Cultural diversity

Newsletter
The Diversity of Cultural Expressions

Vol. 5, no 9, Monday, April 11, 2005

To continue mobilization and awareness push for UNESCO adoption of a Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions

IN THIS ISSUE :

Press Releases, Speeches, and Declarations

Recent Publications

Agenda



Press Releases, Speeches, and Declarations

EBU Briefing Paper on the UNESCO draft Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions

European Broadcasting Union (EBU), February 01, 2005 – 2005/02/01

The Europe Group, joined together on 1 last February, adopted an EBU Briefing Paper on the UNESCO preliminary Convention on the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural contents and artistic expressions. The Paper places particular emphasis on the need to: Clarify the legitimacy of national policies to preserve and promote cultural diversity and media pluralism; Recognize the important role of public service institutions, and in particular public service broadcasting; Safeguard the freedom and pluralism of the media; and Clarify the relationship with international trade law so as to improve the coherence of international governance.  

The EBU plans to use this document as a basis for lobbying in favour of adopting the draft UNESCO Convention on Cultural Diversity. [05-09]

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Consultation of Swiss civil society on the UNESCO preliminary draft Convention on the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural contents and artistic expressions

Commission suisse pour l’UNESCO, Berne, le 14 mars 2005 – 2005/03/14

The Swiss Commission for UNESCO, in partnership with Traditions pour Demain and La Déclaration de Berne, has invited communities of Swiss civil society concerned with cultural issues to a third public hearing on the UNESCO preliminary draft Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions . During the meeting, which will be held on April 12, 2005 in Berne, the Swiss civil society will adopt a draft message addressed to the federal administration expressing its concern regarding the overall situation of the process underway at the 2nd Intergovernmental Meeting of Experts in Paris.

The draft message, which is structured around the six points that appear to be the most important for the Swiss civil society, is based on reactions and suggestions gathered during the two previous hearings, and gives particular consideration to the development of multilateral negotiations currently underway and the specific role of Switzerland in this process. The Swiss civil society hopes that the content of the message will allow for the positions it supports to be resumed and defended by the Swiss delegation during the third session of the intergovernmental Meeting of experts which will take place at the end of May 2005. It also considers the third session the last chance to finalize a “proper” draft convention that will then be submitted for approval at the UNESCO General Conference in the fall of 2005. [05-09]

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Cultural Diversity and media pluralism in the age of globalization : 7 th European Ministerial Conference on Mass Media Policy in Europe

Council of Europe , Kyiv, 10-11 March 2005 – 2005/03/10-11

Defining the role and the responsibilities of journalists in crisis situations, discuss how to protect media pluralism and cultural diversity in the face of globalisation, and how to defend human rights in the “information society”, were the main themes of the 7th European Ministerial Conference on Mass Media Policy in Kyiv - Ukraine from 10-11 March 2005. This conference, who will include communications ministers from the 46 Council of Europe member states, had as a subject : Integration and diversity: the new frontiers of European media and communications policy. . Placed under the aegis of the Council of Europe, this conference also joined together well-known media figures and NGO representatives.

Three issues served as a basis for further discussion: In what way has the diversity of media ownership any significance for the democratic development of society? Does a global media concentration affect diversity at the national level? What should the role of the Council of Europe be with regard to diversity and pluralism? Many speakers, and particularly representatives from smaller Member States and from civil society, voiced concern about media concentration in their country, and the need to improve international monitoring and transparency of ownership. In this regard, they state that powerful international players and large national or transnational groups are taking growing control of both the political sphere and the media; the resulting unavoidable conflicts of interest are harmful not only to cultural diversity but also to democracy itself. Moreover, the media market may be targeted at quick profits and streamlining/narrowing down of the media available and, if things go really badly, may also damage the common values and pluralism of opinion, news and entertainment that so significantly contribute to giving a society energy and cohesion. But it can also be directed both at quality and quantity, pluralism of opinions, news and entertainment, and at media justice, locally and globally. Thus, if media concentration poses a direct threat to cultural diversity and to independent news coverage, however, at the European level, some media concentration, naturally within certain limits which we must clearly define, may be necessary to withstand the pressures of major non-European, and also European, media groups and to guarantee a diversified supply of European content as a vehicle for conveying common values and local identities.This is what the struggle is all about : « creating a market in which there is scope for diversity, both in content and ownership. This is primarily a matter of such factors as competition laws and financing systems, while being a question of interest both in the global and national context ».

