The "Mass Media and Culture" international conference took place from 25 to 29 March at the Cultural and Conference Center of the University of Patra, in the framework of the "What about Europe?" conference cycle. The event was organised by the "Patras 2006 European Capital of Culture", in collaboration with the Journalist's Union of Peloponnissos-Ipirus-Islands (ESIEPIN) and the Association of European Journalists (Greek Section) with the coordination of iForce Communications SA. Important figures from Greece and abroad attended the conference, thus fulfilling its primary aim of intercultural dialogue between journalism and culture. The countries represented were Austria, Belgium, China, Croatia, Egypt, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Turkey, the UK, the USA, and, of course, Greece, thus giving an international character to the conference, with the participation of renowned personalities.á
In his address, Mr. Fokion Zaimis, Chairman of iForce Communication, referred to the situation now prevailing in Patras, and pointed out that relations between all organisations and citizens should be characterised by agreement and cooperation, in order to overcome any financial and time constraints, and bring Patras's tenure to a successful close on 31 December 2006.
The Mayor of Patras, Mr. ┴ndreas ╩arav´las, opened the proceedings of the Conference, and pointed out: "The decision to make Mass Media & Culture the first of the three Conferences to be held during PATRAS 2006 was no accident. It was driven by our belief that the media do not simply convey messages, but are involved in forming them."
Mr. Christos Zachopoulos, General Secretary of the Ministry of Culture, who participated in the first panel on "GENESIS OF CULTURES AND CONFIGURATION OF CULTURAL PREFERENCES", underlined that the Ministry of Culture is present and contributes to the formation of culture by supporting activities promoting this concept. For his part, Mr. Christos Roilos, coordinator of the Organisation "PATR┴S 2006", addressed the participants of the Conference and referred to the importance of the Cultural Capital as an institution and the manner in which it contributes to the formation of a common European identity through culture. In addition, Mr. ┴postolos Vouldis, Chairman of ESIEPIN, pointed out that the Conference is a forum for productive dialogue and many different views should be heard: "We wanted speakers to express their opinions freely, outside the prescribed frameworks; to criticise events and situations which do not allow culture to develop by offering the people cultural nourishment. The conclusions of the fertile dialogue thus achieved will be a canvas on which, in the future, the things that today upset us when we are referring to cultural events will be painted in the colours of hope and expectation." Speaking on behalf of the Most Reverend Bishop of Patras, the Very Reverend Archimandrite Nicolaos Skiadaresis focused on the relations between the Church and journalism, saying: "The Church shares in common with the media the advancement of truth. The first journalist of the church was St. Paul, whose texts have a timeless value and depict the reality of each age."
Mr. Dragutin Lucic Luce, President of the Croatian Association of Journalists, referred to the role of language as a part of our cultural identity. Dr. Christos Goudis, Professor at the University of Patras and Director of the Institute of Astronomy & ┴str´physics, underlined the importance of the human factor in the media and in particular in the field of scientific journalism. Mr. Giorgos Kassimatis, Director of the Bureau of the European Parliament in Athens, analysed the manner in which Europe supports culture and promotes the cultural specificity of peoples, which acquires an ecumenical dimension. Journalist Mrs. Emy Livaniou spoke about the coexistence of different cultures and religions and the influence of television, and also gave an account of her experiences through the news reports she has made worldwide. Finally, Mrs. Kari Heistad, Chairman of Creative Concepts, referred to the importance of shaping culture through programmes where the subjectivity of their authors is inherent. Closing the proceedings of the first panel, Mr. Thanassis Papandropoulos, Honorary Chairman of the Association of European Journalists, said that the subject examined in this Conference pertains to the interrelation between news-makers and those establishing cultural policies. The completion of the first panel of speakers was followed by the intervention of Mr. Panagioti ═eufelt, Chairman of Ciel ┴irlines and an open discussion between participants and speakers.
