Paris international conference supports Tunisian and Egyptian broadcast media
June 1st, 2011 - 17:54 UTC
by Andy Sennitt.

On the initiative of UNESCO, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and France Télévisions, in collaboration with the Arab States Broadcasting Union (ASBU) and the International Radio & Television Union (URTI), a conference was held yesterday to support the development of public service media in Tunisia and Egypt, in the presence of the new executives of Tunisian and Egyptian public television and radio.

More than 200 delegates representing European and Arabic international institutions, international professional organizations, ambassadors of donor countries, numerous major audiovisual media organizations and several cooperation and development agencies spent the day discussing how to help public service media in Tunisia and Egypt.

The debates, opened by Mrs Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO, Mr Rémy Pflimlin, CEO of France Télévisions, Mr Jean-Paul Philippot, President of the EBU, Mr Slaheddine Maaoui, Director General of ASBU, and Mrs Rodi Kratsa, Vice-President of the European Parliament, contained a wealth of information on the needs of Tunisia and Egypt in the media sector. The discussions also expressed the willingness of the new Tunisian and Egyptian media executives to ensure that these television channels, radio stations and new media services embrace pluralism and social cohesion of the citizens in their countries so that they can become editorially independent public service media.

Having stressed the need to strengthen the public service media in their most underprivileged regions, the Tunisian and Egyptian executives listed their priorities in four essential sectors:

1. Staff training, in particular journalists to cover the upcoming elections in the two countries. UNESCO, CFI, Deutsche Welle, France24, RFI and Radio France have already undertaken activities in this sector. RAI is planning to provide major assistance in the training sector.
2. Technical equipment to bring their resources into line with their new ambitions. The conference enabled the foundations to be laid for coordinating technical assistance. For example, France Télévisions has already shipped reporting equipment to Tunisia, RAI will provide training assistance and the BBC will focus on providing aid to Egypt.
3. International programme offer to provide a window on the world for audiences that have become aware of international issues of which they know they are a part. France 24 is searching for ways to meet this demand and Tunisia TV has already received 154 documentaries from the URTI exchange bank.
4. Help in setting up regulatory authorities and a new legislative framework. The French and Belgian regulatory authorities have decided to provide their support. The EBU also offered its experience in drafting media legislation, in addition to its coordination role among its Members.

UNESCO has launched two in-depth studies whose recommendations will help to redraft the legislation to align it with international standards. The EBU and the Spanish government indicated the amount of their contributions. Several institutions and organizations stated they were willing to help finance the broadcasting sector, notably the European Union and the Agence Française de Développement. ERTU suggested that an international committee should be set up to follow the development of radio and television in Egypt. The BBC would support Egypt in various sectors.

The final report will make it possible to lay the foundations of long-term cooperation to promote freedom of expression and media pluralism while strengthening the broadcasters’ professional and institutional capacities.