MEDIAFORUM Archive 1996

Strategies in the Czech Republic: Evangelisation by mass media in the new democracies
by Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, Archbishop of Prague (4/1996)

In the Czech Republic, the Catholic Church is a very small minority. After the collapse of communism, the Church had to start from scratch and rebuild. Recently, a pastoral communication programme was drawn up and presented to the National Commission for Social Communication of the Czech Episcopal Conference. In this article, Cardinal Vlk introduces the guiding principles of this project. He also relates the Czech Church's experiences and the difficulties it must overcome to foster dialogue within the Church, with modern society as a whole, and particularly with the media.

L'Afrique Brancheé
par Michel Philippart (4/1996)

The new communication technologies are a prospect for Africa, and we will certainly not exaggerate the possibilities offered by Internet or other networks, but: They can claim neither universality nor to be a virtual paradise. Those acceding them will soon discover their limits and problems: weak transmission, costs, arrogance and immorality of numerous sites. In spite of this, Internet provides the greatest library in the world corresponding to all the needs of scientific research, from simple curiosity to freedom of expression. For Africa it could be a significant way of being heard in public places without frontiers. But the continent's presence in the Internet raises the question: Can Africa participate and represent itself with own data in the Internet, or will it be reduced to the "consuming end" of data coming from outside i.e. the West? In order to realise the desire of being connected, serious action is required to equip the continent with functioning telecommunication infrastructures with qualified and creative personnel.

Macau: Church without Fear of the Electronic Age
by Hans Peter Gohla (3/1996)

Since 1984 the Communication Centre "Shalom" in Macon Diocese, has broadcasted a daily half-hour religious programme in Cantonese, especially targeted at the Chinese mainland. It is estimated that - theoretically - the programme could be received by 30 million Chinese, and that approximately 1.2 million people could be counted as regular listeners. In addition, "Shalom" received 200 listener-letters weekly, which in the opinion of experts represents a very good sign indeed for quality and listener-acceptance. "Shalom" is proud that its programmes are also heard by people who don't want to have anything to do with the Church". Some people were forbidden by relatives to tune into the programmes; from which one may conclude the programme's effect on the people on-the-spot. Most successful however is something else in Macau, namely a pay-telephone-cassette service. When certain telephone numbers are dialled, children or adults can listen to short stories produced on cassettes by the "Shalom" team. Each week five new tales are prepared, one of the five always having a certain connection with the Bible, and the others taken from ordinary daily life or Chinese literature. On average, the three telephone numbers available for this service are called 2,500 times daily.

Association for Progressive Communications: Empowering the Community in the Information Era
by Amalia Souza and Karin Delgadillo (3/1996)

The Internet is without doubt the most hotly debated subject in the sphere of telecommunications at present. This article aims at simply introducing readers to APC, the Association of Progressive Communication. APC is a world-wide network of twenty-one national networks from all continents, which aims to promote the active participation of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in electronic communication. In addition to providing technical information, APC tries to facilitate access to the Internet for NGOs. Action taken in camps for Western Saharan refugees demonstrates that joint usage of modern communication technologies by isolated, disadvantaged communities can guarantee their right to communication in order to achieve lasting development, justice and respect for human rights.

Catholic Radios in Poland: Between Co-Existence, Co-Operation, and Competition
by Andrea Sofie Jannusch (3/1996)

In Poland, Catholic radio stations are important, not simply because of their number, but above all because of their popularity. However, they certainly present a multi-faceted image which ranges from the small parish station, broadcasting for a few hours daily and financed by donations from listeners, to extremely professional regional stations which enjoy commercial and popular success. Thirty-three of these stations have come together to form the VOX network. Moreover, there is also Radio Maria, created by the Redemptorist Fathers of Torun, whose programmes are broadcast over a network of more than ninety local frequencies and attain national coverage. The issue of Catholic radio stations remains a controversial one in Poland, and today the debate focuses on the creation of community services and initiatives for members of the VOX network. To shed some light on the diversity of Catholic radio stations in Poland, they can be classified according to three predominant models: the 'Purists', of the Radio Maria type, which focus on religious programming; those which could be called 'CCCs' (Catholic, Commercial, Competitive), whose religious broadcasts are only a limited percentage of their overall schedules and, finally, those which attempt to strike a balance between the previous two styles. The underlying orientation of the various stations within these three categories is determined not only by scheduling differences, but also by such factors as their quest for funding, their target audiences and their vision of their future place in the Polish audio-visual landscape, either in a spirit of coexistence and co-operation or competition.

