Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Artaud: A brief Outline

1. Artaud had a pessimistic view of the world, but he believed that theatre could effect change.
2. Remove the audience from the everyday and use symbolic objects to work with the emotions and soul of the audience.
3. Attack the audience's senses through an array of technical methods and acting so that the audience would be brought out of their desensitisation and have to confront themselves.
4. Use the grotesque, the ugly and pain in order to confront an audience, thereby being cruel to them.

The Theatre of Cruelty

The Theatre of Cruelty has been created in order to restore to the theatre a passionate and convulsive conception of life, and it is in this sense of violent rigour and extreme condensation of scenic elements that the cruelty on which it is based must be understood. This cruelty, which will be bloody when necessary but not systematically so, can thus be identified with a kind of severe moral purity which is not afraid to pay life the price it must be paid."
– Antonin Artaud, The Theatre of Cruelty, in The Theory of the Modern Stage (ed. Eric Bentley), Penguin, 1968, p.66

DEMATERIALIZE!!

Research Fellow Peter Lewis is leading a two-year project (2004-6) that promotes investigation into non-material forms of visual culture practice. This draws in Derek Horton, Chris Bloor, Jill Morgan and other members of the Visual Arts grouping toward a series of events.

Contact: Peter Lewis, Derek Horton, Chris Bloor, Jill Morgan

Jill Morgan is Head of Visual Studies, School of Contemporary Arts and Graphic Design. She currently teaches on these two degrees, and provides MPhil Supervision in Feminism and Post-modernism. She has worked at Peterloo Gallery and as Director of Rochdale Art Gallery, as Principal Arts and Heritage Officer for Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council, and has taught at Sheffield Hallam University, John Moores University, University of Manchester, Nottingham Trent University, Manchester Metropolitan University, and Bradford & Ilkley Community College. She is External Examiner to the MA in Feminism and the Visual Arts at the University of Leeds and External Moderator to the BTEC Visual Studies Access Course at Leeds College of Art and Design.

Email: J.Morgan@leedsmet.ac.uk
Telephone: + 44 (0)113 283 2600 ext 3994

Women, Gender & Media

Tuesday 10 May 2005, Jac sm Kee [APC Women’s Networking Support Programme ]

When I was a trainer at a media and gender workshop in 2002, the only male participant there confessed, “Our organisation is not prioritising gender actually. We are more concerned about other issues – issues which are political”. This statement reveals much about the stand that most media institutions take on gender.

The Asia Media Summit Pre-Workshop on Gender, Kuala Lumpur, 8 May 2005
Gender, Women and the Media: An Overview

This paper was presented at The Asia Media Summit Pre-Workshop on Gender, Kuala Lumpur, 8 May 2005. It outlines a brief overview on the issue of women, gender and the media at two levels, and some strategies that can be explored in order to address the situation. The summit is registered as a “Regional Thematic Meeting” with a view to contributing to the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunis in November 2005.
When I was a trainer at a media and gender workshop in 2002, the only male participant there confessed, “Our organisation is not prioritising gender actually. We are more concerned about other issues – issues which are political”. This statement reveals much about the stand that most media institutions take on gender.

Although it is almost impossible now to speak about rights and equality without at least mentioning gender, the treatment is often cursory; as though by the mere mention of the word ‘gender’, or with a token representation of a handful of women, gender issues have been sufficiently dealt with. This is not enough. There is a need to unearth the various levels of unequal gender relations at play in media as a vital institution that can enable or limit the progressive development of a participatory and democratic civil society. This role is being increasingly recognised and adopted by the various stakeholders and actors within the field, and I believe that workshops such as this is an important space for us to figure out what they are.