On this basis, participants stress that « It is extremely important that society in general shoulders its responsibility for broad and diverse media content. For political society, it is even more important to monitor developments in the media sector closely and to advance good solutions and conditions, both for the general public and the media sector. If this is done carefully and responsibly, the chances are that it will be possible to preserve the democratic values that the media sector now helps to form and can help to form in the future ». They also state, « In the context of globalisation, we are concerned that local cultural industries and products may disappear from the local market. Promoting cultural diversity means that, while people are given a choice in the range of cultural products, local artists and creative industries are nevertheless protected. It has to be recognised that cultural vitality also depends on contacts with other cultures. In this respect, cultural diversity should not only be protected, but also promoted ».

As a result, the 7th Ministerial Conference on Mass Media Policy has identified a number of priority areas for audiovisual and media policies in Europe . Ministers stressed  «  The particularly important role of public service broadcasting in the digital environment, as an element of social cohesion, a reflection of cultural diversity and an essential factor for pluralistic communication accessible to all ». They further pointed out,  « T he need for transparency in the media sector, including transparency of ownership, and the importance of monitoring media concentrations, both at the national and European level ». The conference concluded with the adoption of a political declaration and three separate resolutions, one on each of the main themes. Participants also adopted an action plan for Council of Europe-led co-operation in the fields of the media and new communication services for the next few years. At the request of the NGO Forum preceding the Conference, an additional paragraph was added to the Political Declaration to recall  « The need to safeguard the independence of the media and to guarantee freedom from interference by political authorities ». [05-09]

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Cultural Diversity and Dialogue among Civilizations : a necessary condition to improve international relations and development

UNESCO, April 5, 2005 – 2005/04/05

The Director-General of UNESCO , Koïchiro Matsuura chaired in Paris the opening of an International Conference on the Dialogue among Civilizations, Cultures and Peoples, attended by more than 300 participants, including eminent academics and decisions makers from the Arab region, Asia, Europe and the United States . Recalling that dialogue underpinned the creation of the United Nations and UNESCO, the Director-General said that « the processes of globalization, by creating an unprecedented framework of meetings and interactions among peoples, have rendered the building of bridges among civilizations, cultures and peoples absolutely vital. Such dialogue must by necessity be soundly based on democracy, human rights and basic liberties, the sole guarantors of lasting peace and development and indispensable conditions for reconciliation ».

In his keynote address , Mr. Mohammad Khatami, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran , praised UNESCO’s contribution to dialogue among civilizations, highlighting UNESCO’s Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (adopted in 2003), its Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity (adopted in 2001), the preparation of a convention on cultural diversity, and ongoing work on the ethics of science . Pleading for the moralization of politics, the President argued that « The political translation of dialogue among civilizations would consist in arguing that culture, morality and art must prevail on politics. (…) As long as politics remain estranged from morality and impervious to culture (…) human rights will not be defended ».

