How Can We Reach the Media Have-Nots of the Developed and Developing Worlds? ITU/United Nations

29 September 2011 - A Workshop on Access in Nairobi, Kenya

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September 29, 2011 - 16:30PM


The following is the output of the real-time captioning taken during the Sixth Meeting of the IGF, in Nairobi, Kenya. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid to understanding the proceedings at the session, but should not be treated as an authoritative record.



   (Last-Minute Change in Rooms for this session; CART writer waiting for audio feed. 

CART services begin at 9:30 AM)


     >> If you look at the change in the demography of the world, in general terms as we tackle the main -- when they live longer we have a number of age-related -- elderly part of the population.  When we are working with making something like television accessible we're not just concerned with persons, different kinds of disabilities or age.  We also have the challenge of money.  I worked for several years -- also lived in Tanzania.  When I lived in Bolivia, many people I was working with was part of a rural economy and for them, $25 for -- so one of the dimensions we need to consider if we are thinking about economic accessibility

(Lost audio)

(Standing by for audio)

     >> Making sure they are intelligible.  We can read what's on the screen and actually produce different kinds of access, this is a brief summary on the left, lady with a hearing aid so we can use signing and captioning and sometimes those who are blind or have visual I am appearments, making sure they have glasses but secondly we can add an additional description which is called audio description so blind viewers or viewers with serious visual impairments can understand what is happening and follow those programs because they know where they are and who the people are. 

     Bottom left, we have young viewers.  So if you have programs in a language that is not their mother tongue, subtitles won't necessarily work for them.  They can use readers and then we have the option of dubbing or using voiceovers, fancy term for "lecture" and for countries which have many -- a number of different national languages or regional languages, South Africa, for example, has seven languages mentioned in its Constitution, we can use -- do things like -- when it comes to the elderly who find it difficult to hear what's going on, we have to find out which language we are going to provide subtitles, same language subtitles in order to cater to that particular group. 

     Finally, we've got migrants and immigrants as I mentioned before, South Africa, like many other countries in East Africa have a number of different regional languages and when we're talking about services for people from -- living in the different part of the country than their own if these people can read their language and if oh which language we'll offer as captions or subtitles. 

     Of course it's an economic issue.  I'll come to that briefly.  It's not incredibly expensive to provide subtitles in at least one language. 

     Finally, other viewers or programs for foreign language can -- by offering dubbing or captioning in international languages.  We have a lot of options in digital, up to nine languages, sometimes, so there is something, a specification of this in the standards. 

     Access services are really part of what we do in broadcast television in particular, digital television, and in parts of Africa in open areas where IP-based television is emerging, there are certainly a lot of options for doing this, too. 

     How do we move forward?  What options do we have?  It's important to get a bird's-eye view, big picture.  Looking at the top just to understand the totality in the same way as this picture.  A bird's-eye view from a helicopter shows(off-mic).  To move forward we need to be able to discuss media accessibility, TV accessibility, we live vicariously, we start with persons with disabilities and keep in mind the slogan (Speaking off-mic).

     >> FEMALE SPEAKER:  (Whispering over the speaker)

     >>  -- Involved in television, those who produce programs, those who broadcast programs, those who run pay TV services, legislators and regulators over and above the viewers them receives.  We need to agree on priorities, discuss solutions and also the business model, where will we get the money from and what kind of obstacles are there to move forward and make -- so to move forward essentially means to put pieces together, we need a vision of media that are truly accessible.  We need to be where we want to be.  We need to then look at where are we -- what kind of obstacles are we facing and to some ways of measuring whether we are achieving our goals and turning that vision into reality and we have some shared metrics associated to keep -- so we know we are on the right track to making television accessible.  I'm the Chairman of an exploratory group which was set up to look at audio-visual media, making things on television, cinema, on the Web and mobile.

(Talking at the same time)

The focus is on the media.  We have got seven main deliverables.  Most important one is this one at the top, recommending a road map with actions that should be followed by the ETU to promote digital AV media accessibility.  As you can see from the slides, we've got six other deliverables which lead up to a report with a road map of actions which are needed to.

(Talking at the same time)

And along the way we hope to identify things which we can use not just by the IT but are broader. 

(Talking at the same time)

For the green boxes here we are planning to have some public deliverables, some preliminary sites already in November which will be available on our website.  That's what we're trying to do. 