The issue of gender and the media can broadly be understood at two levels, both implicating and affecting each other:
1. the participation of women in decision-making and expression in the media
2. representation or portrayal of women and gender relations in the media

Participation and Expression
At the most basic level, women are under-represented in media institutions. In the Global Media Monitoring Project participated by 71 countries in 1995, only 36% of journalists were women in Asia. Those who are within the field are often not in decision-making positions and are ghettoised into specific areas. What do I mean by ghettoised? A ghetto means a space, usually a section of a city, which is occupied by a minority group who live there especially because of social, economic, or legal pressure. They are often unrecognised, hidden within the margins and relatively powerless. Women’s relationship to the media occupies this space in a very real sense.

Although women are increasingly entering into media, top management is still largely male dominated and the culture of patriarchy is perpetuated through this disparity. There is a gender division of labour that is evident through the way that stories are assigned. ‘Soft’ issues like fashion, culture, arts and lifestyle are often consigned to women media practitioners, whereas ‘hard’ and what is considered ‘serious’ issues like finance, economics and politics are often within the purview of their male counterparts. The criteria of newsworthiness are similarly and consequently understood through this gendered lens. Headline materials often constitute of ‘hard issues’ whilst ‘soft issues’ are shunted to ‘special’ and supplementary segments of the media. Gender stereotyped views and attitudes, such as the attachment of productive incapacity and women’s reproductive roles, can hinder women’s opportunities to assume decision-making positions. Further, sexual harassment has been particularly cited as one of the methods to control and exclude women from these positions in Asia Pacific.

There are few countries within this region that have specific legal provisions that protects against gender discrimination. Even when there are - like Article 8 of the Malaysian Federal Constitution which prohibits discriminataion on the basis of inter-alia, gender - they are seen to have jurisdiction only within the public sector. As media is becoming increasingly privatised and concentrated on a few transnational media giants, this can be a serious cause of concern when individuals within the field are left with little legal recourse to ensure the protection of their right to equal gender status. Government intervention often focuses on licensing and ownership as opposed to structures and practices within the institutions that discriminates against women, or prevents their views from being expressed. This contributes to the continued marginalisation of women’s themes in the media, their exclusion from socio-political institutions in the public sphere, and severely curtails media democratisation in the promotion of diverse cultural, social and political worldviews.

Women’s Portrayal in the Media
Consistently throughout Asia, women have been portrayed in the media as victims, subservient, nurturing, sacrificing and objectified sexualised beings. This not only inaccurately represents the diversity of women’s lives, roles and experiences within this complex and rich region, women’s contributions to the socio-political and economic development of society are often neglected.

The perpetuation of stereotypes in images and representation solidifies women’s traditional roles and unequal gender relations in multiple ways. Most visibly, women are seen as mourners at tragedies or as victims of violence. The Global Media Monitoring Project mentioned above found that out of the small number of women who were interviewees in news stories (14%), 29% of them were as victims of accidents, crimes or other events .This does not only represent women as helpless subjects without agency, it also fails to emphasise men’s role as perpetrators in instances of violence against women. Further, the dissemination of these messages affects women’s self-confidence, mobility and subsequently access and participation in public spaces (for fear of assault).

There are many more examples, such as women’s portrayals in an increasingly consumer-driven culture and the commodification of women’s bodies in advertising, pornography and conflict situations, that can be cited and raised, but that would take far more time than this session would allow for.

Strategies for Change
I would like to instead, spend a few minutes looking at strategies that we can explore in order to address this situation. These are two strategic objectives that have been outlined in the Beijing Platform for Action adopted by State governments at the Fourth World Conference for Women in 1995. They address broadly the two levels of discrimination as have been explained summarily. 1) to increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision-making in and through the media and new technologies of communication, and, 2) promote a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media.

As media practitioners and institutions, independent code of ethics that specifically addresses gender issues within this field can be developed and implemented. There are already media codes of ethics in existence in the Asia region, such as Malaysia’s Canons of Journalism, Singapore Journalists' Code of Professional Conduct and South Korea’s Press Ethics Code. These codes can be further honed to ensure that sexist and stereotyped coverage of women are considered ethically unacceptable within the industry. Self-regulatory mechanisms such as adoption of sexual harassment policies within media institutions can dismantle one of the real obstacles that hinder women’s full participation in media.