Moreover, UNESCO, as lead agency for the dialogue among civilizations, is engaged in dialogue-related activities in all of its domains of competence, including education, the sciences, culture and communication. [05-09]

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Free Culture - How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity

Lawrence Lessig, The Penguin Press & Rédaction Transversales ,   348 pages, October 15, 2004 – 2004/10/15

In Free culture, author Lawrence Lessig, an American lawyer, stresses that the struggle that rages just now centers on two ideas: "piracy" and "property". And its aim is to explore these two ideas. However, he warns : « The argument here is not much about the Internet itself. It is instead about the consequence of the Internet to a part of our tradition that is much more fundamental. That tradition is the way our culture gets made. We come from a tradition of "free culture": not "free" as in "free beer", to borrow a phrase from the founder of the free- software movement, but "free" as in "free speech," "free markets," "free trade," "free enterprise," "free will," and "free elections" ». According to the author, a free culture supports and protects creators and innovators. It does this directly by granting intellectual property rights. But it does so indirectly by limiting the reach of those rights, to guarantee that follow-on creators and innovators remain as free as possible from the control of the past. A free culture is not a culture without property, just as a free market is not a market in which everything is free. The opposite of a free culture is a "permission culture": a culture in which creators get to create only with the permission of the powerful, or of creators from the past. This idea is an element of the argument of Free Culture.

Moreover, the central theme of the author’s argument is not just on the concentration of power produced by concentrations in ownership, but more importantly, if because less visibly, on the concentration of power produced by a radical change in the effective scope of the law : « The law, says it, is changing; that change is altering the way our culture gets made. A free culture has been our past, but it will only be our future if we change the path we are on right now ». Instead, the free culture defended by the author in this book is a balance between anarchy and control : « A free culture, like a free market, is filled with property. It is filled with rules of property and contract that get enforced by the state. But just as a free market is perverted if its property becomes feudal, so too can a free culture be queered by extremism in the property rights that define it. That is what I fear about our culture today. It is against that extremism that this book is written ».

In Free culture, the author attacks the manner in which large “cultural” industries use technology and law to prevent the emergence of new forms of creativity that threaten their positions as market leaders. According to the author, the history of intellectual property has been a search for balance between the protection of creators, inventors, and their distributors on one side, and the enrichment of a public creative good on the other, which allows for any creation to benefit from previous creations. The sudden emergence of information and communication technologies (TIC) has led industries to defend their quasi-monopoly on the legal front first. He states, “For 30 years, each new piece of legislation leading to stronger ownership rights (copyright, patents) has restricted the public domain.” These industries then began to defend the technological front. The author states, “Manufacturers are trying to include measures to protect their rights concerning artefacts, such as the anti-piracy measure for CDs and DVDs, or DRM (Digital Rights Managements). With the freedom of American culture – its democratic foundation – at risk, the author proposes a new balance ownership and freedom. His recommendations include a symbolic act that would be made by an author after 45 years to renew his copyright: “Works neglected by their authors which no longer have a commercial value would fall under the public domain.”

Free Culture is available for free under a Creative Commons license. You may redistribute, copy, or otherwise reuse/remix this book provided that you do so for non-commercial purposes and credit Professor Lessig. [05-09]

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Recent Publications

Free Culture - How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity

Lawrence Lessig, The Penguin Press & Rédaction Transversales ,   348 pages, October 15, 2004 – 2004/10/15

In Free culture, author Lawrence Lessig, an American lawyer, stresses that the struggle that rages just now centers on two ideas: "piracy" and "property". And its aim is to explore these two ideas. However, he warns : « The argument here is not much about the Internet itself. It is instead about the consequence of the Internet to a part of our tradition that is much more fundamental. That tradition is the way our culture gets made. We come from a tradition of "free culture": not "free" as in "free beer", to borrow a phrase from the founder of the free- software movement, but "free" as in "free speech," "free markets," "free trade," "free enterprise," "free will," and "free elections" ». According to the author, a free culture supports and protects creators and innovators. It does this directly by granting intellectual property rights. But it does so indirectly by limiting the reach of those rights, to guarantee that follow-on creators and innovators remain as free as possible from the control of the past. A free culture is not a culture without property, just as a free market is not a market in which everything is free. The opposite of a free culture is a "permission culture": a culture in which creators get to create only with the permission of the powerful, or of creators from the past. This idea is an element of the argument of Free Culture.

