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19 Mar 11

Journalists, Experts Discuss Culture in Balkan Media

Some 30 journalists, editors, cultural organisations and experts gathered at a regional conference in Pristina on Saturday to discuss ways to improve media coverage of culture in the Balkans.

BIRN / BICCED Pristina

Countries in the Balkans face similar issues when it comes to media coverage of culture, including a lack of clear cultural strategies and transparency in budget spending for culture, the neglect of culture-related issues by the government and media, understaffed media outlets and tabloidization, participants in the conference said.

"Culture is not without borders, problems (in culture) are," said Gordana Igric, BIRN regional director.

Haqif Mulliqi, advisor in Kosovo's Ministry of Culture, reminded those gathered of the great power that culture and media have and the great responsibility that goes along with such influence.

“Mass culture is a battlefield where ideologies are being shaped...We all know the consequences of some ideologies and we should learn from this experience,“ said Mulliqi.


Problems in culture coverage are shared across the region, experts say | Photo by: BIRN

Conference participants noted that media outlets throughout the region devote little space to culture, and coverage is superficial.

“Although media outlets are interested in the Sarajevo Film Festival and the event is well covered, none of the outlets actually write beyond basic news reports, no one analyses all that the festival is and what it means. Along with the movies, we organise numerous workshops that deal with more serious issues and that part is neglected in the media coverage,” said Elma Tataragic, Sarajevo Film Festival selector.

Journalists and editors at the conference agreed that culture coverage is low because it does not attract subscribers and advertising and cannot bring in as much income as other news departments. At the same time, most media outlets cannot afford to have a cultural department.

“Culture is on the margins, it has been in a weak position for 15 years. Media outlets lack culture programmes, as they are trying to obtain maximum income at minimum costs. It’s easer to broadcast a reality show than to produce analysis on an issue in culture or produce a documentary programme that tackles real issues,” said Aleksandra Bubevska from Skopje’s A1 TV station.

This weekend's conference, entitled "Culture in the Media", is organised by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN, as part of the Balkan Initiative for Cultural Cooperation, Exchange and Development, BICCED.

At the conference, cultural organisations and experts had a chance to gain greater insight into the state of policies and practice in the culture sector across the region, and to exchange opinions and experiences in the field of cultural policy.

Guest speakers included Aliriza Arenliu, executive director of DOKUFEST from Prizren; Jelena Knezevic, executive director of BITEF from Belgrade; Elma Tataragic, screenwriter, professor and SFF selector from Sarajevo; and Lutfi Dervishi, lecturer at the School of Journalism at the University of Tirana and director of Transparency International in Tirana; Halil Matoshi from the Koha Ditore daily in Pristina; Marija Djordjevic from Politika daily in Belgrade and Admirina Peci from Gazeta Shqiptare in Tirana.

The Balkan Culture Watch Strengthening Project, BCWSP, funded by European Cultural Foundation, is a “build-on” project that complements the existing 3-year BICCED programme (funded by the SCP).

This project aims to involve government officials and policy makers and work to improve the situation in the region by strengthening cultural life and cross-cultural cooperation as an important element of a participatory, open, and dynamic civil society.

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