Observatory publishes new IRIS plus report:


The Promotion of Cultural Diversity via New Media Technologies


“Cultural diversity’ has become such a buzz word nowadays. It seems to be evoked in any situation ranging from local arts events to the current debate in France concerning the recognition of regional languages in the country’s Constitution. And yet there seem to be few real debates on what this concept actually entails, particularly in the light of the new media technologies available for conveying ‘culture’. The European Audiovisual Observatory has just released a brand new report freely downloadable here which examines the concept of cultural identity, explains why it should be promoted and looks closely at the role of new media technologies in achieving this.


The author, Tarlach McGonagle, a Researcher at the University of Amsterdam’s Institute for Information Law (IViR) opens his report by looking at the various definitions of culture and cultural rights. He also examines the various international texts which incorporate these concepts such as the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity or Article 27 (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. McGonagle concludes this initial examination of these concepts by stating that “the exercise of cultural rights […] entails the right to maintain and develop one’s cultural identity, lead particular lifestyles, participate in cultural life and assemble, associate and organise for cultural purposes”.


Having defined culture and cultural rights as a pre-requisite for any examination of cultural diversity, the author then moves on to look at the various rationales for the promotion of cultural diversity, the author states that the reasons for justifying efforts to promote cultural diversity are, of course, manifold. They can be rooted in the belief that “every culture is an inherent source of wealth” or indeed the principle that notions of individual and group dignity are strongly linked to the freedom to express cultural identity in all its diversity.


The defence of social and cultural equality as well as democratic public debate are also evoked as reasons why cultural diversity should be maintained and defended. Turning to the audiovisual sphere, McGonagle states very clearly that “the media, as vectors of culture and cultural identities, are capable of making a major contribution to the promotion of cultural diversity” and proceeds to apply this rationale, by extension, to new media technologies.


The report then offers an in-depth analysis of the European legal framework concerning the promotion of cultural diversity via new media technologies. Starting with the Council of Europe and its various instruments, McGonagle notes specific reference to the promotion of cultural diversity via the new media in legal instruments concerning areas as diverse as cultural heritage (Article 14 of the Framework Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage), minority languages (article 12 of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages) or indeed public service values (The Committee of Ministers’ Recommendation on measures to promote the public service value of the Internet).


McGonagle praises the concrete terms of these texts in that they “represent a significant step forward from numerous generalised affirmations of the potential of new media technologies for promoting cultural diversity”.

Moving on to look at EU legal instruments in this field, the author focuses on the provisions in the Audiovisual Media Services Directive concerning the promotion of cultural diversity via new technologies.


He also examines the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions as well as the Declaration of Principles adopted in 2003 at the Geneva Phase of the World Summit on the information Society (WSIS).

McGonagle concludes this analysis of the framework for the promotion of cultural diversity via new media technologies by affirming that “engagement with the specific features of new technologies is essential, as is the unraveling of the concept, “cultural diversity”, and its contextualisation in the broader perspective of culture and cultural rights.”