Moreover, the central theme of the author’s argument is not just on the concentration of power produced by concentrations in ownership, but more importantly, if because less visibly, on the concentration of power produced by a radical change in the effective scope of the law : « The law, says it, is changing; that change is altering the way our culture gets made. A free culture has been our past, but it will only be our future if we change the path we are on right now ». Instead, the free culture defended by the author in this book is a balance between anarchy and control : « A free culture, like a free market, is filled with property. It is filled with rules of property and contract that get enforced by the state. But just as a free market is perverted if its property becomes feudal, so too can a free culture be queered by extremism in the property rights that define it. That is what I fear about our culture today. It is against that extremism that this book is written ».

In Free culture, the author attacks the manner in which large “cultural” industries use technology and law to prevent the emergence of new forms of creativity that threaten their positions as market leaders. According to the author, the history of intellectual property has been a search for balance between the protection of creators, inventors, and their distributors on one side, and the enrichment of a public creative good on the other, which allows for any creation to benefit from previous creations. The sudden emergence of information and communication technologies (TIC) has led industries to defend their quasi-monopoly on the legal front first. He states, “For 30 years, each new piece of legislation leading to stronger ownership rights (copyright, patents) has restricted the public domain.” These industries then began to defend the technological front. The author states, “Manufacturers are trying to include measures to protect their rights concerning artefacts, such as the anti-piracy measure for CDs and DVDs, or DRM (Digital Rights Managements). With the freedom of American culture – its democratic foundation – at risk, the author proposes a new balance ownership and freedom. His recommendations include a symbolic act that would be made by an author after 45 years to renew his copyright: “Works neglected by their authors which no longer have a commercial value would fall under the public domain.”

Free Culture is available for free under a Creative Commons license. You may redistribute, copy, or otherwise reuse/remix this book provided that you do so for non-commercial purposes and credit Professor Lessig. [05-09]

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Agenda

" Defending European cinema means defending cultural diversity ! "

Frédéric Sojcher, cinéaste et enseignant-chercheur à l’université Paris I, le 31 mars 2005 – 2005/03/31

In this interview by Clémentine Forissier, Frédéric Sojcher wonders whether we can still talk about European cinema when American films distributed in Europe in 2003 made up 72.1% of the market. This represents a huge difference compared to the number of European films seen outside their national markets, which made up 6%. In a context of globalization, how should European cinema then proceed? Does unity exist in European production? According to the author, economic figures show that there is very little movement for European films in Europe, and that shares of the European market move very poorly beyond Europe’s borders. According to Mr. Sojcher, “ Eurimage’ s budget, the European fund for co-production assistance, is equivalent to half of the budget of an American blockbuster. It’s not enough. The audiovisual portion of the Media Programme is small. The comparison is often made that the the European Union allocates less money to the Media Programme than to tobacco planters in Greece. The budgets are much too low to reverse the trend between the American and European film industries. With a bit of cynicism, it could be said that today, the only European films that exist are American films, since they are the only ones to be seen in all 25 member countries.”

In a similar vein, the author points out that in 1993, during discussions on the cultural exception in the GATT agreements, the deficit of the trade balance between the United States and Europe regarding film exports was 3 billion Euros in the United States’ favour. Classifying cinema as a cultural exception was considered a victory. Today the deficit is 9 billion Euros, despite the policies put into place. And the issues remain the same. The author also maintains, “Defending European cinema does not only mean defending Europe. It means defending cultural diversity, which can and must exist everywhere. Cultural diversity is a result of artistic diversity. Exchanges exist in Europe for co-productions, but there are very few cultural exchanges. The political issues facing Europe today also apply to film. Do we merely want a European market or, rather, a Europe of cultures? I believe that the only solution today will come from the increased awareness not of audiovisual professionals, but of citizens. They must realize that it is vital for them to have a plurality of films.” [05-09]

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