The second panel, examining the question "DO MEDIA HAVE THE ABILITY TO PRODUCE CULTURE?" started with the speech of Mr. Christos Panagop´ul´s, Chairman of the Board of Directors of ┼Rď (Greek Radio and Television). He spoke about the aggressive policy of the media regarding another culture. "The media", he underlined, "should create culture and follow an aggressive policy on issues pertaining to culture and the shaping of a cultural identity. This is done by public television with the programmes of ┼ď1, documentaries, information and cultural programmes, the Third Programme of ┼R┴, the new digital channel and the revival of events like the Thessaloniki Song Festival. It is our duty and we must be attentive in issues shaping the citizens of the future".
Mr. Panos Livadas, General Secretary of Information, stressed that "television production and the current operation of the media has put more emphasis on quality. Their role of penetrating the social base, reaching any listener and viewer, is now recognised. This is a path of differentiation with encouraging results. Approaching the media by using the cultural product as a pivot, gradually changes the map and draws near to the objective, which is to make the creation of cultural works the primary tool of the media."
In her speech "The Media and Disability", Mrs. ┼vangelia Tzampazi, a Member of the European Parliament for PASOK, pointed out: "Many highly competitive TV channels operate in Greece and newscasters must handle many issues and on many occasions 'create issues' and attach importance to minor issues, because they need high viewing figures and it is in this manner that 'gutter television', similar to the 'gutter press' is created. Usually, human pain brings high viewing figures because the viewer is shown that there are people suffering much more than himself and consequently he feels relief." Mrs Tzampazi presented facts regarding how issues concerning disabled people (this being the correct term and not "people with special needs" as they are currently referred to) are presented in European countries. The works by disabled composers presented at the end of her speech made a strong impression on the participants. Journalist
Mrs. ╠arianna Pyrgioti referred extensively to the way in which the media can improve when profit is not their main incentive. She ended her speech with the words "Quality programmes could be shown which could be presented to the viewer in a desirable manner, thus attracting his interest. We should raise our cultural level for the millions of citizens needing it". Mr. Paris Giannikos, Chairman of ART-FACTORY and a Communications Expert, stressed the role of advertising in the surÝival of the media and how advertising influences our culture. In his speech "Culture and the Mass Media", journalist Mr. ╠anolis ╩´ttakis pointed out that "culture is a manner of life, it is respect for human dignity, the highlighting of the importance of language; a language which makes us angry but not think". Mr. Dimitris Zannidis, General Director of the Botsis Journalistic Foundation, took the view that "journalism, too, is part of our cultural heritage, since it is fully connected with our culture, the recording and description of its works". He said in addition that "journalists, in the past with their pen, now with a PC and a photographic, cinema or TV camera, see and record developments. Without journalists and the media, we would not be aware of the path taken, for example, by Alexander the Great and of other important historical events." The panel was coordinated by the well known journalist Mr. Thanassis Lalas and was followed by interventions from Mr. Dionyssis ╠assalas of the Association of European Journalists, publisher Mr. Ilias Heliopoulos, and journalist Mrs. Anna Valavanides.
The third panel, on "MEDIA AND CULTURE IN THE INTERNET ERA" was coordinated by Mr. Zois ╠arin´s, General Secretary of ┼SI┼PI═. The first speaker of the panel was Mr. Giorgos ╠ylonas, President of the Directors' and Writers' Collective Management Organisation and President of the Museum of Cinema. His speech focused on image as a medium of culture and public guidance. He said: "Since antiquity, communication between people has been a means of thinking. Communication through image has a direct effect on the viewer, because it can excite and shock him, thus making him a direct conveyor of messages."
Dr. Anna Panagiotarea then took the floor in her capacity as Deputy Professor at the Media Department of the University of Thessaloniki, as she herself made clear. Her speech presented research into the proportion of cultural news on TV and in the print media. According to the study, in both TV and the print media, the percentage of cultural news is very small, while commercial TV does not show cultural news, but only the cultural activities of its owners, since the field of cultural events is determined by AGB. In addition, while the print media devotes much greater space to culture, but not a satisfactory percentage. Mrs. Panagiotarea concluded by wondering whether the legislative framework emphasising the importance of the educational role of the electronic media is observed. Her answer was that it is not, and she posed the question "What should be done since the auditing mechanisms have remained indifferent until now?"