Consistent and sustained capacity building of all members within media institutions – whether male or female, reporters, editors or producers – on gender issues can not only raise awareness on the complexities and implications of gender dynamics and power relations within this field, but also broaden the base of ‘experts’ that are able to work with these issues meaningfully. More space and airtime can be allocated to issues related to women that break away from the usual ghettoisation of areas traditionally considered as ‘women’s issues’. One concrete example would be to increase the portrayal of women as significant contributors to society as leaders, workers and thinkers, not just as carers, sex objects or victims. The development of appropriate alternative and community media can also enable the dissemination of diverse expressions and experiences, particularly from marginalised groups who are better able to own and manage them at the community level.

The issue of gender should be at the forefront of discussions concerning freedom of expression. International commitments such as the WSIS Declaration of Principles and a Plan of Action and the Beijing Platform for Action need to be aligned to understand women’s rights and gender equality as a cross cutting principle. Particularly in light of the development of digital information and communication technologies in media that have the capacity to transcend national boundaries and enable proliferation of discourses at unprecedented breadth and speed, gender dimensions crucially need be to be surfaced and addressed. Otherwise, the move towards building Information Societies for economic, social and political development will be one that is substantively impoverished for want of principles in equality and non-discrimination.

Media has immense power in this process. It is one of the primary institutions which help shape the world, and how we as individuals, make sense of it. Taking accountability in this role and interrogating its own practices, perceptions, expectations and visions is crucial to imagine a society that is abundant in diversity, critical of inequality and resistant to marginalisation. Unblinding to gender is at the heart of this process.

Community Media News

Home Office Minister Opens the CMA's Festival of Community Media
Paul Goggins, Home Office Minister with responsibility for community and the voluntary sector, opened the Festival with a speech which showed delegates that some members of the government did know what Community Media was about, and to prove it, he played a clip from his local station, Wythenshawe FM (WFM) in Manchester, featuring not only him but Tony Blair talking to the station. A station that runs with over 80 volunteers, eight of which are under 16.

He said; "This sector has enormous potential, to use communication as a means to regeneration, engagement and involvement, in a way that we've only really just begun to scratch the surface of." He continued, "Community Media is a way of harnessing and challenging the very real and diverse talents to be found in all of our neighbourhoods, bringing people together can help to build up the community."

He also enthused how WFM, one of the 15 pilot radio stations, with its energy, hard work and effort has become part of the media landscape in Manchester; with not only local news, but regular interviews and reports of how national issues are affecting the local community. He mentioned how WFM, like the other Community Radio Stations, has been producing programmes about crime, engaging directly with Public Services and the community to help change peoples' perceptions of their neighbourhoods.

Award Shows Recognition For Community Media in Fife
A new Community Media organisation, based at BRAG Enterprises in Crosshill and Lochgelly in Fife, has won a national award for its business plan and praise from Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Subliminal Directions was created by two Fife based social entrepreneurs, Mark Kelly and Duncan McMahon whilst attending the School for Social Entrepreneurs (based at BRAG) in 2003-04. Mark entered the 'Subliminal' business plan into the Junior Chamber International Best Business Plan of the Year (Scotland) award 2005.

Mark had been writing this plan for over 3 years so took the chance to send it in to the competition and although he believed the plan to be the best concept to create change in our communities, was stunned when it won with a unanimous decision. Scottish First Minister Jack McConnell awarded Mark the prize in Edinburgh.

Mark was also congratulated by the Rt Hon Gordon Brown on the award and the progress of Subliminal Directions on his visit to BRAG Enterprises Ltd, where the organisation is developing its Community Media production studio.

Volunteers take centre stage in unique production opportunity
CSV has been tapping into media talent from all over the UK by offering wannabe and established journalists and filmmakers the chance to capture on camera or in sound, the fascinating stories of how volunteering can change people's lives.

Volunteer Britain is a unique national film, audio and digital storytelling competition, which aims to challenge and change perceptions of volunteering in Britain.The competition was launched by CSV on 6 April and will run until 16 September 2005, with regional finals then a national final taking place a in October.