     Television can be made accessible.  Just a question of building on good examples around the world and engaging everybody involved in the whole business of making television accessible.      Thank you very much.  If you need to get further information about what we're doing in the focus group of the ITU, please contact us at the website or through the focus group Secretariat.      If you need to contact me as the Chairman, you are most welcome to do so by e-mail if you want to. 

     >> It's over.  I'm sorry for the presentation but the good thing is this video clips is available on this website so if you are interested you can play it from the web yourself. 

     Really now it is my pleasure to pass on the floor to my colleague from EBU.  This is Giacomo. 

     >> GIACOMO:  Okay, so thank you for this, being so patient to move with us from the different rooms and through the different problems with technology. 

     Thank you to the people that tried to help us sort it out.  I will try to shorten my presentation, this one is made mainly by the technical department -- perspective that is by the new corporation put in place with the telecom world.  As has been explained before main reason for this focus group is the fact there were two parallel activities.  One of them is concerning Internet and telecom world and the other ones are digital broadcasting world aiming to solve the same problems more or less. 

     Through this focus group now we try to have at least the same approach to the problem and the interaction between the two worlds could provide solutions.  This is part of the problem we encounter when we have to deal with how to make better service of access to all members and viewers.

     The manager of the broadcasting companies, that is important, the problem is that it's very difficult to know the impact of we are reaching effectively.  There is also a problem for the creative stuff, et cetera.  We will go through the main of this.  Some I will skip to be shorter. 

     The final problem is the main problem.  As you know the worldwide there is a shrinking of resources from -- of the public service broadcasters, the shrinking of public resources so sometimes the people that run companies, they have to make decision and to make arbitration about the different kind of priorities.  Priorities about the access for minorities, access for people with disabilities, other kind of access or sometimes even how to finance the normal activity of the company. 

     So this finance is the first problem.  Second problem is to convince the management how important is this aspect of their activity.  You know the big problem with managers is to convince to go beyond short-term and create service for access is typically a long-term activity. 

     The audience measurement.  One of the typical questions we have to deal with is every day people ask us, but how many people are really using the service that we are providing?  This in the broadcasting world of yesterday was impossible to know.  But probably in the future this will change. 

     The problem about creativity.  To produce good access services means that you have to involve from the beginning the people that are producing the creative aspect of the television and of the Internet because if you are not considered includers and setting parameters from the very beginning, then in most cases what you will do will be just to put some patches on existing realities and will not be the best way to do it. 

     Equipment availability.  Here we are going more in an area that concerns the IGF-related debate. 

     There is a problem of the availability of equipment.  There is a problem but this problem is also linked to the standardization.  Until it's really defined the manufacturers, they have not incentive to go for it. 

     This will slow the old process. 

     There are some possibility to accelerate the process through intervention through the regulation because of course if some technical specifications are made mandatory by the governments or the regions or by national institution this is could speed the process and facilitate the introduction of the new technologies.  But again the main problem we have to face is the lack of worldwide standards. 

     If you buy the decoder in a certain area of the world, you will find a certain number of services for access that are on channel 1 or on channel 3 or on the facility number 7 or number 9. 

     But if we bring this decoder in other parts of the world then this will not work because on channel 1 you will receive another thing and on the facility number 7 you will receive another kind of thing. 

     The work that the focus group is making is very, very important.  But now you have through the same devices you access different media.  The problem is that if we still have parameters that are set up by media, then the same content could not be seen in the same way according to the different device that is we use.  This is the problem that the focus group has to deal with. 

     Then the problem of the benchmarks of course because all the declaration on mainly principle declaration about how important is access but they don't say specifically which kind of access, which level of access we have to say and provide. 

     Probably as you know in European countries this has been introduced and also in other countries in other parts of the world, developing countries, developed countries in the contract between the state and broadcast error for licensing broadcasting there are certain number of requirements for certain level of access services to be provided to the population but this is still a minority of cases and of course in most cases the government forget to say how this is to be financed.  That is not a negligible problem. 

     Where are the hopes for changing this situation to introduce something new for the future?

     The biggest hope for the future is lying in the hybrid system.  This is the focus group main core, that means you can receive the same contents through different devices and all devices will try to respond to same criteria.  The day you can are a return channel inincludeed in your TV set, hybrid television basically is that, you don't need any more to go to the decoder to provide subtitles because they could be provided on the Internet and then you can overlap the Internet source of with the scroll of the subtitles into the television page that you are receiving on your digital receiver. 

