14 November 2003


NEW YORK, 13 November (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the occasion of World Television Day, 21 November:

More than a generation ago, Marshall McLuhan predicted that television would bring us together into a “global village”.  Today, with satellites and other technologies making it easier for television to cross borders, we are closer to that vision than ever.  Our world is more and more a single “information society”, and television, as the world’s most powerful medium of communication, is a key part of that society.

Television can be a tremendous force for good.  It can educate great numbers of people about the world around them.  It can show us how much we have in common with our neighbours, near and far.  And, it can shed light on the dark corners, where ignorance and hatred fester.  The television industry is also in a unique position to promote mutual understanding and tolerance -- with content that tells the stories not just about the powerful, but about the powerless, and not just about life in the world’s richest pockets, but also in the developing countries that are home to the majority of the world’s population.

Next month in Geneva, the first-ever World Summit on the Information Society will provide a global platform to address a wide range of important issues.  One central topic will be how best to put information technology, including television, at the service of development.  Here, too, the world’s broadcasters can make an important contribution, for example, by using animation, children’s programming and reality shows to explain the Millennium Development Goals, adopted by world leaders three years ago.

The Summit will also discuss press freedom and cultural diversity.  Freedom of the press is essential to our efforts to build an open, inclusive information society, and to peace and development, in general.  But the flow of information ought not be one way only, from North to South; this has led to a burgeoning “content divide” that threatens to overwhelm or marginalize local views and voices.  We must find ways to address this situation, and to preserve and promote cultural and linguistic diversity -- without infringing on media freedoms.  Press freedom and pluralism of content can, and must, develop together in the information society.

To complement the deliberations at the Summit, the United Nations is organizing a parallel event:  a World Electronic Media Forum, which will bring together media executives and practitioners from around the world, along with policy makers and representatives of the United Nations system, to discuss the new global media environment.  On this observance of World Television Day, I invite the world's television professionals to seize the opportunity presented by the upcoming Forum, and consider how they can work with the United Nations to ensure that television contributes to progress and to the well-being of all the world's people.

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