The Video Nation category of the competition, which has now closed, was a great success, with volunteers from around the UK submitting both inspiring and heart-warming stories of how volunteering has literally transformed their lives.Three lucky entrants will have their stories made into video diaries by the BBC's Video
Nation team in June and July, then aired in August.

The attention now turns to the production side of the competition, in which volunteers are invited to make their own films, audio clips and digital stories about the power of volunteering. A selection of entries will be shown on the Community Channel, BBC local radio, on the web and in local cinemas. The Community Channel will be working in partnership with CSV and the Volunteer England consortium to help promote the Year of the Volunteer.

Full details are available from www.csv.org.uk/volunteerbritain. Alternately, send an SAE to Volunteer Britain Entry Forms,Volunteer Britain, CSV, 237 Pentonville Road, LONDON, N1 9NJ. Your entry must reach them by September 16th.

Community Media Projects Shortlisted for Media Award
209radio, spotlighted in the last edition of Airflash, and the 'Visible Voices' project, were short-listed for the New Statesman New Media Awards 2005 for Community and Information. The key themes of this year's awards are "ingenuity, modernisation and accessibility". They intend to award those who have achieved something of benefit to others, whether in their community or in society at large. Since 1998, these awards have promoted projects that embrace new technology, fresh thinking and creative management in the UK.

"Society has always been promised a great deal by the digital revolution," says John Kampfner, editor of the New Statesman. "The 2005 New Media Awards will highlight the projects that have really delivered on that promise."

'Visible Voices' is an online archive of video media developed by the Community Media Association for Surrey County Council as one of the Local E-Democracy National Pilot Projects funded by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. It was launched in March at the Science Museum in Kensington.

Visible Voices extends the free and open source technologies developed for 'The Showcase' - the world's first streaming media archive of radio, TV and Internet projects from the Community Media sector which enables new audiences to access Community Media via the Internet.
Director of the CMA, Diane Reid, said, "Visible Voices builds upon the success of the CMA's Showcase of Community Media and is part of our commitment to assist individuals and organisations to develop Community Media on as many platforms as possible."
Karl Hartland, one of the Directors from 209radio commented: "This is a bit of a shock and a great honour, especially as 209radio is still waiting for the decision on our FM licence application! It shows how ordinary people can use basic technology to make a real difference. It also shows how Community Media, as the new third tier in UK broadcasting, is already making waves."

Mental Health Media and Community Media
David Jones from the learning difficulties project of Mental Health Media visited the CMA's office last month to look into possibilities of involving people with learning difficulties in Community Media. His project, which is under the umbrella of Mental Health Media, is helping people with learning difficulties make better use of the media in terms of consumers, creators, contributors and content.

MEdia is a project that brings together people with learning difficulties and those with expertise in the media and production to help promote and support media involvement for people with learning difficulties. It has been developed with significant input from people with learning difficulties, while the project, and steering committee are both staffed by a number people with learning difficulties.

The project monitors newspapers, magazines, radio and television programmes to see how people with learning difficulties are represented. They have also been asking people with learning difficulties what they think about the way they are shown in the media, what media they use and in what ways. To find out more, check out their website www.mhmedia.com.

CMA Webcasts Orange Prize for Fiction
The webcast for the Orange Prize for Fiction was delivered last week by the Community Media Association in partnership with the book charity Booktrust and leading Internet media specialists Futurate from Portman Square, London. The Orange Prize, which is for women's fiction, was set up in 1996 because the founders were concerned that many of the biggest literary prizes often appeared to overlook wonderful writing by women.

This year's high-profile event was attended by celebrities from television and the media including Kate Adie, Jo Brand, William Hague and Jenni Murray. The webcast of the event was watched by individual readers, libraries and booksellers. Bill Best, Technical Manager at the CMA, said "The CMA was pleased to deliver a high-quality streaming media service to this important event."

