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Pieter de Wit, Kosice, 17th June 2009

I am very honoured to be invited for this 15th International Festival of Local Televisions. And Kosice: congratulations with becoming Cultural capital in 2013 !!

What is the CMFE?
The CMFE was founded in 2004, in Halle, Germany, to strengthen the participation of the “Third Media Sector” in European discussion and decision-making processes. At that time freedom of expression and free access to information were already increasingly endangered by the consequences of concentration in the media field. Also new digital distribution techniques posed, next to challenges as the Internet, also threats by excluding CM from upcoming digital terrestrial broadcasting networks. Its founders were a group of community media activists amongst which Thomas Kupfer from Radio Corax in Halle, Germany, Christer Headstream from Sweden, Helmut Peissl from the Austrian Federation of Free Radios, Francesco Diasio from Amisnet and Nadia Bellardi from Radio Lora, Zurich, Switzerland, all involved and committed to community media since its early stages through organizations like AMARC, FERL....

We all felt that our sector was not yet adequately represented at European level. 

What are we talking about: We talk about thousands of community and not-for-profit radio and television stations around Europe. We talk about open channels, minority radio stations, local TV’s, student radio’s, web based broadcasters, etc. With thousands of employed audio-video professionals, with an estimated more then one hundred thousand of active citizens contributing to their stations as trained volunteers, With millions of hours of local radio and television productions. 

CMFE is thus a network of policy experts, organizations and federations, which aim to support the role of Community Media on the European level. Already more then 17 European countries are participating in CMFE, from Norway to Spain and from Hungary to Ireland. CMFE works closely together with AMARC, the worldwide organization for community radios. But also TV-networks are member of CMFE, as OLON (the Netherlands –both radio and TV), SLRTV – Denmark, The Free Channel, Foreningen Frikanalen, Norway and Riksförbundet Öppna Kanaler Sverige (Swedish Community TV Association) and, may be soon, BOK, the National German federation of Open Channels.

One of CMFE’s goals is described as “How to find a European minimum common standard for community media?”. Dr Karol Jakubowicz, former head of the Media division of the Council of Europe and now Chairman of the UNESO’s ‘Information for All Program’, said about this issue in Bucharest last year, at the Amarc-Europe conference, I quote: 

“This requires particularly careful handling. If there were a “European standard for community media”, some forms of community media could be denied recognition, or assistance, because they do not fit that “standard”. Alternatively, some governments might get into trouble if they offered assistance to media that do not fully fit that “standard”. One of the strengths of the community media movement is its diversity. The Chinese have put it well, when they said, “Let a hundred flowers bloom”, or “It doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice". You certainly do not want uniformity or regimentation.” End of quote

In CMFE’s bylaws it is formulated as follows:

The term “media” in the context of the CMFE refers to “radio and television serving specific communities on a not-for-profit basis”. 

CMFE defines the following Common Principles of Community media:
1. Access for the communities to the means of media communication
2. Freedom of speech and media plurality
3. Free access to information
4. Public access and parity 
5. Encouragement of local participation
6. Cultural diversity and respect to minorities
7. Participatory and self-determined structures
8. Editorial independence 
9. Not-for-profit goals

The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, in its declaration adopted 11 February this year, described CM as follows”
 “Community Media share to a greater or lesser extent some of the following characteristics: 
• independence from government, commercial and religious institutions and political parties; 
• a not -for-profit nature; 
• voluntary participation of members of civil society in the devising and management of programmes; 
• activities aiming at social gain and community benefit;
• ownership by and accountability to the communities of place and/ or of interest which they serve; 
• commitment to inclusive and intercultural practices.”

I’m sure this principles, in CMFE’s statutes and in the Council of Europe’s declarations, apply to a lot of the local TV’s represented here. And with the lack of proper legislation and regulation in still a lot of European countries, local TV’s have to work within existing frameworks, e.g. as commercial station. 

Now let's have a look at what has been happening in the field of lobbying work for CM since the participation in the preparation process of the 7th European ministerial conference on mass media policy in Kiev in March 2005. At that stage Community media was far from being recognised by European institutions, and unlike within the UN/UNESCO framework not mentioned in any relevant texts. We won’t enter here into the debate of whether more regulation is beneficial to CM, although it is an important one, but argue in favour of enabling frameworks for CM, still too often invisible or non-existent at the national level.
Since 2005 CMFE has contributed to European media policymaking and discussion processes and participated in a number of European meetings and conferences. Through the work done prior to and during the Kiev conference by Francesco Diasio, Helmut Peissl and others within the INGO forum, speakers representing CM could participate in the formal program of the conference. 

