With a new administration in office, improving the U.S. image abroad and creating more opportunities for Americans to connect with people around the world through new technologies have taken on greater urgency in American foreign policy. President Barack Obama’s debut TV interview was with the Arab TV network Al-Arabiya.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has designated public diplomacy as a pillar of a new foreign policy. To explore this critical and evolving topic, on February 3, 2009 the Independent Television Service (ITVS) International and the U.S. Institute of Peace co-sponsored a pioneering multimedia event, “Media as a Global Diplomat.” A constellation of luminaries in the field, capped by distinguished veteran journalist and moderator Ted Koppel, participated. To reach a global audience virtual beyond the physical meeting space at Washington, D.C.’s Newseum, a host of Internet-based innovations were used.
ITVS President and CEO Sally Fifer, along with USIP leadership, kicked off the day framing the issue of media’s potential as a key role in helping shape America’s image abroad. The first panel, “Public Diplomacy 2.0: Rethinking Official Media” addressed shifting definitions of public diplomacy and explored how media can best serve American policy. Panelists agreed that policies and actions are the best determinants of attitudes toward the U.S. worldwide and that the U.S. must actively promote its core values of democracy, rule of law and tolerance. However, not surprisingly, opinions from representatives from the USG, Google, Al Jazeera, UN Foundation and others differed on the most effective mediums to transmit such messages. The second panel, “The Global Media Marketplace,” centered on the challenges of mass media ownership and profitability in the Internet era.
Participants from Abu Dhabi Media, National Geographic, MTV, the Hewlett Foundation, The New York Times and others discussed the viability of traditional media outlets such as television, the atomization of media outlets through the web and the need to bring global stories to a U.S. audience as part of the public diplomacy effort. The ITVS International-funded, Golden Globe award-winning and Oscar-nominated film WALTZ WITH BASHIR was a highlight of the event. The animated documentary focuses on the reflections of Israeli veterans of the 1982 invasion of Lebanon.
I led the post-film discussion, which focused on the importance of independent documentaries as authentic and credible forms of communication, and on the role of artists as cultural ambassadors. Much of the discussion centered also on the need for this communication to be two-way, and the power of the ITVS Global Perspective Project to connect audiences and media professionals around the world.
The event was heavily interactive and was streamed live around the world. Citizen journalists from all over the globe sent in questions for the panelists and used live blogging and “tweets” (using Twitter, a method of transmitting short text messages to numerous recipients via the Web or mobile simultaneously). ITVS was proud to be a part of this exciting day and to support the role of independent filmmakers as thought leaders and artists.
- Tamara Gould ITVS Vice President of Distribution Check out the videos from the event below: ITVS President and CEO Sally Jo Fifer gives opening remarks.
“Public Diplomacy 2.0: Rethinking Official Media” addressed shifting definitions of public diplomacy and explored how media can best serve American policy. Want to see all the videos?
Opening remarks by Ambassador Richard H. Solomon, president, U.S. Institute of Peace. Introductory remarks by Sheldon Himelfarb, associate vice president, Media, Conflict & Peacekeeping, U.S. Institute of Peace. The second panel, “The Global Media Marketplace,” centered on the challenges of mass media ownership and profitability in the Internet era. Calvin Sims, programs officer, Media, Arts & Culture, Ford Foundation.
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