In his address, Mr. Yinghuang Zhu, Deputy Minister of Press and Chief Editor of China Daily, the largest newspaper in China, stressed that he wished to speak as a journalist. At the start of his address, Mr. Yinghuang Zhu pointed out that the two ancient civilisations of Greece and China have much in common, and said that he was impressed by the fact that Greeks appear to defend their language, since in the sessions he attended, the Greek language was spoken, in contrast to corresponding conferencees in China where the English language was used. With a characteristic example, he underlined the great importance of the Internet in current times. "The Internet increases the freedom of expression of each person, because it makes it possible to express oneself in cyberspace, an opportunity available only to journalists a few years previously. This may allow the dissemination of the culture of all peoples. I would like to point out the ratio of information flow on the Internet is 170% for rich countries compared with 16% for underdeveloped countries. The language used is English and a direct translation via programmes is possible, to make language selection possible and elevate language diversity on the Internet, which will contribute to the establishment of harmonious relations between all countries and the achievement of a multi-cultural identity."á
Mr. Dimitris Efraimoglou, Chairman of the Foundation of Hellenic World, then pointed out that culture is accessible through the Internet, which is a mirror of our society, and presented the activities of the GHF in detail. He said: "Greek History on the Internet is a project which makes us proud. Three years were needed and 65 people worked to make it a reality. We are the only country whose history is shown in such detail. Our site has an educational and training character, has been awarded a prize by Britannica and has been recommended by the Pedagogical Institute. We have published the on-line encyclopaedia of the FHW, with 3,327 entries. We have connected the Internet and taken history out of the museum." Focusing on "How the Internet is changing, data on the production and consumption of cultural products", Mr. Constantine Kamaras, publisher of www.sport.gr, described in detail how this can be achieved at low cost and great speed, and whether intermediaries can be ignored. He also referred to the theory of the Long Tail of targeted products and the creation of infinite mini-markets. "The Internet is a low-cost channel with great speed influencing product prices. Culture makers realise that Internet clients are stronger". The address of Mr. Ramon Jimenez Fraile, Head of the Information Department of the European Council, caused a stir among participants. Mr. Fraile focused on how public services can benefit from the Internet, the Internet legislation that applies in various countries and the necessity of an open dialogue and frequent opinion polls where the problems of citizens can be recorded. The morning session was closed by Professor Mr. ═icos Giannis, publisher of the review: "┼UROPEAN EXPRESSION"- "SOCIETY OF CIďIZENS", who analysed the subject "The Internet: a channel or creator of freedom, a society of citizens, an open society and culture?" A break with a meal in the foyer of the Conference Centre followed.
Beginning his analysis of the fourth unit, under the general theme " INTELLECTUAL CREATORS AND MEDIA", Mr. Dinos R´dop´§los, chairman of the ┴╩╠I Professional Training Institute, defined the profession of journalism, as well as the characteristics of a modern journalist. An interesting speech was made by Mr. Byron ╩arydis, General Director of Greek Radio in London, who defined the role of the radio station he manages. Mr. Karydis closed his speech by pointing out: "In a multicultural society it is good to love, respect and accept other cultures, but one's own culture should be supported by all means available". With the title "Culture in the dustbin? Models and coverage of cultural events on television", Mrs. Roi Panagiotopoulos, Professor at the University of Athens Department of Communication and Media, proved through a study presented to the audience that there has been a rapid decrease in cultural programmes on TV channels. Dr. Ioannis Panagiotopoulos, Director of the Political Office of the General Secretary of Information, expounded his views on the subject "Cultural heritage and the Media", by analysing the historical periods and cultural products developed in each such period during modern Greek history. He stressed: "Living in an unusual iconoclastic period, characterised by the excess and not the abolition of the image, discourse remains Art."
