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29 / 05 / 2004
Milagros del Corral: It is difficult to create cultural policies in the south when the priority is to eradicate poverty

The Dialogue “Global Audiovisual Communication, Cultural Diversity and Regulation” dealt with the broadcasting industry in developing countries. Topics such as production and exportation were debated at the conference, whose keynote speakers included Milagros del Corral, Dima Dabbous-Sensenig, Uday Dholakia, Basyouni Ibrahim and Jung Byoung Gug.

Milagros del Corral, deputy sub-director general of culture for Unesco, stated that “it is difficult to create cultural policies that are in line with the economic reality of underdeveloped countries as first they have to create policies to eradicate poverty.” Corral explained that such countries “cannot get involved in this area because production and marketing is very expensive, so the solution is to buy foreign packages at a low cost.” Del Corral added that, as regards cultural matters, developing countries prefer to invest in tourism, books and crafts.

Del Corral went on to explain that, in general, those countries which produce culture “increasingly tend to iron out their cultural differences to make their products more profitable.” Furthermore, she noted that the most urgent objective is to invest in vocational training and the fight against pirating. She also said that one of Unesco’s priorities is to collaborate with countries in the South but that “it seems difficult to convince these countries of the importance of cultural diversity considering they have different priorities.”

Dima Dabbous-Sensenig, professor of Communications at the Lebanese American University, explained the current situation of the media in Lebanon and that ground television is controlled by the state and, thus, the content is restricted. To avoid this, Dabbous-Sensenig said that they applied broadcasting quotas, but this did not lead to any significant results. “The satellite revolution, which everyone though would lead to pluralism and less control, has not had the results we expected” added Dabbous-Sensenig.

Dabbous-Sensenig also explained that there is “a lack of awareness about ethnic and cultural diversity in Lebanon and without such recognition on a national scale, this request on an international level has no meaning.” Therefore, the solution, explained Dabbous-Sensenig, can be found in “educating the children of today so that cultural diversity becomes a demand of the future.”

Uday Dholakia, consultant of Global Consulting UK Limited, spoke about minority groups in the United Kingdom and the viewpoint of Muslims in the press. He explained that his organization has convinced “most newspapers not to write the words ‘Islamic’ and ‘terrorist’ in the same sentence.” Dholakia believes that broadcasting quotas are a solution and that it is necessary to give a voice to other groups, not only as regards content but also in advertising.

Basyouni Ibrahim Hamada, Mass Communications professor a the United Arab Emirates University, stated that “the era of satellite poses a major threat to the Arab world, as cultural diversity does not mean closing the doors on Islamic culture and that the cultural exceptions should be seen as a form of diversity, not as a form of repression.” Ibrahim continued by saying that “Islam is not only a culture, but also a faith and that Western countries often lack tolerance with the Arabs”. Ibrahim reminded listeners of the US policy on Iraq and Israel and the fact that it is forbidden to wear headscarves at French schools. As regards property, Ibrahim explained that, after a period during which “all media was controlled by the state, the situation finally changed in the 1990s and now there is more freedom, though on different levels depending on the country.”

Jung Byoung Gug, member of the National Assembly of Korea, explained that thanks to the broadcasting quotas in his country they have achieved good Korean programming. Furthermore, not only are the projections mostly Korean, but they have also managed to export their products to the rest of the world and win awards at prestigious film festivals. Gug stated that other countries have tried to get involved their policies and that “increasing deregulation puts pressure on the media to deal with culture as a commodity, which would be a disaster if it is successful as all that will come out of it is a monolithic culture.”