     Hybrid television is the first tool we will have.  As you know in the U.S. already available this year in the Europe will be available next year.  There is a problem about the regulation that is still not solved.  There is the two-screen television experience where the viewers want to see, to receive at same time two different sources.  And there is the hybrid radio, because also radio now being received on the Internet could provide different degree of deepness of the experience of the receiving signal. 

     This is how the hybrid TV looks like.  You can have a TV signal and add as many as you want broadband signal coming from the Internet or other sources. 

     This is also possible for hybrid radio that you can receive on the screen on your cars or portable devices and this is the possibility to add many screens into your home experience of course, combination of different media, and this, all this new possibilities, need to be standardized. 

     Again, this is the reason why we work within the ITU and focus group's main goal is exactly to use the best possible application of hybrid technologies. 

     But when standards will be set up, next problem is how to introduce this through regulation and how to make it wireless possible in use worldwide. 

     That's all and I thank you very much for your attention.  If there are questions, I will be happy to answer later.  Thank you. 

     >> You will introduce --

    >> Again, this was a perspective that was a little bit made by the developed countries.  Of course, if we bring the same problem in a different part of the world, you can see that the problems are slightly the same but with different approaches and priorities.  This is the reason why within the world broadcasting we ask our colleagues from the African broadcasting union, AUV,

And (off-mic) is here representing AUV to focus on the same questions but from an African view. 

     The floor is yours.  Thank you. 

     >>  Thank you, Giacomo.  As you have been introduced as the delegate from African Broadcasting Union, I think is relatively new name because we used to be known as UTINA, Union --

(Speaking a language other than English)

-- and I would like to thank colleagues from Europe EBU and ITU because we work very closely together.  I would like just to start by saying the issues which have been raised by my colleague from ITU and EBU are similar, particularly when it comes to lack of standardization and how the technology changes so fast.  These are so similar with what we experience in Africa, so I will not dwell to that. 

     I would have taken a slightly African perspective.  As you know the topic which we are addressing to was how can we reach the media have-nots of the developing worlds and in this case Africa.  In my presentation, I started -- presentation we just had that he says at least one in six persons in the world has some kind of problem watching TV. 

     I can tell you that that's a very, if we had that in Africa, very far.  Because I think that ratio in Africa is very large.  Not 1:6 but going to be 2:4 or 3:6.  50/50.  But this is because the number is big, given that we have several problems, it is not having a difficult -- in Africa we are talking of some of have-nots do not even have access to television.  They don't own one and they have no opportunity to watch television. 

     In some study we did, we carried out in the late 1980s, we found in Africa where you have one television set, you would have ten people watching and that will tell you that there were very few TV sets in Africa. 

     The situation has improved slightly but we are not really able to talk of having a larger number. 

     So the medium in Africa which is still the biggest medium is radio.  We shall see later why radio is the medium for Africa. 

     But this does not mean television is not effective.  In fact, the most effective medium because of the picture.  It is said that 1,000 -- one picture is worth one thousand words. 

     Now, the question, who are the persons we classify as the media have nots in Africa.  I have come up with five categories. 

     The first one is persons who are extremely economically deprived and therefore cannot own a TV set so these are the groups I was referring to.  They have no access. 

     The other group people, particularly those who live in the rural areas and are quite poor.  You may know there are lot of slums in many African cities and people who live in these slums and do not have the means really to own television sets.  The other group are those people in our society who are blind or deaf and I I would like to add this is also compounded with the cultural practices because in many families where there was someone or a child is born deaf or blind, it's taken as a bad omen and this child is hidden from the public instead of giving this child access to develop in all his or her capacities.  And this leads to a very big problem within the community because the parents don't want to tell the community that they have a blind child.  It is either embarrassing or a bad omen for the family.          The other group is persons who cannot read so as to follow television programs produced in foreign languages.  Here we are talking of illiterate si because we still have a high literacy rate and I know we recommend a Kenya -- which five years ago came up with a program to make sure there is a free primary education so that every child goes to school. 

     Despite that, not all the children have gone to school. 

     So illiteracy is still another problem we have to contend with. 

     The other group in this category of media have-nots are persons with special needs.  Here I'm combining this with a -- the way the African television stations make and broadcast their programs.  Particularly the public broadcasters. 

     If you are a public broadcaster you are posed to carry out a public broadcast mandate, are people may not because of the ethnic languages, may not be -- with either the national language or the other languages, English, French, Spanish or German which you may broadcast.  So this group is left out. 

