December: good tidings and citizenship rights?

December has finally landed upon us. The time of good tidings, when stress levels go on a steady incline for the next twenty-five days, when we’re supposed to put our bitterness on the shelves and embrace the good cheer.

For Brazil, it signals something a little different this year: this month will see its first National Conference on Communication, where policy makers and civil society actors will meet and discuss the future of the country’s media and communications system. It is hoped that Communications: A Means for Building Citizenship Rights in the Digital Era will provide non-state level actors with the chance to have an input in policy-making.

But why the big fuss? Well, Brazil’s media system could do with a spring clean. It remains highly concentrated in the hands of under ten families, with the biggest player being Rede Globo. Prominent journalist Altamiro Borges has likened the system to a dictatorship, not entirely out of the realms of possibility given Brazil’s past and the legacies of 1964-85 being carried over into the present. And, while the blogosphere is booming, community initiatives are expanding, and civil society actors are placing ever more pressure on the federal government to diversify the system, the fight for media democratisation is only taking its earliest of steps.

Numerous proposals will be thrust in the Lula government’s face this month, including strengthening Brazil’s public service broadcasting, fine-tuning the elusive regulatory framework, expanding former Minister of Culture Gilberto Gil’s programme of digital inclusion and investing more in alternative and community sectors. However, the ghost of cynicism is also following the Conference, with the 2010 elections and 2016 Olympics being likely to overshadow any changes in the communications system, made worse by the fact that communication is seldom recognised as a human right in South America’s largest country.

So, December has arrived and the waiting-and-seeing is almost over…for now.

– For more info (in Portuguese) of this month’s events, click here.


Time for women in the media – POLIS

For all of us ladies struggling to get a foot in one of many media doors, this is a reassuring post by an Danielle Blumen from POLIS, the LSE-LCC journalism and society think tank. The need for more women in journalistic positions is just one of the challenges facing the ever in-flux media industry of our time. According to the London Bureau Chief for Time magazine, Catherine Mayer, women are simply better at listening, allowing them to get under the skin of stories more deeply than men. A generalisation, maybe, but it’s certainly a boost to hear from a woman who started and built up her career in the male-dominated land of The Economist.

Yet, of course, there is this age-old fact that female tabloid journalists reign supreme as the ‘standard’:

News reporting and difficult stories are not generally associated with female reporters, and when asked why this is the case, Mayer’s answer was simple – “the Jan Moirs of the world cost less.”

Whilst Mayer admitted the feminisation of the media industry did not directly lead to a feminisation of the issues covered, it certainly is time for more voices such as hers in the media world. The Guardian’s women’s section has made a concerted effort at this over the years, and female columnists such as Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Janet Street-Porter, Tanya Gold and Julie Bindel (amongst many, many more) have stuck to their pens and guns in the face of comments section abuse, as the wonderful Johann Hari tweeted last month.

Just imagine how barren our journalistic landscape would be without these voices.