Comunicación y Pastoral
por Roberto Tapia (2/1996)

The so-called "mass media" i.e. television and radio are always of special - open or concealed - attraction to large companies (even if they are not engaged in this field) and of course to all kinds of revolutionaries especially when they have overthrown the existing powers. Reflecting on the reasons for this tremendous interest of secular entities, one wonders what kind of conclusion the Church is drawing out of this. It is amazing to see that Pope John Paul II has emphasised the importance of the media for the pastoral work of the Church for three consecutive years already: 1993 The Role of Video, 1994 Television and Family, and 1995 Cinema. The Latin American Church, in her document of Santo Domingo, once again underlined the need to be more open to the world of communication (mass and small media), to have own media, to support Catholic professionals in this field, to develop media awareness, to stress the media education in seminaries and to use the new electronic media in a proper way. At the same time it is indispensable to look into the communicational and AV environment of the society and investigate the relationship between this environment and the Church, in order to face the challenges which exist for the use of this media in the educational and pastoral field. Furthermore it is essential to regard communication as part of the pastoral work of the community of God. Why should radio programmes (e.g. Sunday Mass, Bishop's messages) be boring and tiring? So there is a need for proper preparation and formation at all levels. No doubt a new culture is arising which requires a new evangelisation and a new culture of life.

Papua New Guinea: Duel with the Timber Giants
by Bertram Otto (2/1996)

The ecumenical publishing house "Word Publishing Company" is in trouble. Their two weekly papers "Times of Papua New Guinea" (English language) and "Wantok" (local Pidgin language) are experiencing mighty competition on the media market: A million-dollar-strong Malaysian timber company has started publishing a daily paper. The press freedom is now endangered. On top of this, Australian papers and TV networks are becoming the main forces as opinion-leaders of the people. The financial limitations of the Church-backed papers makes the continuation of their independent critical reporting difficult. A ruthless, competitive fight for advertising and readers is raging on the national media market. In particular the "Times of Papua New Guinea" has developed into the "conscience" of the country, treating "hot" topics such as corruption, financial and political mismanagement, or pointing their finger at other questionable things such as the ongoing overexploitation of the forests of PNG through foreign wood companies, with the support of government responsibles. The newspaper has a balancing function in the overall foreigner-owned media scene in the country, because it tries to promote the views and interests of the people. In an article recently published by the German Steyler Missionaries, the founders of the Word Publishing project, the alarming situation has been strongly outlined. We have translated this article for our IB readers to draw their attention to the developments due to the ongoing media-concentration endangering the freedom of the press in Papua New Guinea.

"Ediciones Abya Yala" en Ecuador: ¿Qué Factores Contribuyen al Éxito de una Editorial Especializada?
por Christoph Dietz (2/1996)

One of the most successful publishing houses in Ecuador is "Ediciones Abya Yala" (the Cuna expression for America as "earth in entire maturity"), a company specialised in American ethnology and anthropology. Twenty years ago, a Salesian missionary started the initiative with a magazine on the Amazonian indigenous population of the Shuar; meanwhile the publishing programme includes several series on Latin American indigenous history and culture, bilingual education or religious traditions. The unique experience of Abya Yala cannot serve as a recipe to run a publishing house; nevertheless, several aspects - e.g. their concern to publish all titles in collaboration with other entities - give valuable impulses to those involved in the field of book publishing.

Video Pastoral: Calidad Estética y Validez Tematica
por Victotino Zecchetto SDB (1/1996)

Although video is meanwhile a widely accepted instrument for pastoral and educational purposes discussions are going on about how to integrate video adequately into pastoral communication activities. This also includes the question: What determines video as a pastoral medium? P. Victorino Zecchetto sdb, General Secretary of PROA (Latin American Association for Group Media), gives some orientations towards answering this question from the semiotics' point of view. What are the specific characteristics of video, combining images and sound, referring to reality and symbolising through its aesthetics also the invisible? And how can these possibilities be used to honestly express an authentic message? Anyway, pastoral videos should face the challenge of high aesthetic quality and a thematic explosiveness which profoundly provokes the viewers.

Africa: A Continent in Search of Publishers
by Michel Philippart (1/1996)

In Africa, books are rare and expensive commodities. Here, where the paramount concern remains the provision of basic needs, a book is indeed a luxury. Even though recent developments and progress in the African book industry cannot be denied, African publishing still registers at a low level on the global scale. The survival of the small number of publishers and publishing houses on the continent is threatened by multiple problems at all stages of production and distribution. To seek solutions to these problems and to improve their products and viability, Catholic publishers met last February in Nairobi. In particular, they decided to form the Association of Catholic Publishers in Africa (ACPA), for which they drew up a concrete plan of action. Through mutual aid and co-operation, they wish to improve their contribution to the development of the book in Africa, to provide a better service to the people and the Church.