A different dimension to "The ╠edia and Culture" was given by Mr. Giannis ╩alamitsis in his talk "Radio-killing the audience", who defined culture as the Truth of any action. "The media are weapons of defence and attack", he stressed, pointing out that "businessmen of this mentality do everything for profit. Radio news stations do not create culture, because their news is not true". His speech culminated with an exhortation to the participants to "Resist and fight for truth." The afternoon session closed with the address of Mr. Claude Frizoni, representative of the Anna Lindh Foundation, who presented the aims of the Foundation in relation to the creation of culture. "The Foundation is trying to lay the basis for cooperation between different peoples, religions and cultures. There are 35 members of the network for the promotion of culture we have established. It is particularly important that they live in different geographical areas. We have also established the Network of Cultural Journalists who communicate with universities through the Internet, with the aim of the exchange of views between students."
The third day of the Conference began in the Amphitheatre of the Conference Centre with the more general theme "HOW TO REFLECT 25 DIFFERENT CULTURES IN THE NEW EUROPE??" After pointing out the special character of the age of revolutionary changes and rapid technological developments opening new vistas, Spyros Mercouris focused on the positive and negative elements of the culture of globalisation. The address of Mr. Abdul Ghani, Regional Director of Al Jazeera Channel, who presented the channel which in his own words caused a revolution among the media, created a strong impression. "Al Jazeera is an independent channel protecting the freedom of opinion and has concluded an agreement with the Government whereby the latter will not be involved in the news, in order for the channel to become the independent voice of the Arab world. I consider this a great achievement for a channel established in 1996 to have succeeded within 10 years in changing the interests of the average Arab which focused on entertainment only and currently expand throughout the entire spectrum of sociopolitical developments". Mr. Ghani did not neglect to mention that theá channel, which now operates by satellite, has succeeded in ensuring the unimpeded flow of information and creating a Forum for all political and national cultures, without hiding anything. He ended his speech by pointing out the following: "We praise the diÝersity of cultural heritage and on our broadcasts we host intellectuals from all over the world. We are trying to bridge the gap between the Arab world and Europe, the recent cartoons in Denmark being a characteristic example, by providing a forum for both". This was followed by the address of Dr. Helios Giannakakis, Professor at the University of Lille, with the following subject: "How do 25 different patterns make their mark in ┼urope?" Professor Giannakakis focused on the development of culture amongst European peoples after the fall of Communism. "Memory meets again with history after the fall of the Socialist Bloc, which made havoc of the historical memory of the culture of these peoples. The fall of the Socialist Bloc marked a renaissance in ┼urope which gave culture personalities like Kundera, Kolakovski and others, proving that national culture is devoid of any meaning if not connected with Europe. This connection is the opening of all cultures to a unified world. In 1989, the real union of ┼urope took place and it could be said that this year marked the end of the Second World War." The subject of the address of Dr. ═eocles Sarris, Professor at the University of Panteion, was "Communication and Isolation in Modern Society". He pointed out the following: "The variable of ďechnology has now become a constant by changing in the field of Communication, too, the standards of traditional society. In modern times, man is encircled by messages in such a manner that he is cut off from society. As a result, he lives in a virtual world and consequently his introversion deepens, while he loses the awareness of reality." Mr. Joao Palmeiro, President of Portuguese Publishers, presented an interesting study about how other cultures are looked upon by the citizens of the 25 Member States of the EU. In conclusion, he had the following to say about Greece: "You Greeks have a strong national identity in comparison to other countries. After the US, you are the only country where I have seen so many flags everywhere. You attach great importance to your history and everything related to your culture". Referring to the area of the media, he pointed out: "Media concentration throughout Europe changes the entire scene. The creation of Press Groups contributes positively to the better operation of the media. The media themselves should be self-regulating if they want independent news." The morning session was closed by the address of Mr. Peter ╩ramer, General Secretary of the European Journalists' Association, "For a common European culture". Mr. ╩ramer said: "Language is a culture. We heard it yesterday and you can see and hear it when you have the opportunity to visit the European Parliament. 25 Member States - 21 languages. However, culture is something more. It is an art ranging from sculptures to movies, but also a way of life. We are under strong attack from the US Government, which aims to commercialise culture."
