 2004 activism managed to defeat a tax on texting, by running a campaign to text government officials protesting the tax. The mainstream media picked up the story of the campaign, so that it became the biggest story of the week. He describes the use of texting in other campaigns and explains their model of success:
-Fight for consumer welfare and general democracy always be important to people.
-Stay close to the interests of citizens – conveners within TXTPower all have their own networks and local relationships.
-Be media. Work with both legacy media and to gain power and profile itself. Mong Palatino, one of their conveners, as well as the SE Asia editor for Global Voices, recently became a member of parliament.
Drawing a link between these presentations, there’s an common set of issues for TXTPower, Foko, MediaAct, Kenyan bloggers, and the Community Media Alliance. All look to structural and institutional issues to ensure continued online speech and activism, including fair pricing schemes, institutional and structural support for citizen participation in media, and legal protections for citizen media participants.
Emerging from hibernation on posting, twittering, and all things media and social, and hanging out in Los Angeles at Beyond Broadcast 2009. In past years BB has focused mostly on US public media and its relationship to digital media. This year, BB has brought speakers from around the world to provide alternative visions and experiences. We’ll have speakers such as Anthony Ian M. Cruz, of TXTPower, an initiative in the Phillippines that describes itself as “an organization of cellphone users that aims to empower Filipinos both as consumers and as citizens,” Nouneh Sarkissian, of Internews Armenia, who works with independent mass media in Armenia and across the Caucasus, and Daudi Were, a Kenyan blogger who writes at Mentalacrobatics, and others.
This community has in the past few years evolved a dialogue around the language that we use to describe digital media: Citizen media, citizen journalism, participatory journalism. Most here are aware of the traps of ascribing a permanence and value to the verities of professionalism as the height and goal of journalism – rather than journalism’s role as a connecting force within a democracy. This is of course a strongly American debate, and I’ll be especially interested to see what international perspectives bring to the discussion.