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Evolving media and Internet Universality debated at WSIS Forum 2013

“Internet has profoundly impacted media in many ways during the last ten years, and should be a core issue to consider in current process of updating a post-2015 strategy of WSIS Action Line C9 - Media,” stated the participants of C9 meeting at WSIS Forum 2013.

This is for the 8th year that UNESCO convened the facilitation meeting of WSIS Action Line C9 - Media at WSIS Forum. This year’s meeting took place on 13 May at ITU, in Geneva, Switzerland. To set a scene for the theme “Internet Universality: Conceptualizing evolving mediascape and updating strategies for post-2015”, a UNESCO representative focused on the media aspects of the Final Recommendation of WSIS+10 Review Meeting, and on the ongoing consultation about a new concept of Internet Universality. This concept is being explored by UNESCO to highlight Internet as a free, open, accessible for all medium, driven by multi-stakeholder engagement. A UNESCO-commissioned report Exploring evolving mediascape was also presented at the meeting.

A representative from the Council of Europe (CoE) presented the CoE Internet Governance Principles and the Recommendation on the protection and promotion of the universality, integrity and openness of the Internet. This Recommendation reaffirms that protection of freedom of expression and access to information on the Internet, as well as the promotion of the public service value are parts of a larger set of concerns about how to ensure the universality, integrity and openness of the Internet. CoE also endorsed the Recommendation on a new notion of media, which calls its Member States to adopt a new, broad notion of media, encompassing all actors, contents and applications (such as social networks and online games), and to accordingly review regulatory needs in respect of all actors delivering services or products in the media ecosystem.

Panelists from the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), the World Association of Community Radios (AMARC) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) discussed the challenges of digital convergence on defending public service broadcastings and developing community radios in the areas of technical coordination, spectrum management, harmonization of commercial and public interests, digital safety, legislative and regulatory framework and digital literacy. Representative from the Association of Progressive Communication (APC) highlighted the human rights and ethical dimensions of Internet and echoed the concept of Internet Universality in a sense of promoting freedom of expression, universal access and practical use of Internet as a public good for humanity.

Participants raised various aspects ranging from a concern about violence organized through social media, online safety, the tension between online freedom and other digital rights, to gender issues in media development and the role of media in promoting cultural diversity and social cohesion. The debate focused on the increased complexity of defending freedom of expression and advancing media development in the digital era.

Participants recognized the interdependence between human rights aspects and content and infrastructure convergence of media-ICT which requested a more comprehensive framework to formulate the post-2015 media strategy and facilitate collaboration between C9 and other WSIS Action Lines such as C3 - Access, C7 – E-earning, C8 - Cultural diversity and C 10 - Ethics.

The concept of Internet Universality was considered as a timely and pertinent exploration of such a broader framework to re-contextualize post-2015 strategies on media and related Action Lines. The session served as a first step in the exploration, through various consultations, of the idea of developing and reinforcing the concept of Internet Universality.