The 1st phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (Geneva, December 2003) expressed in its Declaration of Principles a “common desire and commitment to build a people-centered, inclusive and development-orientated Information Society, where everyone can create, access, utilize and share information and knowledge” and that “traditional media in all their forms have an important role to play.”
UNESCO’s strategy is to enhance the role of public service broadcasting (PSB) as a unique service providing universal access to information and knowledge through quality and diverse content reflecting the needs, concerns and expectations of the various target audiences; to promote and strengthen editorially independent public broadcasting media organizations to enable them to fulfill their cultural and educational role; to building strategic alliances with major professional stakeholders, decision-makers, civil society; and sensitize governments and public opinion on the unique mission of PSB.
The strategy also entails promoting associations of citizens for quality broadcasting and fostering citizens’ media and dialogue between media, particularly broadcasters and civil society groups. The exact terms, in which that dialogue could be conducted vary from one society to another. The underlying principle, however, must be one of mutual trust. First, trust by the media organizations, that the public will understand the practical constraints under which the media, especially radio and TV, operate, particularly when dependent on commercial revenues or when financed by direct government grants. Secondly, trust by the public that the broadcasters and media in general will treat the dialogue seriously, not exploiting it as an opportunity to promote their public relations, while failing to recognise obligations towards accountability and good governance.
The workshop “Citizens media: Promoting Citizens’ Participation in Broadcasting” organized by UNESCO in cooperation with Asia Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development (AIBD) and World Radio and Television Council (WRTVC) in Kuala Lumpur, in April 2004, examined the role of civil society and citizens in fostering quality media in general and broadcasting in particular and encouraged follow up action.
“The participation and role of a vital stakeholder group – the citizens of each country, who formed the audience” was perceived by the participants as “a weak link in the relationship between the major stakeholders i.e. broadcasters, governments, regulators, and citizens… A strong relationship, based on mutual trust, between citizens and broadcasters was emphasized as vital to the existence of free and robust media organizations and indeed, for the functioning of a healthy democracy”.
This book, written by the distinguished scholar and journalist Ammu Joseph, represents a dedicated advocacy of interactivity between citizens’ and free public and community broadcasting. This publication is addressed to all those who wish to contribute to fostering social inclusion and strengthening civil society.
Dr Abdul Waheed Khan
Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, UNESCO