As a result CM was mentioned in the Kiev declaration and Action Plan as important actors in promoting social cohesion and integration. Later a CoE Recommendation Rec(2007)2 on media pluralism and diversity of media content, further encouraged the development of different types of media, including community, local, minority or social media, capable of making a contribution to pluralism and diversity and providing a space for dialogue.
It was in November 2007 that CMFE could start contributing directly to the work of the Council of Europe: we applied for and were granted an observer's status with the Group of Specialists on media diversity of the CDMC, the Steering Committee on the Media and New Communications Services of the Council of Europe.

The Group of specialists had the mandate to look at ways of supporting CM but there was a lot of confusion as to what CM was all about. An important tool to support our work was the study on CM commissioned to Prof. Peter Lewis. Through active participation to the meetings of the Group of specialists we were successful in positioning CM as forerunners for intercultural and democratic, participatory practices.
After much negotiation a text was prepared, the Draft Declaration of the Committee of Ministers on the role of community media in promoting social cohesion and intercultural dialogue. The committee of ministers of the Council of Europe has now adopted this Declaration, on 11 February 2009.

At the Council of Europe level CMFE and AMARC were again participating within the INGO forum in the preparation work of the next ministerial conference, held in May 2009 in Reykjavik. The overarching theme was "A new notion of media ?" with a sub-theme on "relations of the media with individual and the communities".
On behalf of the Civil Society I had the honour last month to speak at the ministers conference in Reykjavik. I stressed the need for continued attention on European policy level, certainly within the work of the Council of Europe, by monitoring developments in countries, and by exchanges of good practices - but also by including CM in regular media policy work. For example in regard to items like media pluralism, media literacy, public service remit, intercultural dialogue, social cohesion, Internet and media accountability instruments.

The Community Media sector is now recognized as the third media sector with important extra public service value. In the report on on the activities of the CDMC, the Steering Committee on Media and New Communication Services, Mr. Matthias Traimer, Chairperson of the CDMC, referring to the Declaration on the role of Community Media adopted by the CoE earlier this year, stated: “Community Media are a big, big enrichment to media diversity.” 

At the European Parliament level there have also been successful initiatives:
- Lobbying led to the decision within the Committee on Culture and Education to commission a Study on community media in the European Union in March 2007, an initiative of Austrian MEP Christa Prets. This first Europe wide study, was published in September 2007 under the title “THE STATE OF COMMUNITY MEDIA IN THE EUROPEAN UNION.
- The Austrian MEP Karin Resetarits of the CULT-Committee was responsible for the follow-up EP "Report on measures to support CM in Europe in order to guarantee a pluralistic media environment and cultural diversity." During the preparation of the report CMFE liaised closely with Ms Resetarits and through the AMARC network helped provide definitions of CM in the various languages. The report was voted upon in September 2008 and includes recommendations to member states and to the Commission on how to support CM and to ensure there is a regular dialogue with representatives of the sector. 
- By liaising with another Member of the European parliament of the Cultural Committee Ms. Marianne Mikko, CM was explicitly mentioned as an indicator of a dynamic and diverse media landscape in the Report on "Concentration and pluralism in the media in the European Union".
This resulted in including Community Media as an important indicator for media pluralism in the media monitor, as presented two weeks ago in Brussels. 

Among this activities CMFE has made interventions in the European discussions on media literacy, media digitalization developments an the new state aid and public broadcasting communication as proposed by the Dutch commissioner Nelie Kroes.
It will be CMFE's task to build further on this accomplishments. 

But CMFE could also be of direct practical use: we could play a role in the distribution of local TV programs, as presented here and the last 14 years, around Europe, with the help of one of European Unions budget lines, within for example the Audiovisual funds regime: almost 1 billion Euro is available for support of this sector, why not a part to the CM-sector ? For programs subtitling facilities, a web portal ? Development of a format for local TV-programs to be exchanged ?

Closing statement

You can find all information on the renewed website of CMFE, www.cmfe.eu. There you can also find application forms to become member of CMFE, it’s not expensive, only 50 Euro a year for organizational members, 10 euro for individuals. We need you at CMFE to strengthen our work, we need your input, and, let’s also be honest, we need financial support.

So to finish: “Think global, act local, and lobby Europe” 

Thanks for your attention !


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