‘Unless the lions learn how to write, the hunters will always write their stories’

Ngorongoro - Female lions hunting - Ngorongoro (Tanzania)

George Ndiritu is facing the crowded room, when he talks about the lions. He tells us that this is an expression where he comes from, in Kenya: unless the lions learn how to write, the hunters will always write their stories.

It’s June, and we are well into what is later described as an ‘electric’ session on Participatory Media and Social Change, in a roomful of people spanning the globe.

This World Urban Forum session is chaired by Sharad Shankardass of UN-HABITAT and facilitated by the National Film Board of Canada (NFB), and the UK NGO Television Trust for the Environment.

These are the key participants in the session:

Alfonso Gumucio Dagron of Communication for Social Change Consortium has written that “independent video networks have managed to survive by revealing a social reality that is seldom seen in television” .

This serves well as a reminder that it is not enough just to fund the training of community groups in media production, nor to create productions, nor even to invest in pre- (and post-) production measurement and evaluation. To be most effective, it is necessary also to create an audience, a market – be it health clinics, or ‘cinema village’ viewings with a hung sheet for a screen, or brainstorming for much wider viewership of grassroots productions. This is particularly important if the goals of these community groups is not just for empowerment, but as social movements, for societal change.

The Director-General of the NFB speaks about the production quality of the footage of these groups. He says the work is broadcast quality. He believes there to be a great marketable resource among these groups, to sell their footage collectively, to filmmakers and news outlets and the like, with the royalties going to the filmmakers.

The groups talk about their need for archiving, that they have a global resource – years of broadcast-quality footage, about and by the world’s poor communities, not archived anywhere.

Is there the strength to move forward to create a collective resource, an international archive of broadcast-quality community media which would both preserve this resource as history, and sell the footage to commercial broadcasters with the profits going back into the hands of the communities?

I wonder – what foundations might finance such an initiative, perhaps beginning with a pilot project archiving video such as SEWA’s? I feel certain a number of them would bite.

Tom Perlmutter also points out that there is a World Congress of History Producers and there is a World Congress of Science and Factual Producers. He put foward – there could be a place now for a World Congress of Community Producers. We need to create it.

In the world, there are about 1.2 billion people who live with a free press. 2.4 billion people live without a free press, and 2.4 billion people live with a semi-free press.

If it’s true that “a growing crisis is emerging, a crisis marked by a collapse (or sometimes still birth) of public interest media”, then participatory video is more important than ever, funding for it is critical, and measurement and evaluation – to prove that it works – needs to kick into high gear.

Parts of the listed WUF session panel bio’s are from this WUF Bulletin, produced by IISD

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