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September 23 & 24, 2000
Tampa, Florida, USA

Final Document

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Background

On the occasion of the 31st Annual Conference of the International Institute of Communications, IIC 2000: Communication by Design, Exploring the Digital Future with the support of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation and organised by Comunica, the seminar: Mixed Media/Medios Enteros: Broadcasting and the Internet in Latin America and the Caribbean was held in Tampa, Florida, September 23 and 24, 2000 with the participation of 26 people from 15 countries.

The objectives of the seminar were:

  1. To take stock of the current situation regarding the use of the Internet by independent broadcasters in Latin America and the Caribbean with a particular emphasis on:
    • Emerging networks and exchanges
    • The role of the audience
    • Next generation radio
    • Globalisation and local media
  1. To explore new possibilities of collaboration among independent broadcasters in the region either by using the Internet to establish networks and exchange programs, or by sharing information about the use of the Internet by radio stations
  2. To identify a series of short and medium-term actions that can be taken to enable independent broadcasters to make a more effective use of the Internet
  3. To put the issue of independent broadcasting and the Internet on the agenda of independent broadcasters, networks, other information providers, donors, researchers and communities in order to encourage new and productive partnershipstop

Issues, Concepts and Principles

The participants approached the discussion from the perspective of their varied experiences and based on 4 themes:

  1. Networks and exchanges - Until recently broadcast networks were the exclusive preserve of a few large national and international companies. With declining cost of satellite usage, improved Internet applications and increased bandwidth, new entrants are breaking into the field, establishing sub-regional and special interest networks of independent and community broadcasters. Can these emerging networks help bring about a more pluralist, democratic and counter hegemonic media?
  2. A new role for the audience - Can the convergence of traditional broadcasting with new interactive communication technologies result in the more responsive and democratic media? Or will it follow in the footsteps of so much open-line radio – creating an illusion of participation behind which hide increasingly inaccessible media?
  3. Next generation radio - Over the past year animated debates have been taking place between those who argue that radio will remain the most important media for the poor and new media proponents who argue that the broadcast monologue will be replaced by the Internet dialogue. But will convergence have an either/or result, or will the injection of the Internet's digital DNA turn next generation radio into an entirely new species?
  4. Globalisation and local media - The process of globalisation is marked with tension between the global and the local and by debates about whether convergence inhibits divergence or permits new voices to be heard. Is there still a role for local media? What are the contradictions inherent in local media's use of the tools of globalisation?

For the participants, radio, especially public service, community-based, and independent radio, is the most readily available, the most accessible (90% of people in the region have access to it), the most affordable and the most flexible mass medium. Radio interprets the world from the perspective of its community and in the language and accents of that community. Radio enables the public expression of the plurality of voices, genders and cultures and it promotes respect for human rights and the democratisation of our societies.

We are inspired by basic principles inherent to our human condition and by our own way of understanding social and human development:

  • The right to communicate as a human right recognised in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression. This right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any medium and regardless of frontiers"
  • The right to communicate as a social right, implying that all men and women should have a fair and equitable access to the media
  • The defence of pluralism, and cultural, linguistic and gender diversity
  • The respect for the rights of native people, for their practices and customs, for their fight to achieve access and participation in communication media
  • The defence of the Internet as a horizontal space for communication, with free access and without censorship

We are for the democratisation of communication and respect for universal human rights in our societies. We want to close the gaps of misinformation and isolation, of injustice, poverty and technological inequality. Our work contributes to create a world in which many worlds can fit. A world such as may be desired by everyone: a world of safe homes, secure jobs, health, sustainable communities, a world based on the respect of human rights, with space and time for recreation, with a clean environment, and families with a future beyond the doors of their houses.top

Declaration

The participants of the seminar Mixed Media / Medios Enteros: Broadcasting and the Internet in Latin America and the Caribbean, assert that:

We are concerned by:

