Media and Democracy Day

This Thursday I was at the Bloor St. Cinema (an excellent independent cinema) to see "The War and Peace Trilogy" (a very impressive documentary put together by Indymedia) and listen to a speech by Amy Goodman. Amy works at DemocracyNow, a radio show based in NYC and broadcast around the USA.

Saturday I went to Ryerson University to attend the third annual Media and Democracy Day in Canada, also featuring Amy Goodman, and I saw a slew of documentaries. The event was well organized and interesting, but two things came to my mind:

  • Narrow focus: I, and I am sure a lot of people who care about politics, have seen an amazing range of books, films, webpages and documentaries chronicling the botched US elections in 2000, the war against Afghanistan and Iraq, and the media's role in supporting the White House. This is certainly very important - and understandably draws a lot of interest, especially in the run up to the 2004 presidential elections. However, there is a lot more going on in the world then this - we cannot simply follow CNN's lead and focus only on where the US is directly and overtly involved! What about the war in Chechnya, which Russia seems completely unable to extricate itself from, and where massive human rights abuses are legion. What about the crisis in Sudan? (Certainly, we have seen some television clips, but who understands the background, the history?) What about Haiti (once again, we get news blimps, but very little real analytical information)? And so on, and so on.

  • Lack of emphasis on positive trends: Certainly, there are huge problems in the media concentration today, but there are a lot of really positive examples to inspire us, from the big (Indymedia was mentioned frequently) to the more unknown. In Germany, they have several "open channels" including Offener Kanal Berlin (Open Channel Berlin) where anyone can air their own programmes. There is a studio and personell available for free, and they air programmes made by youth, community groups, immigrant groups and live transmissions of important conferences and meetings. In Italy, long known for their Centri Sociali and community activism, there is a wave of television activism, involving cheap TV transmitters (Italian) that can reach everyone living within a few blocks - really community TV.


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