     Then there are those who are ethnic minorities who are forgotten not only during broadcasts but during planning for development in other spheres. 

     The other group are those persons who may be literate and speak the same language of their mother tongue, but they are not used to reading subtitles on screen.  Either they find them too fast, that they do not -- they may watch but they do not enjoy watching the television. 

     These are the groups where we are saying what can we do in order to help television stations reach them.  As you know, African broadcasters -- African union broadcasting is a umbrella body which brings together all broadcasting stations, public and private, combined with stations which are members, and AUV tries to work with them to make sure that we create as much accessibility to reach our audience or the categories of audience within our boundaries. 

     Now, just to talk briefly about a few of the things that ought to be done in order to are as many people access television in Africa.  The common denominator which is the mother of all, you know, is poverty, economic deprivation and to answer that is for the people and the government and their governments to find solutions that will alleviate poverty and create more jobs.  You will have -- (unintelligible) -- because the people will have the mean to buy the television sets. 

     Secondly, to persuade the governments to remove all forms of taxes on radio and television receivers this will make many of the more deprived persons to afford television and radio.  I use the word here "to persuade," but I know that these days it's not like ten years ago, African audience become more assertive and if they require that things to be done, they will put their foot down and go with their governments to make sure that some of these things are corrected. 

     Number three, with the switch from analog to digital broadcast and Internet and to some extent we have seen how the mobile revolution has changed in Africa, particularly in Kenya, here, that of the things I have said you don't have this, you don't have this, the people who do not have them have a mobile phone.  Communication has been enhanced between the persons and the citizen themselves and their leaders and all. 

     So we know we are moving from analog to digital and I know this is a promise for a big change in order to bring -- make television and rumor accessible.  There will be several channels and hoping it will be cheaper. 

     Another area which we need to look for, look at, is the effort to help eradicate illiteracy.  This does not lie with the government.  In Kenya, even after the government declared that there should be a universal education for primary people, children up to the age of 10, they this all be in school.  Some parents have resisted that effort.  So it is a cooperative effort of the government and the population to work towards eradicating  illiteracy in Africa. 

     Number five, the use of subject titles to make program produced in local languages, national languages and other languages will make, particularly for the literate population.  In this case, for radio, we should be able to do... do overlay dubbing or voice-over in order to increase the content, the volume, the information that is being broadcast to the viewers.  Then the viewers who have hearing impairments and the sign language for those who are deaf, we this look at that.  There is a need for the government to find the public broadcasters because application of the public broadcasting mandate is due to the fact that the television stations are left to fend for themselves and as such they end up into competition with the private independent stations in order to add more money to run the operations. 

     And there is a need even for regulation to make sure that once these are passed, they are done.  And there is also need to begin looking for alternative sources of energy because we have seen with the climate change the dependence on hydroelectric power is showing a very shaky position so we need to go into solar, wind energy, and batteries. 

     So as to be able to use these during -- by those people who are in the rural areas.  I think that those are the few points which are what we this take into account to be able to improve accessibility of television and radio in Africa. 

     Thank you.

     >> Thank you for this reality.  Because we think that access is only -- the Department of Access could be mainly related to a certain number of parameters but you remember there are a lot of other parameters we need to include. 

      Remote participation, we have some contribution before we close the session and having some questions from the floor and then we will close because there is another event going on.  Flavia, please.

     >> Yes, this is a participation from Alexandra Gaspari and she says SFG, AVA Secretariat, I would like to thank the speakers and moderators that are here today, the participants that joined this ITU EBU-joined workshop. 

     Also on behalf of the FGAVA Chair, I would like to say a few words. 

     Peter Olaf Looms could not be present today as he is presently at a conference in Portugal presenting work.  He sends his regards. 

     We were also very glad that Mr. Souleymane from the African Broadcasting Union could join today as a speaker and give this situation in Africa today as far as the television and the have-nots.  I would like to thank Tim for his presentation and explained what the real situation for persons with disabilities is. 

     TV and the broadcasting are also a mean to eliminate illiteracy and can help the bridge the standardization gap.  SGA AVA, we hope broadcasters and try to be involved in the TV would join the effort of the FGA VA.

     >> Thank you very much.  And I'm glad that you are following our session in -- where you are currently in U.S. it is already early morning.  Thank you. 

     And as the Secretariat tells us, we need to finish soon enough.  I would like to ask whether there are any questions or comments. 


     I thank you very much for your cooperation.  Thank you.  This session is closed.

(Session concluded)