  • The hasty and non regulated process of concentration of ownership of broadcast media. In many of our countries a handful of media corporations control large numbers of local radio stations, connecting them to national satellite networks with centralised programming. This restricts pluralism of content and limits civil society access to a public voice.
  • The lack of effective public broadcasting in the region. Most often it is weak and underfunded or under the political control of the governing party.
  • The disparity in the development of telecommunications and the widening gap between those who have access to new communication technologies and those who do not.
  • The false but widely-accepted notion that the market economy is the only way to develop a communication and information infrastructure.
  • The lack of fair laws that recognise the legitimacy of community broadcast media.
  • The inaction on the part of developed countries to help close or considerably narrow the gap between those who have access to information and communication technologies and those who do not. Declarations such as those made during the last G-8 Summit of the 8 industrialised countries in Japan are not a sufficient substitute for action.
  • The lack of coordinated actions by our governments, international cooperation, and civil society to deal with the communication needs of Latin America and the Caribbean.top

We recognise:

  • That the development of new information and communication technologies facilitates the convergence between them and traditional radio and television, and that this will bring about a fundamental transformation of the broadcasting model.
  • That radio stations are making efforts and have the potential to link new information, communication and broadcast technologies in order to create media better able to respond to the communication challenges of our times.
  • That community, citizen, popular, and independent communication media (in particular radio) have earned legitimacy in their respective communities on the basis of their plurality and their concern for local issues and perspectives.
  • That community and independent communication media have a democratising role that and that they fulfil the role of the devalued or non-existent system of public broadcasting.
  • That the creative combination of local and independent radio and the Internet has achieved many goals in the region:
  1. It has allowed women and men excluded from the electronic media to have a public voice in their community, and to multiply their voices around the world. At the same time, it offers to these excluded people the possibility to access the knowledge and information on the Internet, even though they may have never seen a computer in their life.
  2. It contributes to regional integration by enabling voluntary networks of radio stations, sharing news and information about events and issues interpreted from a regional perspective
  3. It reconnects communities that have been dismembered by forced migrations, allowing them to interact, at low cost, with their relatives and former neighbours. This is done by means of the Internet broadcasting of their hometown radio stations, or by the inverse process, with audio messages of migrants transmitted on local radio waves.
  4. It has facilitated the construction of new international communities of interests, such as the international women's movement. By means of the combined use of the Internet and radio, these movements have been able to influence the international agenda in favour of human rights.

In short, this creative combination has reinforced the role played by community and citizen radio stations and independent producers in the democratisation of communication, and in enabling the expression of the plurality of voices and the diversity of genders, cultures and values that civil society has sought to maintain in this globalised world.

  • That Tele-centres have been important allies in this process and that further cooperation between telecentres and radio must be encouraged.

We affirm:

  • The urgency with which independent and community media must develop policies related to new communication and information technologies (particularly the Internet). The development of these policies should be coordinated with their regional networks, the State and donor agencies in order to ensure that they become public policies.
  • The opportunity for the development of training programs for people involved in community and independent media. In this way, they can increase their knowledge of media management and of ways of using new technologies, and they can improve the quality of their programming.
  • The immediate need to open a discussion of broadcast laws in all the countries of the region. We need laws that will encourage pluralism in the granting of frequencies and that will support the creation of new local, rural, community, citizen and independent broadcast media.
  • The need to promote the appropriation of new information and communication technologies by civil society. These technologies must fulfil needs and, at the same time, they must strengthen the work of community and independent media. For this, it is important to document and to share practices, information and knowledge related to new technologies that already exist in various countries of the region.
  • The importance of the creation and development of networks of independent radio stations and the reinforcement of those already existing, promoting the articulation among these radios and the development of common and complementary policies. These networks must be a place to promote the critical thinking and analysis of the future of broadcasting, the transformation of radio and television, and the way in which community and how independent media might relate to those changes. At the same time these networks must be a place to share successful experiences of convergence of radio and the Internet.
  • The need to articulate different current actions, coming from the State, civil society, media, NGOs and international cooperation agencies, enabling the best use of the limited resources available to enlarge and make more effective use of Latin American and Caribbean information and communication infrastructures.

 
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Friedrich Ebert StiftungMixed Media/Medios Enteros - Broadcasting and the Internet in Latin America and the Caribbean is sponsored by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation and organised by Comunica.
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