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    UNIS/PI/197
    19November 1999
    Fourth World Television Forum Opens at Headquarters - Addressing Theme:
    ‘Mirror or Map? The Impact of Television on Peace and Development’

     
    Secretary-General Addresses Forum from Istanbul, Turkey; Discusses ‘Television and the United Nations’ with Three Television Journalists

    NEW YORK, 18 November (UN Headquarters) -- Addressing the opening of the World Television Forum at Headquarters this morning -- through a live videoconference from Istanbul, Turkey -- Secretary-General Kofi Annan said television was high on the United Nations list of new partners in the fight against war and poverty.

    Timely media attention could give the world community the chance to do something about abuses or potential conflicts before they exploded in all-out warfare, the Secretary-General said.  "You could help us”, he said, “and help the people of those countries, simply by staying with us -- and staying with the story”.  Together, it was possible to make the world understand the United Nations better by understanding that it was their United Nations; theirs to improve, theirs to engage, theirs to embrace.  

    The two-day Forum, which is the fourth such annual event, has brought together television professionals, policy makers and United Nations officials to explore the theme of "Mirror or Map: The Impact of Television on Peace and Development".   A series of workshops will be held on news and current affairs programming; educational programming; and the role of television in development.

    The President of the United Nations General Assembly, Theo-Ben Gurirab (Namibia), told participants this morning that one television set per village, together with the programming to instruct and train, could work miracles.  He called on the industry to co-produce programmes with United Nations Television to generate quality educational and outreach programming.  Together, it would be possible to create a culture of peace, tolerance, caring and human security.  

    Television could be a “formidable instrument” in the struggle for peace and development and the battle to eradicate poverty, by providing information and raising awareness, the President of the Economic and Social Council, Francesco Paolo Fulci (Italy), said.  In the wrong hands, however, it could amplify political and social discord, exaggerate cultural differences and values, and promote strife and confrontation, rather than harmony and reconciliation.  Failure to observe an ethic of communication could unleash dangerous and destablizing elements in many countries at vulnerable moments in their history. 
    The Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information and moderator of this morning's meeting, Kensaku Hogen, noted that the Forum was becoming more globalized, with over 800 registered participants from some 90 countries.  The Forum provided television professionals an opportunity to discuss the link between programming and the United Nations central mission: the peace and development of the human family.  Television contributed to the shaping of the social, political and economic forces that animated human affairs.  Those same forces, in turn, shaped television content.  

    The keynote event this morning was a dialogue on the theme of "Television and the United Nations" with the Secretary-General and three prominent figures from television news:  Tom Brokaw, Anchor and Managing Editor of NBC News; Jean-Pierre Elkabbach, Chroniqueur Editorialiste, Europe 1; and Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Johannesburg Bureau Chief for CNN.  Panelists also took questions from the audience.

     In the course of the dialogue, support was expressed for the creation of a United Nations global television news network.  The Secretary-General, however, said such a network would cost millions of dollars, and was perhaps not now possible.  Other topics raised were the need to package news in an attractive way, in order to engage viewers in world affairs, and the importance of securing diverse sources of information.  While the impact of the Internet was highlighted by some, others drew attention to the gap between "technology rich" and "technology poor" nations and stressed that the poor had to be "wired" in order to take advantage of available information and education.

     Statements were also made this morning by representatives of the Forum's sponsors:  Roberto Zaccaria, Chairman of the Board of Radiotelevisione Italiana (RAI); Fedele Confalonieri, Chairman of Mediaset Group; Robert Ottenhoff, for the World Broadcasting Unions; Ahmet Oren of TGRT Turkey, for the International Council of National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Yoshimori Imari, speaking for the Chairman of Nippon Hoso Kyokai (NHK); Reinhard Keune, of Friedrich Ebert Stiftung; and Guiliano Beretta, Director-General of the European Telecommunications Satellite Organization (EUTELSAT).
     
     Workshops will be held this afternoon and tomorrow morning.  The Forum will reconvene at 3 p.m. tomorrow for the closing session.

     Welcoming Statement

     KENSAKU HOGEN, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, said this was the fourth consecutive year that the Forum had been convened to discuss the challenges facing the television industry worldwide and the central role that television played in addressing critical issues of the day. 
     
     The General Assembly had proclaimed 21 November "World Television Day" following the first Forum, in 1996, which bore witness to the importance the international community attached to the role of television, he said.  Previous Forums had dealt with such themes as globalization, the new multimedia environment and the future of audio-visual memory.  This year's Forum was entitled "Mirror or Map:  The Impact of Television on Peace and Development".  

     Television contributed significantly to the shaping of the social, political and economic forces that animated human affairs, he said.  In turn, those same forces shaped television content.  The current forum provided television executives and professionals from around the world with the opportunity to discuss the future of programme content and how it related to the United Nations central mission:  the peace and development of the human family.  

     He said he looked forward to a dynamic and inspiring examination of the many issues that the theme touched upon.  The number of participants and the geographical representation at this year's event was greater than ever before; there were over 800 registered participants from some 90 countries here today.  This year's Forum would include workshops on three broad sub-themes:  news and current affairs programming; educational programming; and the role of television in development.

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