The afternoon session opened with the subject: ''CULTURE -MEDIA AND CODE OF ETHICS'' was marked by the address of Mrs. ═iki G´§landri, President of the Gaia Centre, on "Culture and Nature in the Vortex of Postwar Integration -The Case of European Integration and the Role of the Media". Initially, Mrs. Goulandri compared the periods before and after the Second World War and referred to the radical changes that took place after the end of the war and disturbed the balance of nature and the economy. The subject of the speech of Mr. áďelemachus Hytiris, PASOK MP and former Press Minister, was "Culture and Journalism". Mr Hytiris termed Culture and the Media a problematic pair, also pointing out that the role of the Ministry of Culture is hemmed in by bureaucracy and should change. "Women in the Media. Quality and Equality", was the subject selected by Mrs. Marina Cosi, a Journalist and member of the Italian Journalists' Association. Referring to the attitude of female journalist on equality issues, she said that "it is not accidental that women journalists have started new struggles from within the Internet as well, vindicating the right to equal opportunities in work and information". Journalist Mr. ┴lexandros Velios made an interesting address with the following subject: "Media, or Means of Mass Misinformation". "Information is a synonym for misinformation, which is born from man's need to believe in something. Each of us selects the truth that suits him and wants to accept. This means that we select the misinformation we want to accept." In his capacity as member of the Supervising Committee of the European Federation of Journalists, Mr. Wolfgand Mayer explained the work of the Committee and the way in which the Press Council of Germany deals with the gutter press. He also spoke about the Code of Ethics and the responsibility of Journalists, which are one and the same thing. He closed his speech by pointing out: "The journalist should ensure his intellectual property in the best possible manner. He has the right to receive a fair salary, a condition assuring him a decent way of life." Speaking about the moral responsibility of European Journalists, German journalist Mr. Horst Keller formulated some standards with which a journalist should comply. "European journalists should possess a breadth of knowledge including politics, economics and social systems. The Conference closed with the address of ┴rchimandrite ═ektarios ╠´ulatsiotis on "Culture, the Media and Ethics". Father Nektari´s held the view that not only the media, but citizens too are responsible for the shaping of a culture which not worthy of the name. "The media today, with television playing the key role, have rejected culture permanently, while simultaneously creating a society characterised by conformity and alienation." He ended his speech by pointing out that the current crisis related to the credibility of the media cannot be resolved with the existing approach. "I think that the conditions for laying down the freedom of communication on a new theoretical basis have matured." Interventions from participants followed, as well as a discussion which had different starting points, but kept participants interested until the end of the conference. The participation of the public and students of Media Schools from all over Greece, who turned out in great numbers, was particularly impressive.
Mr. Thanassis Papandrop´§l´s, Honorary President of the International Association of European Journalists, closed the conference, referring briefly to the speeches made over the three days of the Conference. He emphasised in particular that journalism is a very important and extremely fascinating profession, but one which demands sacrifices, much study, knowledge of history and foreign languages, as well as an open and free mind. He also stressed that sometimes a journalist may be pressurised and certain people may try to direct him, but since he has greater responsibility in relation to information compared to publishers, producers, presenters, the bourgeoisie, etc., he must, first and foremost, possess the courage to voice his opinion, try to be as objective as possible and refuse to comply with the wishes of anybody else when he sees that the basic principles of journalism and ethics are violated.
In the framework of the Conference, was organised for the participants, a Wine Tasting Forum of "World Class Greek Wine" with great success by Wine Expert and Best-Selling Author, Mr. Nico Manessis, with representative varieties and wines of the Peloponnisos Region, the Greek Islands and the mainland of Greece.
In addition, a concert was given with great success by the Plucked String Orchestra of the Municipality of Patras, which performed ╠an´s Chatzidakis's ''Gioconda's Smile'', conducted by Mr. Thanassis Tsipinakis (Mr. Markellos Chrisikopoulos, Cembalist), at Apollo Municipal Theatre of Patras. Foreign journalists visited the Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition and the Press Museum of Patras, which hosts authentic and rare editions of modern Greek Press history.
The Conference's media sponsor's were ┼Rď Group (═┼ď, ┼ď1, ═┼ď 105.8), and the magazines AD BUSINESS and BUSINESS TODAY. The conference was sponsored by ART FACTORY SA and iForce Communications SA.
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