All-Party Parliamentary Community Media Group AGM 2005
The All-Party Parliamentary Community Media Group will hold its fourth Annual General Meeting in July in Westminster. The Group's purpose is to support the growth and development of Community Media (including Community Radio, Community Television, and Community Internet) and to promote understanding of the contribution which Community Media can make to social inclusion, neighbourhood renewal, citizens' participation, local democracy and lifelong learning.

The Officers for the Group are: Ian Stewart MP (Chair), Ian Liddell- Grainger MP (Vice Chair),Tony Lloyd MP (Vice Chair), and Derek Wyatt MP (Secretary). The Community Media Association provides the secretariat for the All-Party Parliamentary Community Media Group. Encourage your MP to participate.

Boss Swap
Mary Dowson, Project Director at Bradford Community Broadcastng and the CMA's Chair, swapped places for a week with BBC Radio Leeds' Managing Editor John Ryan.The exchange resulted in a short film, which will be shown on the Community Channel and available on the CMA's website soon. John and Mary will tell their stories in the next issue of Airflash.The swap was part of a project to increase understanding between BBC staff and Community Media organisations.

CMA Gives Evidence On BBC Green Paper To Lords
Diane Reid, representing the CMA, with Caroline Deihl, Chief Executive of the Media Trust and Jocelyn Hay CBE, Hon. Chair of the Voice of the Listener and Viewer, gave evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee on the Future of the BBC last month. The three organisations are on the steering committee of
Public Voice, a coalition which represents voluntary sector views on citizens' interests in relation to communications policy and regulation.

The three emphasised the need for participation and representation in BBC programme making and for equitable partnership arrangements with Community Media organisations. The full transcript of the session will soon be available through the CMA's website.
Community Media News

Home Office Minister Opens the CMA's Festival of Community Media
Paul Goggins, Home Office Minister with responsibility for community and the voluntary sector, opened the Festival with a speech which showed delegates that some members of the government did know what Community Media was about, and to prove it, he played a clip from his local station, Wythenshawe FM (WFM) in Manchester, featuring not only him but Tony Blair talking to the station. A station that runs with over 80 volunteers, eight of which are under 16.

He said; "This sector has enormous potential, to use communication as a means to regeneration, engagement and involvement, in a way that we've only really just begun to scratch the surface of." He continued, "Community Media is a way of harnessing and challenging the very real and diverse talents to be found in all of our neighbourhoods, bringing people together can help to build up the community."

He also enthused how WFM, one of the 15 pilot radio stations, with its energy, hard work and effort has become part of the media landscape in Manchester; with not only local news, but regular interviews and reports of how national issues are affecting the local community. He mentioned how WFM, like the other Community Radio Stations, has been producing programmes about crime, engaging directly with Public Services and the community to help change peoples' perceptions of their neighbourhoods.

Award Shows Recognition For Community Media in Fife
A new Community Media organisation, based at BRAG Enterprises in Crosshill and Lochgelly in Fife, has won a national award for its business plan and praise from Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Subliminal Directions was created by two Fife based social entrepreneurs, Mark Kelly and Duncan McMahon whilst attending the School for Social Entrepreneurs (based at BRAG) in 2003-04. Mark entered the 'Subliminal' business plan into the Junior Chamber International Best Business Plan of the Year (Scotland) award 2005.

Mark had been writing this plan for over 3 years so took the chance to send it in to the competition and although he believed the plan to be the best concept to create change in our communities, was stunned when it won with a unanimous decision. Scottish First Minister Jack McConnell awarded Mark the prize in Edinburgh.

Mark was also congratulated by the Rt Hon Gordon Brown on the award and the progress of Subliminal Directions on his visit to BRAG Enterprises Ltd, where the organisation is developing its Community Media production studio.

Volunteers take centre stage in unique production opportunity
CSV has been tapping into media talent from all over the UK by offering wannabe and established journalists and filmmakers the chance to capture on camera or in sound, the fascinating stories of how volunteering can change people's lives.

