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Annan hails TV’s potential as force for good but warns against ‘content divide’

Annan hails TV’s potential as force for good but warns against ‘content divide’

With the world becoming more and more a single “information society,” United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today the television industry was in a unique position to promote mutual understanding and tolerance, but he warned against a “burgeoning content divide” between North and South that threatens diversity.

“Television can be a tremendous force for good,” Mr. Annan said in a message marking World Television Day. “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.”

He noted that the first-ever World Summit on the Information Society next month in Geneva would provide a global platform to address a wide range of important issues, including how best to put information technology at the service of development, as well as the question of 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,” he said. “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,” he added.

Mr. Annan noted television’s potential to help achieve the ambitious goals set by the UN World Millennium Summit of 2000 to combat the most serious global problems, such as halving the numbers of those suffering from poverty and hunger by 2015.

“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,” he said.

Referring to the World Electronic Media Forum that the UN is organizing in connection with the Geneva summit, he concluded: “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.”