Volunteer Britain is a unique national film, audio and digital storytelling competition, which aims to challenge and change perceptions of volunteering in Britain.The competition was launched by CSV on 6 April and will run until 16 September 2005, with regional finals then a national final taking place a in October.

The Video Nation category of the competition, which has now closed, was a great success, with volunteers from around the UK submitting both inspiring and heart-warming stories of how volunteering has literally transformed their lives.Three lucky entrants will have their stories made into video diaries by the BBC's Video
Nation team in June and July, then aired in August.

The attention now turns to the production side of the competition, in which volunteers are invited to make their own films, audio clips and digital stories about the power of volunteering. A selection of entries will be shown on the Community Channel, BBC local radio, on the web and in local cinemas. The Community Channel will be working in partnership with CSV and the Volunteer England consortium to help promote the Year of the Volunteer.

Full details are available from www.csv.org.uk/volunteerbritain. Alternately, send an SAE to Volunteer Britain Entry Forms,Volunteer Britain, CSV, 237 Pentonville Road, LONDON, N1 9NJ. Your entry must reach them by September 16th.

Community Media Projects Shortlisted for Media Award
209radio, spotlighted in the last edition of Airflash, and the 'Visible Voices' project, were short-listed for the New Statesman New Media Awards 2005 for Community and Information. The key themes of this year's awards are "ingenuity, modernisation and accessibility". They intend to award those who have achieved something of benefit to others, whether in their community or in society at large. Since 1998, these awards have promoted projects that embrace new technology, fresh thinking and creative management in the UK.

"Society has always been promised a great deal by the digital revolution," says John Kampfner, editor of the New Statesman. "The 2005 New Media Awards will highlight the projects that have really delivered on that promise."

'Visible Voices' is an online archive of video media developed by the Community Media Association for Surrey County Council as one of the Local E-Democracy National Pilot Projects funded by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. It was launched in March at the Science Museum in Kensington.

Visible Voices extends the free and open source technologies developed for 'The Showcase' - the world's first streaming media archive of radio, TV and Internet projects from the Community Media sector which enables new audiences to access Community Media via the Internet.
Director of the CMA, Diane Reid, said, "Visible Voices builds upon the success of the CMA's Showcase of Community Media and is part of our commitment to assist individuals and organisations to develop Community Media on as many platforms as possible."
Karl Hartland, one of the Directors from 209radio commented: "This is a bit of a shock and a great honour, especially as 209radio is still waiting for the decision on our FM licence application! It shows how ordinary people can use basic technology to make a real difference. It also shows how Community Media, as the new third tier in UK broadcasting, is already making waves."

Mental Health Media and Community Media
David Jones from the learning difficulties project of Mental Health Media visited the CMA's office last month to look into possibilities of involving people with learning difficulties in Community Media. His project, which is under the umbrella of Mental Health Media, is helping people with learning difficulties make better use of the media in terms of consumers, creators, contributors and content.

MEdia is a project that brings together people with learning difficulties and those with expertise in the media and production to help promote and support media involvement for people with learning difficulties. It has been developed with significant input from people with learning difficulties, while the project, and steering committee are both staffed by a number people with learning difficulties.

The project monitors newspapers, magazines, radio and television programmes to see how people with learning difficulties are represented. They have also been asking people with learning difficulties what they think about the way they are shown in the media, what media they use and in what ways. To find out more, check out their website www.mhmedia.com.

CMA Webcasts Orange Prize for Fiction
The webcast for the Orange Prize for Fiction was delivered last week by the Community Media Association in partnership with the book charity Booktrust and leading Internet media specialists Futurate from Portman Square, London. The Orange Prize, which is for women's fiction, was set up in 1996 because the founders were concerned that many of the biggest literary prizes often appeared to overlook wonderful writing by women.

This year's high-profile event was attended by celebrities from television and the media including Kate Adie, Jo Brand, William Hague and Jenni Murray. The webcast of the event was watched by individual readers, libraries and booksellers. Bill Best, Technical Manager at the CMA, said "The CMA was pleased to deliver a high-quality streaming media service to this important event."

All-Party Parliamentary Community Media Group AGM 2005
The All-Party Parliamentary Community Media Group will hold its fourth Annual General Meeting in July in Westminster. The Group's purpose is to support the growth and development of Community Media (including Community Radio, Community Television, and Community Internet) and to promote understanding of the contribution which Community Media can make to social inclusion, neighbourhood renewal, citizens' participation, local democracy and lifelong learning.

The Officers for the Group are: Ian Stewart MP (Chair), Ian Liddell- Grainger MP (Vice Chair),Tony Lloyd MP (Vice Chair), and Derek Wyatt MP (Secretary). The Community Media Association provides the secretariat for the All-Party Parliamentary Community Media Group. Encourage your MP to participate.

Boss Swap
Mary Dowson, Project Director at Bradford Community Broadcastng and the CMA's Chair, swapped places for a week with BBC Radio Leeds' Managing Editor John Ryan.The exchange resulted in a short film, which will be shown on the Community Channel and available on the CMA's website soon. John and Mary will tell their stories in the next issue of Airflash.The swap was part of a project to increase understanding between BBC staff and Community Media organisations.

CMA Gives Evidence On BBC Green Paper To Lords
Diane Reid, representing the CMA, with Caroline Deihl, Chief Executive of the Media Trust and Jocelyn Hay CBE, Hon. Chair of the Voice of the Listener and Viewer, gave evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee on the Future of the BBC last month. The three organisations are on the steering committee of
Public Voice, a coalition which represents voluntary sector views on citizens' interests in relation to communications policy and regulation.

The three emphasised the need for participation and representation in BBC programme making and for equitable partnership arrangements with Community Media organisations. The full transcript of the session will soon be available through the CMA's website.

How does media regulation and convergence threaten civil liberties?

How does media regulation and convergence threaten civil liberties?

New digital technologies offer immense potential for civil society and it is in the interests of civil liberties that the public's rights to the use of new media should be affirmed. There are, however, political and economic pressures upon governments to restrict certain useage. In the UK the increasing consolidation of media corporations has seen a small number of players wielding huge economic power to gain control of the media market.

There is a fear that, as media converge and ownership becomes concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, the media will cease to cover issues outside the mainstream. Pressures from sponsors or advertisers could limit editors' freedom to cover issues concerning civil liberties that challenge the status quo.

There are growing restrictions on the use of new media, brought about by the increasing volume and sophistication of communications. These restrictions are of particular concern to community and minority groups as well as grass roots activists, but also affect the wider public. Some of the restrictions highlighted by such groups include:

* Restrictions imposed by BT on access to the local loop (the wires that link people's home to the local telephone exchange). Although the regulator (OFTEL) and European regulations require the opening up of the local loop, no efforts have been made to allow access by other service providers.
* Access to higher bandwidth systems being limited mostly to urban areas.
* Proprietary systems which restrict people's ability to use certain digital formats (it will be some years before free and open source systems are available for encoding and decoding of digital data, although some are in development).

Many activists believe that the Government’s 2000 White Paper promised great change, but essentially took a purely commercial view of how media corporations would provide services to the public. They complain that it did not provide a framework to enable free expression within civil society, nor did it ensure that services provided by minority groups would be protected from the actions of mainstream media organisations.

The draft Communications Bill, too, has raised serious concerns about small-scale use of networks and media technologies within the community. A small community group which sets up a network, for example, could be classed as a telecoms provider, and as a broadcaster if it then decides to stream live programs over that network. This would involve prohibitively expensive licensing procedures which could prevent such groups from finding an outlet for expression.

Proposals for an EU Charter of Fundamental Rights Related to Technological Innovation may provide civil society groups with strategies for possible legal challenges to any legislative proposals that restrict their rights to access the new digital communications technologies. In particular the proposed right to expression provides that everyone has the right to hold, receive and impart ideas without the interference of public authorities, regardless of frontiers.